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Oct 4, 2007 06:50 PM

I Hate the Noah's Bagels in Berkeley, Telegraph & Durant

Well, actually, I think their bagels are pretty good. However, I hate that late in the afternoon they have few, if any, bagels. This is when I want one. I just learned from a clerk, who probably let it slip inadverdantly, that they plan to be sold out of bagels at 3pm. If they have any left, it is random chance. The store officially closes at 6pm, so should not they try to have a full inventory until 6? If they want to be totally sold out at 3pm, why not simply close the store at 3? Do they think that selling 'leftovers' for people who come late in the afternoon is fair?

I am referring specifically to the store in Berkeley, Telegraph & Durant. You should see how pathetically empty their bins are late in the afternoon when I come home from work. No problem. If you are in the area, do not give your money to Noah's, but go to their competitor: Eclair Bakery. Just walk 2 blocks down from the Berkeley store on Telegraph, and this other bakery is right next to Buffalo Exchange. They do not have as many different types of bagels, but I have never been told that they are 'sold out' of the type of bagel I want. They are also much better than Noah's, because they also have cookies and heavenly, fattening french pastries just like in the fancy pastry cookbooks.

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        1. Noah's also has the worst coffee and the worst customer service around (College Ave. store). However, I do crave their pumpkin bagels this time of year.

          On that note, who has good bagels in the East Bay? This is not meant to start a debate about Bay Area bagels vs. NY bagels. I just want to know who has a decent bagel in this area.

          Note: I bought something made by Eclair Bakery at the Berkeley Bowl once and it was so horrid, I had to throw it out. Never wanted to try anything from them again. Was this a fluke? Do they actually make decent baked goods, or was I right not to want to return?

          7 Replies
          1. re: chemchef

            When I was a kid Eclair made something we called "square danish." The round coiled pastries were laid out on a sheet of pastry and baked together. They were then cut apart in squares. The primary ingredients (beyond butter and flour) were custard and raisins. "Square danish" were very tasty thirty to forty years ago. Most other things were okay. I get the feeling that quality has gone down over the years, but I should probably test this theory.

            1. re: lexdevil

              About Eclair:
              I have lived a block away for almost 3 decades. True, the quality has steadily declined over the years. Yet, today, even in it's reduced state, it is 10 times as good as the Noah's Bakery 2 blocks up. I encourage everyone who is even thinking about spending money at the Noah's on Telegraph at Durant, to please close your wallet, walk 2 1/2 blocks south on Telegraph to the Eclair bakery (1/2 block south of Dwight, next to Buffalo Exchange), and see how truly wonderful a bakery can be late in the afternoon during that study break. They have not only bagels, but a full variety of heavenly, delicious, and truly fattening pastries.

              History as I know it:
              The original store was next to Moe's, in the same place now occupied by 'Bay King' (to answer your next question: ignore this place, and walk one block south to the current location of Eclair).

              This poor place has changed ownership several times. The quality of the pastry has steadily declined over the years. At this point, your are quite likely to get pastry that is stale. Still, they offer a reduced but traditional selection of classic French pastisserie, and this is where I get my afternoon treat nonetheless (unlike Noah's, which has nothing but empty bins to offer me at that time of day; yes, I do mean to say that I would rather chance stale pastry at Eclair than bagel leftovers at Noah's).

            2. re: chemchef

              Compared to the horrible, huge, cottony bagels from Noah's, Manhattan bagels are better, though I've only had the onion. They're smaller, crunchier, less doughy, with slightly bitter onions. All the sandwiches and wraps in their flier look awful, but those bagels are okay. Before anyone slams me, no, I've never had a real NY bagel, but I do know a roll with a hole when I (don't) eat one.

              1. re: chemchef

                Try Boogie Woogie Bagel Boy
                1281 Gilman St
                Albany, CA 94706
                (510) 524-3104

                Sorry I can't seem to attach the proper place link; seems to want to attach the Alameda location.

                1. re: Stephanie Wong

                  They're now called Berkeley Bagel.

