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Refreshingly Unhip: SF's Best Bagels

Katz Bagel

Sandwich made by me with bagel from Katz

Despite the local food scene going crazy over a slew of hip, new bagel makers in town (Wise Sons, Beauty's Bagel Shop in Oakland, and the Schmendricks pop-up in Fayes Video and Espresso Bar), you can still find refreshingly unhip, humble versions in SF. As the daughter of a New York Jew and self-proclaimed bagel connoisseur, I took to the streets of SF to find the best, most traditional (boiled then baked, never steamed) bagels–no long lines included. 

Katz Bagels, (pictured above) 3147 16th St

Katz Bagels have been a long-time favorite in San Francisco. Their several locations make it easy to get a good bagel in the Mission or the FiDi. Sadly, Founder Burt Katz died earlier this month. We hope his bagel legacy will continue unharmed and that his bagels will remain some of the best in San Francisco. 

Visual Appeal:  A little on the pale side when untoasted, but still glossy with a slight golden hue.

Shape: Flatter and smaller than most. (Not necessarily a bad thing since the contemporary bagel has nearly doubled in size from the originals).

Texture:  Soft, with a slightly hard crust.

Touch:  Bouncy and pillowy.

Photo courtesy of House of Bagels/Facebook

House of Bagels, 5030 Geary Blvd.

House of Bagels is renowned for its traditional method of boiling and then baking their bagels. They sell their dough to many other bagel purveyors, but if you stop into their Richmond storefront, make sure to try their delicious lox and whitefish spread.

Visual Appeal:  Glossy and golden, perfect shade for an untoasted bagel. 

Shape:  Nicely round and plump.

Texture: Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.

Touch: Hard enough to hold up to a squeezing, but with a soft interior that gives a little bounce back.

 

The Bagel Bakery, 151 Townsend St.

Photo from The Bagel Bakery/Facebook

This out-of-the-way-shop, which unfortunately isn’t open on weekends due to its awkward SoMA location, rivals New York bagels in authenticity. For the truly die-hard bagel-eaters out there, these babies may just be the closest you’ll get to their East Coast counterparts.

Visual Appeal:  Browned to perfection.

Shape:  Big and well risen.

Texture: The perfect combination of hard exterior and chewy interior; the kind of bagel that doesn’t need to be toasted (which is how a real bagel should be).

Touch: Hard on the outside with a bit of give that tells you it’s going to have an ideal texture.

 

Holey Bagel, 3873 24th St.

Photo by Khashi F. on Foursquare

While visually, these bagels aren't as stunning as their competitors, the taste and texture put them on the list of some of the best.

Visual Appeal:  A little pale with a nice sheen.

Shape: Round and small, but a bit puffy.

Texture: Good density with a crispy exterior.

Touch: Hard on the outside with a squishy interior.

 

Sour Flour in La Victoria Bakery, 2937 24th St.

Located in La Victoria Bakery in the heart of the Mission, Sour Flour doesn’t seem like the place that would churn out a great bagel. But check out Bagel Monday for a free bagel made by Sour Flour’s Danny Gabriner and judge for yourself. If you like what you taste, Sour Flour offers bread-making workshops to the community.

Visual Appeal: Glossy and golden. 

Shape: Some are big and puffy, while others are smaller and more O-shaped. These bagels are not uniform in appearance, making them look endearingly hand-rolled.

Texture: Not too fluffy nor too chewy on the inside, with a crusty exterior.

Touch:  The crispy exterior cracks a bit when pressedbut reveals a chewy center.

Have other unhip bagel spots in mind? Tell us in the comments!