It is a well-known fact that campus dining is an integral part of college life. For some, the quality of food in the dining commons can even make or break your experience living on-campus. If you don’t believe me, just ask my Lyft driver from the other night, an ‘05 graduate of UCSB who spent most of our car ride regaling me with tales of the horrors of Ortega dining during his time at school.
In honor of the upcoming housing selection process, I’ve decided to put together a brief ranking of what I personally find to be the best and worst dining commons on campus.
- De La Guerra (DLG)
Pros: When it comes to location, DLG is sitting on prime real estate. Centrally located between three or four different dorms, DLG is steps away from the ocean and a short walk from the UCen and the library.
DLG is just as spatially satisfying on the inside as it is on the outside. The interior is roomy enough that you don’t feel too close to the table next to you, but not overly spacious to the point where getting up to get food is burdensome. (See #2 on this list).
There is also a good amount of variety in food at DLG. I especially like the pozole and the cilantro and lime rice! Even though each section is clearly divided into different cuisines, there are enough options that you can always try something new.
Cons: DLG is often pretty crowded, which makes it hard to find a good seat. Also, no arugula!
Pros: Portola tends to get a lot of hype because it is the newest dining common, and I will say that this hype is in large part well-deserved. In my experience, most dining halls tend to serve “staple foods” and I think Portola tends to stray the most from the straight and narrow in this respect. Everyone who works here is really kind! I also like their fettuccine very much.
Their sushi is also the best sushi of any of the dining commons (until you remember that only two dining commons serve sushi). If you get the chance, I would definitely recommend eating at Portola as the sun sets because you will see a really spectacular view, especially if you sit outside. The light and the colors beautifully reflect off of the glass panes.
Cons: This dining hall is the farthest away from campus, which makes it difficult to enjoy regularly if you’re not a Santa Catalina/San Joaquin resident. But my biggest bone to pick with Portola is that everything, from the food stations to the tables, is way too spaced out. I’m not a very fast walker, which means that each round at Portola takes me what feels like eons. No arugula either.
Pros: As someone living in Manzanita Village for the second year in a row, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Carrillo. On the one hand, I feel as comfortable eating at Carrillo as I would riding my bike or walking along the beach. The back room at Carrillo features blue booths that offer one of most intimate dining experiences of any dining hall. I’ve eaten in these booths many times with friends and I have good memories associated with that room. The frozen yogurt dispenser also has some incredible flavors (e.g., milk tea, Yerba Mate, pumpkin spice latte) that rotate on an almost weekly basis. Carrillo brunches are also my favorite. Finally, this is the only dining hall that serves arugula.
Cons: On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to ignore how bland the food can be at Carrillo once you’ve eaten it as frequently as I have over the past year and a half. Carrillo is structured in such a way that every night they have the same staple foods — pasta with sauce, some kind of protein dish, Asian food, the salad bar, and soup. Sometimes a surprising treat will be thrown into the mix, but in large part I know what to expect when I go to Carrillo, and because variety is the spice of my life, I always worry about finding myself a little underwhelmed.
Pros: The build your own sandwich bar. Everything comes out fresh, warm, and crisp. There are certain dishes that I really like at Ortega, like the macaroni salad and the taco bar, as well as the ice cream.
Cons: The true tragedy of any list is that someone always has to come in last. In large part though, the dishes that I like at Ortega show up far too inconsistently for me to brave the smaller number of options at Ortega, especially when DLG is so close by. I get the feeling that a significant number of students, when asked to choose between Ortega and DLG, would choose DLG just because of the wider variety of options that DLG offers.