Naan Stop may be my favorite lunch spot in Isla Vista. The food is not the usual ginormo burritos for drunk people, it’s tasty, they serve it up quickly from a buffet style counter, and the price is right.
A two-item combo costs about $8, and includes rice, salad and naan. Here’s McMarko’s combination with chicken korma and saag tofu curry.
It’s time to do a comparison again. I don’t think much has changed since the last comparison.
My frozen yogurt is creamy tart swirled with blueberry tart, with mochi balls and yogurt chips. McMarko’s is chocolate with Captain Crunch. He has a theory that adults who were deprived on sugary treats when young will opt to eat them whenever the opportunity arises. I disagree, having been raised on cheerios and grape nuts, I got the sugar bomb cereals out of my system in college. But whatever, we enjoyed our own froyos.
Does anyone remember the “secret” restaurant in the Calle Real shopping center that was a French deli during the daytime, and at night became a wonderful little Korean restaurant, with a sweet grandmother patiently cooking and chopping all sorts of fragrant kimchi, soups, short ribs and plates of banchan? It was sometime in the late 80s or perhaps early 90s. My family loved it. It was before the internet went mainstream so I guess the secret truly remained a secret and the restaurant eventually closed.
These days, Santa Barbara’s version of Korean food comes from businesses that offer a general range of asian food or cater to poor, hungry students. Or both. What I’m getting at here is that the offerings are limited.
Korean food…tacos. Hmmm.
Well, down in the LA area, a fellow named Mark Manguera hit upon an idea to offer a fast food option by fusing Korean with Mexican food. Korean food flavors, wrapped up in tacos and burritos, sold from roaming food trucks and called Kogi BBQ. It’s insanely popular and helped blaze the trail for an explosion in gourmet food trucks. I once spied the Kogi truck at a park in LA and the queue was several hundred feet long, even with other trucks parked nearby offering good cheap eats as well. I didn’t have a spare three hours to stand in that queue, but I have thought about what I missed.
Anyway, with few exceptions, food businesses in Isla Vista come and go. Located at 956 Embarcadero is…I can’t even keep track. Berrilicious, then Sushilicious? Well, it’s Kogilicious now. In the same building is another eatery called Korean BBQ. At the Korean BBQ window you can get the bowls of meat and vegetables over rice, or as combination plates including some greens and macaroni salad. But that’s a different story. The Kogilicious side is a separate section of the building with a very simple menu. Korean style chicken, pork, beef and tofu, offered in a burrito or a taco. Easy. Handy. Fast.
AJ tipped me off that Kogilicious was offering a grand opening special so I went to check it out with McMarko. I ordered one each of the chicken, beef and pork tacos, and a spicy pork burrito.
If you eat to live (rather than live to eat) you might stuff the food in your mouth and not notice the difference between this and any other burrito or taco, because there’s still rice included in the flour tortilla wrap, and there’s still onions and cilantro and “salsa” on the corn tortilla. But the thick sauce seasoning is different and there’s a crunch to the cooked kimchi inside. They’re also very juicy. I liked it!
Their grand opening special was that all burritos are $4 and all the tacos were $1. The deal wrapped up this Sunday, 8 August, so if you go before then you’ll get the introductory prices AND you’ll avoid the Fiesta crowds while still getting to eat a burrito or taco. After Sunday the regular prices are $6.25 for the burritos and $1.45 per tacos. Still a good deal.
Kogilicious – riding on the coat tails of the Kogi BBQ craze, down to the flame in the logo, but a unique offering in this town.
McMarko is not allowed to eat Indian food around his wife. There is something about the spice mixtures she finds unappetizing. So I am de facto Indian food lunch buddy.
The boys got two item combinations. I got the one item combination with chicken tikka masala.
All the combinations come with rice (choice of pilau or plain basmati), naan, and salad with a tangy tamarind and yoghurt dressing. I also got a vegetable samosa, which comes with its own tangy tamarind dipping sauce. One item combinations are roughly $6 and two items are around $8, give or take, depending on whether your selections are chicken or vegetables.
The one item combo was enough for me. I took my samosa and sauce home for a snack later.
Naan Stop’s prepared curries, rice and sides definitely make for cheap, fast food that’s better quality than average for other convenience foods.
But here are the extra special unique items about this restaurant.
First, they have the widest selection of milk teas / boba around. There are other places in town with boba, but Naan Stop offers the most variety. And the price is around $3.
I got the taro milk tea with tapioca, complete with the little sealed top that you punch the straw through.
Second, they serve dosas! I am not aware of any other place in town that sells them. For the uninitiated, a dosa is typically southern Indian, similar to a crepe, with savory fillings like spiced potatoes, and served with chutneys. Unlike the curry food service that’s made beforehand for speedy service, the dosa is cooked fresh to order, hot and crisp. It can take 5-10 minutes to prepare, keep that in mind if you’re in a hurry, or if the rest of your dining party got curries, they may be halfway done with their meals before your dosa arrives.
The dosa menu is not easy to spot, it’s not a part of the big printed menu of curry combination dishes with handy photos for reference. The menu is a simple 8×10 sheet with plain text. But if someone’s ordered one ahead of you, and it’s sitting on the counter for pick up, you cannot miss it, because the dosa is bigger than your head! They cost around $7 and it’s a satisfying meal.
After watching the movie Serenity at IV’s Magic Lantern Theater with Ted, we cruised down the road to Sweet Alley for a quick bite of frozen yoghurt. It was also after 10 pm. Kudos on late night desserts.
Sweet Alley used to be a candy store in downtown Santa Barbara. They relocated to Isla Vista and added a self-service frozen yoghurt section. I think it was the first in Santa Barbara’s recent trend of fro-yo shops to offer the self-serve. I do think they found the right audience in IV, and less competition than in downtown SB.
There were a lot of flavors to choose from, and we selected the swirl of angel food cake and chocolate cheesecake. Later, added the mochi topping and carob chips. T’s not crazy about the mochi like I am, so those had to be sprinkled on one side of the container. Whatevs!
Looks like two-toned poop, huh. Anyway, flavors were fine, but the creaminess factor left a little to be desired. It seemed thin and icy. Then again, the whole lot cost less than $3 and we hardly felt cheated.
Update: 5 August 2009
955 Embarcadero Del Mar
It’s another lunch with McMarko. He’s lived out on the east coast and misses a good Philly Cheesesteak. So while the lambs are on summer break, we cruised out to IV for some gut busting sandwiches.
We got their sandwich specials, called the Mambo Combo, which is any sandwich, with fries and a drink for $9.
The sandwich comes bundled up in paper, like a cute little basket packet. Then you open it up and surprise! Sammie!
The staff are super extra nice! They will offer to refill the drinks for you. Thanks, guys.
McMaster’s Steak and Hoagie
Lunch with McMarko, and we have Indian food. Because his wife hates Indian food so he has no opportunity to eat it with her.
He got a combination plate, I got a rice bowl and samosa.
I have little verbage for this. It was good. Better than many other IV options. And a good price, ranging from $6-8.