Photos by John Clow, Staff Photographer
Buddha Bowls, the latest restaurant to open its doors to the residents of Isla Vista, offers a unique option for those craving fresh, local ingredients. Located near the corner of Embarcadero del Mar and Pardall, Buddha Bowls features organic whole wheat and sourdough bread bowls and a diverse menu of ingredients to choose from.
Meat lovers will enjoy the BBQ and Shwarma Bowls, which each feature seasoned chicken served with fresh veggies. Vegetarians or those simply seeking a meat-free alternative have a variety of bowls to choose from, as five out of the seven Buddha Bowls are meatless. The Pizza, Greens, Shroom, and Mellow Bowls all highlight fresh fruits and veggies produced from local Santa Barbara distributors. In addition, those wanting to cut the carbs have the option of going breadless for any bowl. A perfect option for this is the Mellow Bowl, which serves fresh fruit, yogurt, and granola in a half melon.
I chose what currently seems to be the most popular option, the Pizza Bowl. About 10 minutes after I placed my order, the warm and toasted Pizza Bowl arrived at my table. Melted mozzarella cheese layered the top of the bowl, with tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, and spinach lying underneath. All of the food, including the vegetables, were warm, and remained warm the entire time I ate. The mix of the vegetables made a good sauce in which to dip the crunchy sourdough bread. The freshness of the vegetables also stood out to me, as each bite was juicy and flavorful. The Pizza Bowl itself was a good size, about 6 inches in diameter, and after I was finished I didn’t feel too full or starved—it was the perfect amount.
What really stood out to me was the restaurant’s commitment to local, sustainable ingredients. Owner Daniel Dunietz stresses the importance of not serving food he wouldn’t eat himself.
“My goal is to do purely sustainable, local food,” said Dunietz. “All of the food is from distributors around here, and my ultimate goal is go straight to farms myself.”
Buddha Bowls gets its produce from The Berry Man, a local distributor centered in downtown Santa Barbara. The whole wheat and sourdough bread arrives fresh daily from Our Daily Bread, a bakery that has been operating in Santa Barbara since 1981. Buddha Bowls’ commitment to fresh, high-quality ingredients makes the bowls themselves that much more flavorful and enjoyable.
I have few negative things to say about Buddha Bowls, but these following comments are just slight inconveniences. The music, although it added well to the laid-back atmosphere of the restaurant, was a tad too loud and made it a little difficult to hear numbered orders, and there were a couple times when orders were given to the wrong person, although the friendly staff corrected their errors very quickly.
The price is a sticky subject, as everyone has their own opinion on how much food in Isla Vista should cost. My Pizza Bowl cost $7.50, including tax. Other bowls that contain meat, such as the BBQ and Shwarma Bowls, go for a little more—$7.95, not including tax. That may seem a little pricey for some, considering the bowl is 6 inches wide, but taking into account the high quality of the ingredients, I personally found the price reasonable.
So, is Buddha Bowls worth a visit? Definitely. The friendly staff and good food will leave you feeling satisfied, and considering the ingredients are fresh and local, the bowls are reasonably priced. The healthy options offered won’t fill you with regret afterwards either. I fully enjoyed my Buddha Bowls experience.