Baking up the goods | Credit: Courtesy Yetz's Bagels

The scent of baking dough hangs thick in the air as Daniel Dunietz, owner and operator of Yetz’s Bagels, presides over his kitchen with a steadfast sense of urgency. Serving hand-rolled and boiled bagels from scratch out of a storefront still bearing the marks of its previous iteration, Yetz’s Bagels is the newest addition to Santa Barbara’s very small pool of local bagel spots. The Isla Vista shop, which has only been fully open for the better part of two months, marks a venture that puts quality above all else and comes years in the making for Dunietz. 

“The bagels were actually part of the picture from the very beginning,” he said. “The original concept I had for a restaurant I came up with in high school. I was like 14 or 15, and the original idea was called ‘Blunts and Bagels,’ and it was a cannabis-themed bagel shop. A 15-year-old’s idea for sure.”

Dunietz, who grew up in Chicago, took his cannabis-themed bagel shop idea to the dorms of UC Santa Barbara when he started whipping up bagel-sandwich creations for his friends in Isla Vista using bagels purchased from a shop in Isla Vista. 

One of Yetz’s Bagels’ deluxe sandwiches | Credit: Courtesy Yetz’s Bagels

“But then when I got serious about opening a store, I realized they wouldn’t sell to me because I was their competition, and there wasn’t another option that I was happy with,” he said. “And rather than seeing the writing on the wall 10 years ago, and seeing that there’s a huge need for this, that this is a business opportunity, I pivoted and went to bread bowls. That’s how Buddha Bowls came about.”

Until last month, Dunietz ran Dank Bowls (previously known as Buddha Bowls), a cannabis-themed restaurant slinging hefty portions of loaded mac-and-cheese-filled bread bowls out of the same storefront Yetz’s currently resides in. He says the business model he employed at Dank Bowls wasn’t sustainable: He was working six or seven days a week and saw little growth. 

“I think it’s been clear to me for five or six years that the concept is flawed. It’s so much food for a single person; the portion sizes are like two pounds. The only reason I could stay afloat was because I was in business in a college town,” he said.

It was during a trip to New York last year when Dunietz realized it was time to pursue the business he had envisioned all along. “I was going to these bagel shops in New York where it’s glass and you can see into all of the equipment. And I’m looking at it — and I’ve been in food for 10 years — and I’m just sitting there like, ‘What they’re doing looks so much simpler than what we’re doing at Dank Bowls.’”

When he returned home, craving a New York bagel, he made his first batch. Soon after, he implemented a pop-up-style version of Yetz’s during the slow mornings at Dank Bowls. “My key was no advertising. My whole thing was just to focus on making the best bagel. We started extremely small. We were using a 20-quart mixer; we were doing like four dozen at a time,” he said. 

In transitioning to bagels, Dunietz isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel — but rather, perfecting it. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to learn that there’s something really beautiful about following in the footsteps of things that have been figured out already,” he said. “My whole ethos is that I need to make the best bagel. Like, I still have the branding from Dank Bowls; I haven’t even figured that out. In my mind, all that comes after. The most important thing is you make the best product.”

Deli Platters | Credit: Courtesy Yetz’s Bagels

He and a small team of bakers make every bagel from scratch and offer a menu of bagel sandwiches ranging from the deluxe — with classic lox, capers, red onion, and schmear — to a chipotle beef melt with pico de gallo and sliced roast beef. 

Dunietz’s passion for good bagels comes from a long connection to their cultural history. “I’m a Polish Jew, so for me, I’ve been eating bagels my whole life,” he said. “It’s about embracing my ancestors and the people who have brought bagels into this world. It’s one of those things that makes me feel really good about what I’m doing because it connects me to other people.” 

He envisions Yetz’s as a spot that appeals to everyone — something he says Dank Bowls, with its pro-cannabis ethos, wasn’t always able to accomplish. “When it comes to something like food, it’s such a universal [thing]. I have an opportunity to share my values by not shutting people out when it comes to anything that’s a little divisive. To me, it’s just about good bagels, and I think it’s clear people are getting behind it.” 

Get behind it, they have. As we sat in the small storefront, a steady stream of customers poured in. “Within about a month, we went from four dozen to doing 200 on the weekends. And now we’re selling out. We did 400 yesterday, we sold out, and that doesn’t include the wholesale — that was just sandwiches in-store.” 

Dunietz now provides wholesale and catering services across Santa Barbara. With demand growing, he says his expansion goals have become more urgent. “I need a bigger space. I need a bigger kitchen. I need a new oven,” he said. “We’re using this oven that can do only about 150 to 200 bagels an hour, so we have to start at 1:30 a.m. on busy days. That’s the only way we can make it work, because this space was not built for what we’re doing.” 

For the time being, Dunietz remains committed to filling what he sees as a (bagel-shaped) gap in Santa Barbara’s food scene from out of his Isla Vista shop. “Santa Barbara lacks affordable quality food — not just cheap fast food — like good-quality fast casual, and there’s so much in that,” he said. “If you want to spend $100 a person, we have a lot of that, but I think that healthy ecosystems should have all of it.” 

Yetz’s Bagels are available in-store (901 Embarcadero Del Mar, Ste. 103, Isla Vista) and for catered events, offering a wide variety of catering options on their websites. See 

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