                  Great bagels.

                  (and one of the best cafe mochas I've ever had, somehow...)

                  1. re: dotMac

                    Seriously go to Berkeley Bagel. I just found a favorite new-to-me place.

                    Though I haven't been there at end of the day (4pm), my guess is that they have a lot of different bagels even then because they have a shelf of day-old bagels ... 6 bagels for $2.50

                    Also the best French roast coffee I've had in a long time ... for $1. Bagels are 75 cents each ... such a deal.

                2. re: chemchef

                  Manhattan Bagel on 4th street is the closest in the east bay to well, a real bagel.

                3. While I share your pain in not having a bagel in the afternoon when you're craving it, I can also see from a business point of view how you don't want a full inventory at the end of the day because then you'll have a whole lot of day-old bagel every day. And who wants that? They've probably seen a pattern of higher purchases in the morning so they've made sure to be stocked in the morning but not in the afternoon, when the traffic probably slows down.

                  I think the suggestion of buying one in the morning and keeping it for the afternoon is a good one.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: singleguychef

                    Having worked there I can say that yes, they try to not have a full inventory at closing because it usually goes straight into the trash.

                    Toward the end of the day it was always a balancing act whether to make another batch of X flavor, because there was a lead time to defrost, rise, and bake, and what if you wind up dumping it?

                    They won't sell it next-day. A food bank might pick it up and they can get a donation/deduction, but there is only so much bread a food bank will take. In any case, it is basically a loss for them which obviously they prefer to avoid.

                    1. re: Louise

                      "Having worked there I can say that yes, they try to not have a full inventory at closing because it usually goes straight into the trash.
                      Toward the end of the day it was always a balancing act whether to make another batch of X flavor, because there was a lead time to defrost, rise, and bake, and what if you wind up dumping it?"
                      Thanks for your honest experience. This is the sort of 'inside baseball' that I think more customers deserve to know about where they spend their money.

                      My Disclaimers:
                      1) I have some professional baking and pastry training and experiece at various Bay Area foodservice establishments, but never at one that made bagels, although I have had job interviews at bakeries that made bagels;
                      2) I have never been east of the Missippi, so have never had a real bagel, and would not know one if flew up my a**hole.

                      True, any foodservice business tries to minimize waste, but Noah's has gone way over the edge. I cite as my example that foccacia place in SF on Washington Square: when they run out of that day's production, they close their doors, no matter what the clock says. I think that the manager of the Berkeley Noah's can learn a lot by observing the operation of this highly respected and even legendary bakery.

                      I have indications that even Noah's District Manager feels that it is OK to run out of bagels after 3pm everyday. As such, is it not very bad customer service to keep the doors open AFTER 3pm??? I should note that Noah's business model seems to have changed over the years, for the worst. When this branch first opened up many years ago, they ALWAYS had all bagels until they closed at 6pm; and after 5:30 it was discount time and you could buy a brown paper bag full of fresh bagels for not much money. I spent much money there, and my freezer wash ALWAYS full of happy bagels waiting for me. With this new business model of having totally empty bins at closing time, I have not spent a dime at Noah's for at least a couple of years, because they never have bagels when I want them. THEY NEED TO LEARN THAT THEY MUST SELL PRODUCT WHEN THE CUSTOMER WANTS TO BUY THEM, NOT WHEN IT IS CONVENIENT FOR THE STORE TO SELL OR MAKE THEM. This is simple business logic, and I wonder at what point Noah's lost their way.

                      1. re: jerry i h

                        False conclusion. Noah's sells other products which may sell better after 3 pm than bagels, like sandwiches, cookies, and soups.

                        It's the same thing with Starbucks and many other places that have breakfast and after-breakfast baked goods, including Tartine.

                        1. re: xanadude

                          Then they should call it 'Noah's Snack Shack'. Maybe if they concentrated more on their bagels and got rid of the other junk, the quality might get better. Or else, close at 3pm when the bagels stop selling (which seem to be their goal anyway).