If you’re staying in Goleta, CA (near the Santa Barbara airport) then I beseech you to visit Noodle City.
Noodle City is two blocks from my job. I was on my way to another restaurant when I saw it. The aroma of pho drifted outside from the open door. I stopped in my tracks on the sidewalk and peeped inside. The tiny establishment was packed. It was a high energy place in a laid-back town. I couldn’t resist stepping inside.
There were maybe three waitresses for all 35-45 guests that were packed inside but those girls were handling it. No one missed a beat. The service was fast and courteous (though not steeped in Southern hospitality like I’m used to).
I ordered pho with seafood. It was straightforward; the only oddities were the fried blocks of tofu which I've had before but theirs were particularly delicious. They were a nice touch. The seafood was good but I’m not going to claim that they pulled it out of the ocean that morning or anything. The dish was flavorful and piping hot, just as it should be!
What makes this place is the atmosphere. Santa Barbara isn’t a particularly diverse city when it comes to ethnicities so the diversity found at Noodle City was invigorating. It was like every person of any color was eating there. And some of them brought their white friends!
I’m laughing as I write that but it’s true.
I chatted a bit with the table of guys beside me. They ordered pho with chicken, a broken rice and pork dish, and a vermicelli dish with chicken and shrimp. Consensus? It was all excellent. The guys mentioned that they stop in at least once a week. Noodle City is the “best Vietnamese restaurant in town.”
Overall Rating: 9/10 for great food, fun atmosphere and speedy service