If 25 years of steady success weren’t already enough of an accomplishment, Isla Vista’s beloved Bagel Café was also just named by Spoon University as one of the best college town breakfast spots in the country. That popularity can be confirmed every weekend morning by the line that runs from inside the small Trigo Road restaurant out onto the sidewalk during the crucial brunch hours, full of students carrying on a breakfast tradition that’s older than most of them.
The café’s owner is Doron Friedman, who moved to California from the East Coast at the age of 21, seeking to open a bagel joint. He believed Isla Vista was appropriately suited for his venture because it felt like a “real” college town — as Friedman explained, “insulated from the rest of the world.” Furthermore, he found West Coast universities to be amusingly deprived of quality bagel cafés.
So from the beginning, Friedman pledged to make bagels that are the “closest thing to New York and to the old-fashioned way of making bagels.” Today, his bagels are of such reputed quality that they wholesale throughout Santa Barbara. “Before we even open our door, we sell a thousand bagels,” he explained.
But it wasn’t that way at first. “Nobody would take me seriously because I was 21 years old,” said Friedman, who was very nervous in those early days. “I was pretty much on my own.” But he powered through. “I just gave a lot of love and hard work into that place,” he said. “Kindness and integrity are the best way to run a business.”
Soon, Bagel Café was infused with a kind of culture that rose into the hearts of Isla Vistans. “[It became] a cool place with good food where everyone likes to hang out,” said Friedman. “There’s music playing and no pretension. That’s the way we want to be. We care about being in Isla Vista. We love the community.”
Since starting Bagel Café, Friedman has also founded two tech companies, one of which he still runs. But Bagel Café remains “my first one, my baby,” he said. His favorite aspect 25 years in? “To still see familiar faces and know that people are still coming,” he said.
As to his personal favorite on the menu? He likes the melts, specifically The Big One, Super Emma, and Leadbetter, a bagel with tomato, onion, lettuce, turkey, and melted swiss cheese.
6551 Trigo Road, Isla Vista; (805) 685-7114; ivbagelcafe.com