When I told people that I wanted to find the best bagel in San Francisco, they mostly did one of two things:
1. Laughed uncontrollably.
2. Shook their heads at me with pity usually reserved for tiny puppies wearing casts.
Let me explain. I live in New York City, which is
renowned for having the best bagels in the world. In fact, I live just blocks away from two legendary schmear places: La Bagel Delight, which is like the Beyoncé of bagels, and Bergen Bagels, which is like Beyoncé’s equally fierce twin sister Feyoncé.
California, on the other hand, is a tanned Pangaea of glutenphobia famous for avocados and green juice, not plump pumpernickels held together with a thick cummerbund of cream cheese. The bagel situation in San Francisco is so dire that residents recently waited two hours in the rain for bagels overnighted from NYC’s Russ and Daughters.
I’m an optimist, especially when it means I can get my company to pay me to eat a shit ton of carbs. I decide to make the bagel rounds, hoping the Bay Area could actually produce a satisfying breakfast with a hole. There had to be at least ONE decent bagel in such a foodie-jammed town. Right?
No, people warned me. One friend politely pointed out a few famous taco places instead. Others bodily threw themselves in front of these bagel restaurants, pleading with me not to indulge in such an act of self-harm. An earthquake even struck Napa Valley 10 minutes before my flight took off, a clear warning from Mother Nature to stay in flour paradise on the East Coast. But I could be stopped by no act of God. The bagel quest was ON.
1. Eat at least one Bay Area bagel per day.
2. Do not experiment with lox, because a) I’m vegetarian, and b) like SF lox is even going to be a thing.
3. Be nice to others and have fun.
Noah’s New York Bagels, The Marina
I ask my Lyft driver where the best bagel in San Francisco is, and he tells me to go to Noah’s. I suddenly realize this is my chance to become the Tom Friedman of breakfast writing. With visions of a weekly column in a revered bagel journal dancing in my head, I head to Noah’s “New York” “Bagels” in the Marina.
Everyone I see in this neighborhood is wearing Lululemon and/or jogging with a robust Airedale terrier, and it hits me that maybe SF is just too healthy to give a damn about bagels (as opposed
to New York, where we all go to work in the snow and guzzle bourbon in the office bathroom to stanch our endemic self-loathing).
Inside, the cashier at Noah’s is impossibly chirpy and friendly, and it catches me off guard. Bagel guys in New York always act like you’ve just interrupted the birth of their first child to tell a story about getting your butt mole removed.
I order a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese.
My first impression: The amount of sesame seeds present here could harm a toddler.
Second impression: Ugh. Not only is my bagel small and clearly not even boiled, it’s flatter than a note Katy Perry sings live. It tastes too bready and yeasty, and the cream cheese is WHIPPED. I barely finish it.
I do pet a cute Airedale terrier though, so, worth it.
Still, my Odyssean bagel voyage is already taking me straight between Scylla and