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Mar 6, 2010 07:52 AM

Best Bay Area bagels?

I found a nice Jewish deli in Las Vegas that makes a bagel that pretty much gives an atomic wedgie to any bagel I've had in San Francisco or Los Angeles.
So I'd like to try again to find a great bagel in the Bay Area. I never made it to Roland's, which I guess has shut down.
I've been to Katz, Noah's and House of Bagels and while they're all nice, they're nothing to go out of the way for.
I haven't tried the Bagel Bakery.
Is there a better place to try than the Bagel Bakery? Is there some place in the East Bay or the Peninsula I should try? About the only place I won't go is into Marin County.

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  1. Dante said it best.
    “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”
    There appears to be nothing to go out of the way for. According to reports here even New York is almost in the same fix.

    15 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      I recommend Rolands on Haight Street at Webster. As a former east-coaster, they're by far the best I've tasted in SF. Chewy inside and great crust. Sometimes they're sold out by mid-afternoon. It certainly was open a week ago when I stopped there.

        1. re: Alan C

          AS I noted above, Roland's is closed, right?

            1. re: NoeMan

              A Yelp poster observes that Roland's isn't closed, it's just relocating to Hayes & Gough.

              1. re: Agent 510

                Right, they are moving into the spot that used to be Essencia. I went by there today and it looks like they are making good progress on it. I've never tried them at the Haight location so I don't know how good they are.

                Ess-a-Bagel was making a mighty fine bagel in Manhattan when we visited in November, and I'm sure there's plenty of other good bagels to be hounded in various New York boroughs. It's hardly the same as here.


        2. re: wolfe

          Not true about NY. I had great bagels in Brooklyn a few months ago at Bergen Bagels.

          1. re: Windy

            "New York is almost in the same fix."
            Almost allows exceptions. ;-)

            1. re: Windy

              Bergen Bagels are sub-par.. not as bad as H&H but they are giant bread bagels.
              The Bagel hole actually makes good real bagels in Brooklyn..

              1. re: fatpersonskinnybody

                Sorry. One look at the picture of the bagels in the Bergen Bagels brochure is enough to be certain. Those are bageloids, not bagels. They may be the most popular thing sold under the name 'bagel', but they are faux, fat, never boiled, soft. wrong.

                Sorry to be pedantic - your certainly entitled to your opinion, and its obviously widely shared - but I miss my Montreal bagels. Fresh off the plank out of a brick oven, lovingly parboiled, chewy whole grain goodness... they are soo much better than anything we get around here. I'm starting to wonder if they're better than anything that remains in NYC...

                1. re: BernalKC

                  One look at the *brochure*? You're going to be that dismissive without actually haven eaten one?

                  1. re: Windy

                    Well, its kinda hard for me to get to Brooklyn. But yes, one look at the picture shows they are the wrong shape. Big, fat, puffy - obviously never boiled. See for yourself:

                    1. re: BernalKC

                      I ate them. I don't need to look at a picture.

                      1. re: Windy

                        Looks can be deceiving, but those sure look like the faux bagels that most people seem to like. This 2003 NYT article on bagels reflects my POV almost exactly, and the bagels I see pictured in the Bergen menu sure look to be part of the "super sized" trend that I find loathsome: "Was Life Better When Bagels Were Smaller?"

                        1. re: BernalKC

                          According to this David Lebovitz blog post, the kind of bagels I crave are making some sort of comeback in NYC as "flat bagels"

                          Seems backwards to me. The super-sized miscreants should be called "fat bagels" instead, but its OK as long as real bagels make a comeback. Maybe someone local will seize the opportunity and start making "heritage bagels." That sounds better to me!

          2. Try Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels on California Avenue in Palo Alto. From an ex-New Yorker, the best I have had out here!

            4 Replies
            1. re: lpfch

              As an ex-Brooklynite, I've had Izzy's and they fell far short for Draeger's still making bagels? I remember having what I remember as a good one....but the memory fades...I live a couple of blocks from Rolands and they were good but not really NY bagels...The Mission Beach Cafe on 16th and Guerrero has home made ones, they 'look' right...with a nice shiny crust, but I have yet to try one....anybody???

              1. re: lpfch

                Izzy's bagels are my idea of a good, real bagel. They are densely chewy on the inside and the outside has a thin 'crispness' to the surface. They are the only bagel I have eaten since moving to the Bay Area four years ago that in any way approximates a bagel. Most of what is sold as bagels here in Bay Area are round buns with holes in the middle that have no denseness, no chewiness. I can't believe Noah's Bagels has built a chain of mediocre bun shops mislabeled as bagels.

