In a clever celebratory and promotional scheme, Dank Bowl Kitchen released a $10 deal for all bowls in the month of October, also known as Bowltober, to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.
An idea originating from the mind of one Daniel Dunietz in 2010, once a freshman at UC Santa Barbara and now its most “dank” entrepreneur, Dank Bowl Kitchen has become one of the most popular food spots in Isla Vista for its affordable prices and irresistible variety of hot, comforting foods.
What sets Dank Bowl Kitchen apart from the others is its commitment to the freshness and authenticity of its food, all made from scratch and from local ingredients, “no exceptions.” I first had a Dank Bowl, lamentably, toward the end of my freshman year. I was shocked to discover that I could get a bread bowl at such a low price from somewhere other than Panera Bread (which I have not consumed since. After trying Dank Bowls, how could I go back?).
To take part in celebrating Bowltober, I dived deeper into its menu. With the endless array of options at the price of $10, I decided to sample one dish from each category: a soup, a pasta and a rice bowl. If I had a bigger budget, I would’ve had every item on the menu, but alas …
First up is the tried but true P. Daddy bowl. To be honest, before my intention of writing this article, I only ever got this bowl, and for good reason. Who can resist macaroni and cheese, with the added sophistication of chives, caramelized onions and pesto aioli? The crispy bread adds another layer of texture, which only enhances the overall flavor profile to engage all the senses and create a highly mindful state of consumption.
As an East-Coaster, the lack of fall colors here makes me subconsciously seek out oranges, reds and yellows in any form, and the tomato basil soup is a bright red bonanza to behold. There’s something about a delicious soup that is irresistible, especially in the winter months when a cold is just nipping at your immune system and you yearn for the comfort of home-cooked food. This soup is Goldilocks’ porridge: a just-right consistency, a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity (more on the tangy side, which I prefer), the fresh hint of basil, which all comes together with the crunch of cheesy, toasted bread.
And, what can I say about the Hangover Bowl that hasn’t already been voiced by so many of us trudging out of bed on a particularly grueling Sunday morning? Incredible. The feel of the rice bowl, just like one of the pasta bowls, is a lot lighter and more enriching than I would’ve believed. The addition of an egg on top gives the rice an extra delicious gooiness which, combined with the kick of the jalapeños, makes this dish a sensory delight. I would put this right under the macaroni and cheese bowls as the most filling since you can add more ingredients to make it into a carb, protein-packed meal. However, keep in mind: If you wait too long to eat the rice, the texture can be a bit unpleasant, so I would recommend slurping this dish up for the best food coma.
A side note: For all these dishes, I would recommend the regular bowl with bread on the side since I find myself usually left with a deformed and soggy bread plate by the end of the meal. But for the more particularly ravenous eaters, here I say: go ham.
Ultimately, Bowltober reminds us of the incredibly rich history of our own I.V. — some traditions never die. From Buddha Bowls to Dank Bowl Kitchen, this eatery is likely to stay a crucial centerfold of this town’s food culture, and a warm memory for all UCSB students to look back on and forward to in the coming years.
A version of this article appeared on p. 9 of the October 26, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.