Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
May 5, 2012 11:44 AM

Schmendricks- Real bagels? Who in NY bakes on a cookie sheet?

Read the article in the Chronicle and it was bothering me. Is Schmendricks making bagels on cookie sheets? Every legit bagel shop I've been to boards them and puts them directly on a pizza stone in a big old oven-- Katz, House of Bagels, and the Bagelry have been boiling and baking bagels directly on a stone oven for years and years.

This is what real NY bagel production looks like, NOT what I saw int he article.

Don't know what is new about these guys except that they are baking their bagels on cookie sheets, not directly on stone. What is so special about that?

I smell marketing pulling the wool over bay area folk's eyes once again.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Looking at the photos, they're letting them rise and moving them around on sheet pans. There's no photo of them in the oven.

    "Schmendricks' bagels are modeled after the Bagel Hole in Brooklyn ..." Now that's exciting. The bagels I had from the Bagel Hole were the only real old-school ones I've had since the 80s.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I've never had Bagel Hole bagels (though I've had my share of bagels in NY), but I would be shocked that they are baked in sheet pans. Imagine a pizza baked in a sheetpan (think scicilian style versus NY style). These guys remind me of the now deceased Spot Bagel. Exciting marketing and a lot of great hype, but a crappy product when you get around to it.

      1. re: abbott

        What makes you think they're baked on sheet pans? Those photos show raw bagels proofing in sheet pans and someone scooping wet bagels out of the boiling pot onto a sheet pan. I don't think that's different from any other place that boils their bagels.

        They seem to me like the total opposite of Spot Bagel. The guy spent a couple of years working on his recipe and eventually nailed it when he got tips from someone who had worked at Bagel Hole. They're starting very small, subletting kitchen space, have ridiculed the idea of blueberry, sun-dried tomato, or chocolate chip bagels, and are doing a bunch of pop-ups to build word of mouth, which so far has been good:

        1. re: abbott

          Have you actually tried their "crappy product" or are you just speculating based on an article you didn't like?

          I have tried them, and they're better than the ones I've eaten at Katz's on Haight or House of Bagels on Geary. And, for what it's worth, they're better than anything I've gotten at H&H in recent years.

      2. I read a review/comparo of NYC bagels, including Bagel Hole. The conclusion: quality matters but getting the bagel fresh matters more.

        Okay, here's the link to the story:

        "A bagel's half-life, untoasted and unadorned, is no more than half an hour."

        In the sidebar: "The Heisen-Bagel Uncertainty Principle: The act of transporting a bagel to a second location produces fundamental uncertainties in its inherent qualities, such that determining a true "best bagel," in a head-to-head face-off, becomes impossible."

        2 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          Yeah that's one of the reasons I don't get super excited when someone introduces "real bagels" to SF. Really I just want the one bagel before I go to work. It's not that useful if it's in some place far from my commute route.

          1. re: ML8000

            The bagels I had from Bagel Hole had probably been out of the oven at least eight hours when we ate them, and they were better than any other bagels I've had here or in New York in 20+ years, including many hot of the oven.

            I'd just like to be able to get a bagel with the flavor and texture of a bagel without traveling to New York.

          2. Hey abbott. Schmendricks here. If we're talking about the same picture, the one in the Chron shows Deepa pulling bagels out of the kettle and putting them on a "cookie sheet" to carry them over to the other end of the kitchen to the ovens. They don't go into the oven on those sheets. We bake our bagels on stones. Right now, since we're renting kitchen space out of a generic commercial kitchen, we don't have the ideal bagel oven--there's not enough space to use boards. We've figured out how to do things so that we get a product we really like given the limitations of our kitchen, but when the day comes that we have our own kitchen, set up exactly the way we want it, we'll likely switch over to using boards.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Schmendricks

              about bagels you probably should be explaining that to the head rabbi not the abbot.
              Oh extra "t", that abbott.

              1. re: Schmendricks

                OK, cool. Thanks for the info. Glad to hear it.

