When it comes to bagels, San Francisco has long gotten a bad rap—particularly from New York transplants. But the Bay Area has enjoyed something of a bagel resurgence lately, gracing coffee shops and cafés in San Francisco and the East Bay with satisfying new options. Whether you're hunting for a Brooklyn-style approximation or a refined take on the classic dough (nigella seeds, anyone?), worthy bagel joints and bakeries abound. Forget Noah's: these bakers know their stuff.
RECOMMENDED: The best breakfast in San Francisco.
Bagels in San Francisco
These Montreal-inspired bagels are hand-rolled, boiled, topped with a copious smattering of seeds and baked in a wood-fired oven. Co-owners Amy Remsen and Blake Joffe are Philadelphia transplants, which explains both the Oakland shop’s east coast feel and the presence of scrapple on the menu. Bagel varieties include sesame, poppy, everything, plain, onion, wheat, cinnamon raisin, garlic and the reigning favorite, salt and pepper. Spread yours with cream cheese, almond butter, Nutella or fruit preserves, or opt for one of the breakfast sandwiches. Beauty's supplies bagels to a variety of San Francisco restaurants as well, including High Cotton Kitchen, Second Act Marketplace and Wise Sons Delicatessen.
For all its multicultural prowess, San Francisco has never done Jewish deli successfully. All that changed in 2012 with the opening of Wise Sons, and you can hear the echo of a million Jewish mothers shouting “mazel tov.” Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman have not only nailed it, but done so in a uniquely Northern California way with reinterpreted classics such as house-smoked pastrami on rye with handmade pickles, just-salty-enough chopped liver, and rich, veggie-filled matzo ball soup (self-deprecatingly described as “not as good as your bubbe's”). For breakfast, choose from a curated variety of bagel flavors, then snag a shmear. Or go for the gold with one of their stacked bagel sandwiches, like the bodega egg and cheese with the added option of crispy pastrami. There's also freshly baked bread to take home, and plenty of Intelligentsia coffee.
Marla is the love child of husband-wife team Amy Brown and Joe Wolf, and the pair comes with quite a pedigree. Prior to Marla, Brown ran the pastry and brunch program at Nopa, while Wolf was the head pickler at Wise Sons. The couple built out a wood-burning oven in the Outer Richmond and introduced their charming café in 2014. The flavorful seeded bagels, which are boiled and baked fresh daily, are a particular specialty. They're crowned with savory toppings—chickpea za'atar spread, lox, smoked trout and herbed farmers cheese among them—and served alongside house-made pickles. Orders are capped at a half-dozen per customer to avoid selling out too early.
Brothers Jason and Mark Scott adopted their bagel recipe from their late great grandmother. Their version uses a sourdough starter, a touch meant to marry their East Coast roots (they're originally from Rhode Island) and their West Coast home. Though Authentic Bagels are distributed to 30-something cafés and restaurants, they're best when snagged fresh from the oven at the brothers' small shop. Twelve kinds are available, as well as flavored cream cheeses, hummus and house-made whitefish salad. Regulars swear by the sizable sandwiches, which flaunt unusual flavor combinations: The Jamboree, for example, is a garlic bagel topped with vegetable cream cheese, onion jam, jalapeno jam and bacon, while the Afternoon Delight is a salt bagel slathered with jalapeño cream cheese and strawberry jam.
Baron Baking founder Dan Graf was formerly the deli manager at Saul's Restaurant and Delicatessen; now he supplies all of Saul's bagels. The New Jersey native approaches bagel making as a science, following an exacting two-day double fermentation process to achieve the ideal texture and flavor. His method results in a malty, dense bagel with a crunchy, slightly blistered crust. The bagels come in plain, poppy, sesame, salt, everything and onion varieties and are sold sans toppings. Since Graf is a one-man operation, his bagels are largely sold wholesale to restaurants like Chop Bar, Stag's Lunchette, Espresso Subito and Saul's. That said, those hoping to score a hot dozen can email him directly (email@example.com) at least 48 hours in advance and pick them up at the kitchen.
Izzy's pillowy, beloved bagels are made fresh daily using a simple recipe: flour, yeast, water and a pinch of brown sugar and salt. They're formed before the dough rises, allowed to rise naturally, then boiled and baked. Though the bagels are billed as Brooklyn-style, the myriad flavors are decidedly unorthodox, including sun-dried tomato, jalapeno, blueberry, olive and more. Similarly, toppings span from tried-and-true classics to flavored cream cheeses like Belgian orange chocolate and Dijon garlic.
This Richmond bagelry is a San Francisco institution, having resided in the same location since 1964. The facade's elaborate mural brightens up a dreary stretch of Geary street and gives those lined up out front something to stare at. Over the decades, the family-run shop has maintained the same recipe, in which bagels are boiled, then baked on stone. The result is a firm, dense bagel that stands up to toppings. Though the Brooklyn-style recipe is unchanged, new flavors pop up each week, including varieties like apple ginger, cheesy dill and corn rye. (The old-school shop gained some notoriety recently for developing the "cragel," a bagel-croissant hybrid.) Apart from bagels, the bakery also churns out fresh breads, black and white cookies and pastries daily.
Pastry chef Michelle Polzine toured throughout Vienna, Budapest, and Prague before opening her Hayes Valley cafe, and the inspiration shows in the Art Nouveau decor. This is not your usual, New York-chasing bagel. Here, the "San Francisco bagels," which are freshly baked twice daily, are smaller, darker, and firmer than what you’re used to. The dough includes a touch of honey and the crust is topped with a smattering of nigella seeds or Maldon salt, lending a subtle sweet-salty flavor. The bagels are artfully piled with smoked salmon, Gina Marie cream cheese, pickled shallots and dill.
Concert posters line the walls at this small, family-owned Mission shop. The time-perfected bagels have a satisfyingly doughy interior and a properly crunchy crust, and flavors include onion, jalapeno, everything, egg, garlic, poppy and whole wheat everything. Most opt for the old-school bagel sandwich with egg and cheese or the open-face sandwich with lox, capers, onion and sprouts. Flavored cream cheese can be mixed to order in combinations like cucumber dill, jalapeno, sun-dried tomato or veggie. Grab a drip coffee here or make like a caffeine snob and take your bagel across the street to Stanza Coffee Bar.
Pastry chef Anna Lee took over when Amy Brown left to launch Marla, but the weekend wait times haven’t lessened. Only three dozen of the fluffy bagels are baked each day—weekends only—so arrive before the brunch rush or risk coming up empty handed. The bagels are boiled in salted, malted water and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. They’re served with smoked trout or salmon, pickled onions, radish and herb-flavored farmers cheese.