The Bay Area's esteemed and lauded food scene is famous for many things. Bagels, alas, are not one of them. And even though California's bagel crop provides New York transplants with ripe comedic fodder, most of us still eat them every single day. For your consideration and debate, here are the most adequate 5 bagel spots in the Bay Area.
BARON BAKING: So, Dan Graf's gems are the bagels that loud New York City transplant types seem to enjoy so much. "You've got to head over to Oakland and try them," we're often told. Why? Well, according to a feature in the New York Times (how appropriate), "[Graf] starts with a high gluten organic flour from Central Milling Company, mixing a poolish, or starter, of yeast, flour and water, which he lets sit for about 10 hours ... After forming the bagels (an art in itself, as he stretches the dough before cutting and shaping it into 3-ounce, 3 1/2-inch rounds) he refrigerates them for 18 to 24 hours." Graf then boils his bagels in a curious lye water sodium hydroxide solution, which "makes the outside sticky, allowing toppings to adhere better."
Baron Baking's bagels can be found at Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen (1475 Shattuck, Berkeley), Chop Bar (247 4th Street, Oakland), Stag’s Lunchette (362 17th Street, Oakland), and Espresso Subito (in the alley at 450 Mission Street, San Francisco).
HOUSE OF BAGELS: Occasionally the bagel you crave is not the one made with New York city tap water and FedExed overnight, but the one staring you down in the display case of your local corner store or coffee shop. Unlike Korean tacos or chocolate covered bacon waffle sandwiches, bagels don't often benefit from pop-up food culture. Enter the Richmond District's House of Bagels: besides having a delightfully homey mural gracing the front of their Geary Boulevard deli where one can find a host of NY-style classics, they also supply doughy goodness in bulk to stores and cafes across town. At our own corner health food store, a baked-yesterday Asiago bagel from House of Bagels goes for the dirt cheap price of $0.50 — irresistible when you're searching for breakfast and all you have in your fridge is a block of cream cheese.
House of Bagels is located at 5030 Geary Boulevard; (415) 752-6000
POSH BAGEL: It may not be the most authentic bagel around, and, in fact, it's just balls-out California with its jalapeno and occasional pesto bagels, but we like the flavor of them anyway. They're the correct consistency, we think, chewy and not too bready, and superior to Noah's in every way. Assuming you don't have serious New York snobbery about such things—or assuming you don't mind eating delicious things in secret lest you be judged by your authenticity-obsessed friends—we suggest you try their Asiago bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese. You might be a convert.
There are 14 Posh Bagel retail locations located throughout the Bay Area.
KATZ BAGELS: The closest thing we've come to a reliable, New York-style bagel has been Katz, at least at the 16th Street branch that morphs into a pizza place at night (they can also be found in the Lower Haight and FiDi). They crisp up really nicely in the toaster, and if you get them fresh, they may be glossy and crispy on the outside already. The flavor is great, and we especially recommend the Everything bagel with lox spread.
Katz Bagels locations can be found at 3147 16th Street and 606 Mission in San Francisco. They can also be found at Inside Nectar at 663 Haight.
BAGEL-WRAPPED HOT DOG AT THE BAGEL BAKERY: Look, we didn't say this was going to be pretty. There's no turning back now: Nestled among McDonald's, Subway, Tres, and Saison on Townsend lies the Bagel Bakery. And within the Bagel Bakery lies a shelf of bagel-wrapped hot dogs. Big hot dogs. Spicy or or mild. And what's that? Yes, that's CHEESE melted onto the bagel-wrapped hot dog. Yellow cheddar cheese, if you please. It's disgusting. It's inappropriate. It's like putting an ice cube in your Sauvignon Blanc. It's goddamn delicious. And at least once a week, I eat two in less than 20 minutes, and then end up burping for the rest of the day.
The Bagel Bakery can be found at 151 Townsend in San Francisco; 415-543-0900
Honorable Mention: Beauty's Bagels in Oakland (which can be found at Wise Sons on the weekends.)
Thanks to SFist's Andrew Dalton and Jay Barmann for assistance compiling this post.