Pack A Bowl
From melons to mushrooms, BBQ chicken to volcanic cinnamon bread, Buddha Bowls brings a new set of flavors to Isla Vista — and makes us wonder why we haven’t been eating pizza out of a bowl until now…
By Allison Wright
Tucked between the new Italian style restaurant and stretch of “for lease” signs hung a hand painted banner and a Buddha statue. While these elements certainly piqued our attention, it was the ajar glass door that captivated us. Feeling adventurous, we wandered in, gaped at the chalkboard menu for a few minutes before two men, languidly reclining at one of the tables, apologized and said that they were not open for business. Although we did not get a taste of the mysterious bowls, we left the restaurant with a rumor dripping from our tongues.
After the official opening of the unique restaurant, the On The Menu staff had the opportunity to meet the master behind Buddha Bowls, Daniel Dunietz. Upon first impression, Dunietz does not just look young — he is young. With shaggy hair and a perpetual grin, the recent UCSB alumnus exudes “surfer-dude” vibes despite hailing from Chicago. He was quick to offer up a sampling of the entire menu and partook in the feast himself. With a menu ranging from Israeli shawarma to an item equivalent of a giant, deep-dish pizza bagel, these hollowed out bread loafs surpassed my expectations that any soup could bring. While we delicately picked at our bowls, Dunietz, on the other hand, picked one up whole and took a bite out of the side, proclaiming his method was the only way to go. Between bites of barbeque chicken and pesto-smothered mushrooms, we got the scoop on what could be the next big craze in food.
The first question any of us could incredulously ask was, “Why I.V.?” — as if our little beach-side party community was an unattractive business location. Dunietz was quick to put us in our place with the proclamation of, “Where else?” With a menu consisting of meaty and cheesy goodness, Buddha Bowls is meant to assuage the munchies. With a mentality of “take more breaks; surf more” and a wall graffitied with the phrase “pack a bowl,” Dunietz would be hard-pressed to find a better location for his restaurant.
After tasting the bread bowl creations, we were curious of where his idea came from and why his bowls contained no soup. Back in the day, a high school-aged Dunietz had a dream of opening a marijuana-friendly bagel joint. With Bagel Café holding down the bagel market however, Dunietz was forced to take a different route. Recalling winter nights in Chi-town, he told us stories of when he and some pals would load up hollowed-out bread with whatever struck their stoner fancies and throw them in the oven. As they waited, the crew would huddle in the snow while freezing fingers fumbled to roll a joint.
Here, Dunietz reverently described heaven as “a bowl coming from the oven.” Once he relocated, he began perfecting his craft on Sundays by building bowls for the masses. By the time he graduated, he had a repertoire of fan favorites to accompany his dream of opening a stoner-friendly restaurant.
As the runner and boss of his own business, Dunietz’s relaxed attitude permeated the small sitting area. As his staff left one by one for the night, he addressed each one like an old friend (and many of them are). In interviewing potential employees, Dunietz explained, a major factor was to have good vibes and the ability to hold a conversation. Perhaps this was part of an attempt to create a Zen atmosphere to match the restaurant’s name. Though the laughter and chatter of guests and workers alike fail to resemble a school of meditation, Buddha Bowls still remains a nice place to chill out and munch on some tasty eats.
In terms of his goals for his business, Dunietz revealed a similar “chill” attitude with pithy words of wisdom such as “Just ride the wave” and, when it comes to the future, “You can’t get too far ahead of yourself.” While he does not worry too much about the road ahead, Dunietz expressed that he is constantly looking for ways of improving what he serves. From utilizing the squishy innards of the bowls he hollows as bread sticks to considering baking his own bread, he said he lives in the moment.
As our bowls began to dwindle and talk turned to what was left on the table, Dunietz summed up Buddha Bowls in one line: “I eat here every day — that’s got to be a good sign.”
By Bianca Tran
I love pizza anything, and with so many choices in Isla Vista like Woodstock’s, Gio’s and Domino’s, it all tends to blur together. But Buddha Bowls definitely stands out because they have the Pizza Bowl, which is basically pizza in a bread bowl. If you are like me and a fan of pizza bagels, then this will be heaven on earth because the Pizza Bowl looks like a giant pizza bagel with a diameter of about six inches. It is a decent size for something under eight dollars and is even vegetarian friendly as it is made with spinach, bell peppers and mozzarella cheese (if not ordered with Italian sausage). If pizza is not your thing, Budda Bowls offers several other options with various flavors to suit your taste such as the Greens Bowl, Mellow Bowl, ‘Shroom Bowl and BBQ Bowl.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 30th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.