I discovered, on a recent late-night stumble through Isla Vista, that when the gates of heaven greet you, they don’t glow like you would expect them to.
There isn’t much fanfare when you walk through them either, nothing there to punctuate your arrival except for the harsh sizzle of meat hitting the grill beneath plumes of grease scented smoke. And yet I stood in the middle of it all, staring upward at the panel of glowing menu boards that beamed down at me, and found myself far from underwhelmed. I floated to the counter and, smiling and teary-eyed, choked out my order.
“Buffalo chicken cheese fries, please.”
The cashier smiled.
I had found God in the middle of Isla Vista’s very own IV Deli Mart.
This sort of experience with the divine is not unique; IV Deli Mart has been guiding the masses to deep-fried salvation for twelve years now thanks to Michael Hasaan’s culinary vision, creativity and bravery — which is key, of course, to boasting a menu of such staggering girth and calorie content.
When Hasaan first took over the long-forgotten bookstore storefront twelve years ago, his much more modest menu showcased his own heritage and catered primarily to those with Middle Eastern cravings, featuring the same falafel, shawarma and gyros that still remain staples on the menu today.
Over the years, IV Deli Mart’s menu has expanded to meet the needs of a culturally diverse patronage while still appealing to the palettes of an endless lineage of inebriated students. In short: They sell orange chicken and double western bacon cheeseburgers. And your drunk, whiny self can have them both.
Amidst the plethora of Middle Eastern plates, all day breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, wings and chicken bowls, there are several stand-out items whose names alone conjure the feeling of warm, carb-induced contentment.
The Fat Mike’s, one of the most popular menu items under the endearingly named “fat sandwich” category, is true to its name as an elegant layering of cheesesteak, chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks nestled on a bed of bacon, fried eggs and fries — a laundry list of ingredients perfectly cocooned into a pillowy footlong sandwich roll.
As the most ordered item on the menu and the catalyst of many a drunk party-goer’s conversion, the buffalo chicken cheese fries, with their layers of thick fries, rotisserie grilled chicken, melted chedder and blue cheese drizzle, are an edible reminder that the world is still a decent place. Its styrofoam box, the size of a small child, keeps you warm on the long stumble home.
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For the average late night customer, this no-frills establishment offers more than just an answer to after-hours hunger. A meal at IV Deli Mart is an all-around mouth-watering experience, a check off the bucket list, a culinary trek up Mount Everest.
In a city of acai bowls and coconut water, IV Deli Mart is a welcome breath of grease-scented air. As longtime manager Ryan Booth put it, “You might regret it the next day. But not today.”
And with that, the search for heaven ends here.