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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

Between the stress of going to class and the chaos of being social, it feels like I am constantly jumping around and expending every available ounce of energy I have. One thing that keeps me going, that I am usually looking forward to, is my next meal. While I love grabbing a bite in IV with friends or even making a night of it all by heading downtown, the most convenient and budget-friendly option (at least when living in the dorms) is to head to one of the dining commons. Yet, because of my vegan diet, I do not always have the easiest and most enjoyable time. Here is an overview of my experiences with UCSB’s four dining commons as a vegan, including some of my favorite meals at each.

Portola Dining Commons

Having lived in the Santa Catalina dorms throughout my freshman year and the beginning of my sophomore year, I am no stranger to Portola. I must say, having the dining hall in such close proximity was super nice, especially on days that I did not want to get on my bike. 

As I unfortunately had to learn the hard way, Portola was super inconsistent with vegan-friendly meals. Some days there would be only fruit and toast for breakfast, while on other days they had an array of plant-based dishes to choose from, including baked goods. I also noticed that on many weekdays when they advertised having peanut butter banana oats (my personal favorite dining hall meal) available, I would use my meal swipe only to find out they did not have it. 

As far as lunches and dinners, I found that Portola was somewhat reliable with vegan meals at lunch, but there were some days when the pickings were slim. Dinner was often a miss, with the only available hot-food options often being rice and vegetables (maybe a potato). My favorite vegan Portola meals would have to be the aforementioned PB banana oats, tortilla soup, and sticky toffee pudding.

De La Guerra Dining Commons

The consensus among my friends and me—ranging from vegans to carnivores—is that De La Guerra (DLG) is by far the best dining commons at UCSB. Not only does its location near the UCen make it easy to drop by between classes, but it also has a good, consistent variety of meals and cuisines. In particular, I loved going to DLG because I always knew there would be more substantial vegan options available than, say, at Portola.

As far as breakfast goes, I am not qualified to speak to that of DLG. In fact, I never ate breakfast at any dining hall other than Portola simply because of its distance from my dorm. It is worth noting, though, that from glimpses of the menu online (it is super easy to look up the daily dining commons menus!) I never felt particularly compelled to visit DLG during breakfast time.

Lunch was a completely different story. I loved visiting DLG for the Taqueria in particular. Whether it was for a pre-made vegetable burrito or to assemble a taco myself, I knew there was always going to be something for me to eat. If I wasn’t in the mood for that, most days there were vegan burgers and fries that I could grab. Plenty of other vegan meals were in rotation at DLG, too.

Like with breakfast, I did not visit DLG for dinner simply because of its distance from me, but looking at the menu showed me that their dinner options were largely resemblant of lunch. The best vegan meals at DLG, in my opinion, were definitely the vegetable burrito and the crinkle-cut fries. I also loved when they had plums as a fruit option!

Carrillo Dining Commons

In all honesty, I have only ever visited Carillo once. This has not as much to do with the menu as it does with it being a bit out of my way. From looking at the menu, I saw that there were a fair amount of vegan options available. However, it always appeared as though they never quite fit together to make a real meal. Rather, it seemed as though if I had eaten there, I would have had a hodge-podge meal. There’s nothing wrong with that, just not necessarily my favorite way to go.

Ortega Dining Commons

Last on the list is UCSB’s only takeout-style dining hall: Ortega. Because the menu is relatively stable, with only a couple of “specials” swapped out each week, it seems like they are rather mindful of including at least one option that accommodates dietary restrictions. Their regular vegan options include a salad and a tofu tikka masala. It is important to note, though, that while there is a salad option every week, the type of salad sometimes changes, and it is therefore not always vegan. Between the two regular options, I am partial to the tikka masala.

They also occasionally have vegan specials, although not every week. Some of the previous ones I enjoyed included a tofu quinoa harissa bowl and pineapple fried rice.

They also rotate through their dessert options; with only one vegan dessert, this means that it is not always available. When it is, though, I thoroughly enjoy their banana bars, as do many of my non-vegan friends. Even when it is not available, though, you always have the option to order fruit with your meal if you are craving something sweet.


All in all, while the vegan experience in the UCSB dining commons is far from ideal, there are definitely some standout meals that hit the spot.

Hi, I'm Sloan, and I'm a second-year sociology major at UCSB! I love the beach, music, going to the gym, and cats. I am interested in mental health, fashion, sports, and so much more. I can't wait to share my passions with you through Her Campus!