                ChowFun_derek. . . how long has it been since you had a real bagel in Brooklyn? If Izzy's fall 'far short', I think you have forgotten what bagels are, esp. since you seem to admire bagels with a 'nice shiny crust' because Izzy's bagels have a nice shiny crust.

                I like the size of Izzy's bagels. . . to me, the size is realistic. The jumbo bread rolls sold at most places and wrongly called 'bagels' are much, much bigger than bagels.

                Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels
                477 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306

                1. re: tizzielish

                  ive never tasted a new york bagel, but i do like bagels that are dense...and when i used to live in palo alto, i used to buy izzy's all the time when i was biking to school/work. Really nice little shop with good owners...and they make a consistently dense bagel.

                  Since moving to the east bay, i go to berkeley bagels on gilman. I tried manhattan bagels on 4th st. and although fine, i still would go with berkeley bagels for dense chewiness (although, i did like manhattan's sourdough bagel in terms of its taste and texture). i dont mess around with my cream or any fillings. i dont even slice them in half...and many times i dont even toast them (if i do, i dont slice and i lightly toast the outside). With my taste and style, gilman and izzy's fulfill my needs.

                  1. re: tizzielish

                    I was in Brooklyn this year...definitely had bagels....It was near the end of the day at Izzy's, perhaps that affected the quality...I will give them another try when I am near one...

                  1. re: Sam B

                    I understand that Draeger's sells H&H bagels.

                    1. re: SunsetKid

                      I ordered a bunch, nothing special. It wasn't worth it.

                      1. re: wolfe

                        Yeah, H&H is basically Noah's imo. Puffy and sweet, like a soft sandwich roll.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          H&H bagels puffy? Wow, they must not be giving Dragers the same stuff. I haven't found any good bagels outside of NY. I no longer think it's worth looking.

                          1. re: brhau

                            Yes, puffy. I used to live a block away from the H&H factory in Manhattan. They must get hard somewhere en route to CA, because there have been recent reports of hard H&H bagels in both SF and LA.

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              Huh. I'll admit that I actually like some of the puffy ones, even though they're not supposed to be that way. I like Absolute Bagels, for instance on 108th. H&H is definitely denser than that from what I remember, but I didn't go there very often. Whose bagels do you like best?

                  2. I'm not bagel savvy at all, but further south I enjoy Posh Bagels in Santa Clara.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: J T

                      Never having lived in New York, perhaps I have no authority here, but I really like the bagels at Manhattan Bagel Company on Fourth Street in Berkeley. There's something magical about the texture they get when toasted. They offer freezer bags and suggest you cut the bagels in half before freezing. I do that, and even when frozen they maintain that nice chewiness after having been toasted. I haven't found that quality in any other East Bay bagels.

                    2. I tried House of Bagels in Sunnyvale and it was pretty good - especially, but not just, by local standards. Not as great as the best in New York, but the first decent bagel I can recall having out here. But I haven't tried Roland's or some of the other places in San Francisco.


                      House of Bagels
                      1681 Hollenbeck Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: mdg

                        I have my mom and in-laws send us bagels from the east coast which we freeze. I will have to try some of the places mentioned but so far I haven’t had much luck in finding good bagels in CA. It’s really rather remarkable how truly retched bagels and pizza can be in California. A while back I was really jonesing for a bagel at lunchtime. There is a “Posh bagel” place in Davis (to the person who recommended Posh bagel, you are correct, you are not bagel savvy at all). I gave Posh bagel a try with the thought “how bad could it really be?” It was so abysmal. I don’t know why it is so challenging to find decent bagels, pizza and sandwiches in California. At least we have good Mexican food.

                        1. re: Ridge

                          Interesting possibly Freudian typo retched, to vomit, for wretched, deplorably bad. The local bread balls with holes are not that bad but they are not "bagels."

                          1. re: Ridge

                            Well, at least it seems they're consistent - the Posh Bagel in Los Altos has the same level of quality that you describe in Davis!

                            The pizza situation has gotten a lot better here in the past few years. Some of the good stuff is even finally making its way down to Silicon Valley. I think the more widespread use of the conveyor-belt ovens may be one reason why the run-of-the-mill places are so much worse here than back east.


                            1. re: mdg

                              House o Bagels in Mountain View (miramonte & cuesta) is decent. Better than Posh and Noah's. Izzy's in PA on California is better. Haven't had anything yet that I would put in the "excellent" category in the Peninsula/South Bay.

                            2. re: Ridge

                              my spouse bought some bagels from the Boogie Woogie Bagel in Alameda (our usual source, but too distant from our front door for frequent indulgence) on her way out of town, and gave me a leftover three days later--still excellent chew and flavor, granted, it was one of their varieties that keep well (pumpernickel). so far, they're as good as any I've had west of the rockies.