                1. re: Schmendricks

                  Brooklyn Boy here...The Schmendricks bagels (and veg. cream cheese ) were as close to a bagel from home that I have experienced here in the Bay gave my jaw an incredible workout! which is a good thing! a very VERY good thing! this is the "Anti Noah's bagel!....I would like to see some additional egg wash cause I like that sensation on my tongue before I bite..but that is just a personal preference..I can't wait for a brick and mortar store! I was VERY Happy with my Schmendricks experience! for me it was worth "a price above rubies"!

                  1. re: Schmendricks

                    You've actually inspired me to try something that I have never tried (but always wasted to do) and that is make bagels at home! I thought I had to sacrifice either the boiling or the baking on a pizza stone, but maybe you can share with how to keep the boiled bagels from sticking to the stone without boards? Everywhere I've seen on the internet for making bagels at home has them dumped from the water onto a cornmeal (or floured! egads!) sheet pan. I don't even want to try it if I don't think it will be 95% of the way there.

                    1. re: abbott

                      I believe the boards are only for transport. i use a silpat for drying and transport and for the sticking problem parchment. BTW do you plan to use lye for boiling? And don't think of it as a waste. Freudian typo?

                      1. re: abbott

                        You don't put the dripping wet bagels directly into the oven, you drain them first. Some people drain them on racks, e.g.:


                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I've eaten (not made) the Cook's Illustrated recipe a few times and it's great. Chow's addition of sugar aside, it seems identical in ingredients to the Chow recipe, but CI proofs theirs in the fridge overnight.

                          I hope your already own a (Freudian) silpat or racks. Otherwise, those bagels might wind up costing more than $3 each :-)

                    2. Tried a couple yesterday (poppy and sesame). Liked both of them a lot, and I had my share of a range of NY bagels in the 90s. (My fave was H & H on the UWS but proximity probably had a lot to do with that.) I've also had my share of SF bagels from Noah's up to Spot.

                      What I tasted yesterday had a pretty good crust and were nice and chewy on the inside. Tasted good with some butter. Not mere marketing. They struck me as a bit pricey ($3 a pop), but they're selling on a pop-up basis, so rounding up to the nearest dollar to save making change and to keep the line moving seems sensible. Plus, they're selling out so - for now - the market will bear the price. Looking forward to them getting a permanent spot.

                      35 Replies
                      1. re: jcormac

                        Rounding up? A bagel should cost less than $2. So rounding up puts them at $2. Will be curious to see if that is sustainable. Even in NYC, bagels go for well under $2. I guess here, the desperation for a good bagel drives the demand.

                        1. re: FattyDumplin

                          Yes, bagels do go for well under $2 in NY as well in SF. I have no idea what their cost curve is when they're doing this on an ad hoc basis without the benefit of economy of scale. Price is what it is - just pointing out that due to the nature of the operation, sticking with whole numbers makes more sense than it might if you're comparing to a place which charges 1.29.

                          1. re: jcormac

                            People sell things they call bagels for under $2, or under $1, but to some of us they're an unpalatable and useless imitation of the traditional item, which has been extinct in Manhattan for two generations and nearly so in Brooklyn.

                            1. re: jcormac

                              i got you. i love me a good bagel, but man, have some heartburn at $3...

                              1. re: jcormac

                                No cost curve justifies that price. The reason most bagels are lacking is the craftmanship, and time, both of which can contribute to overhead, but there's no reason they should be marked at $3.

                                A pop up means less overhead. What will they have to charge for these once they take on proper business expenses? Even if they have figured out how to make a proper bagel , it sounds like they need to work on their model.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  Their cost per bagel should go down as they ramp up production.

                                  I can say from personal experience that more than time and craftsmanship are required to make a bagel taste right. Kover and Dingman worked on their recipe for a year or more without success until they got some tips from a former Bagel Hole employee.


                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Right, I don't doubt their profit margin is still slim, and could improve but if they're limiting production, it would seem that ramping up to the bulk sales you need for something like a bagel business is going to be a challenge. I don't think I'll be rushing out at that price, and if I did, it would be out of curiosity, not something I'd make a regular habit. 3 bagels shouldn't cost more than a Tartine or Outerlands bread.

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      I think I'd try it out of curiosity because I love bagels.

                                      Trying to put my econ dork hat on and think through the supply / demand dynamic...

                                      Right now, supply is constrained, so there is enough demand to fill at $3 a bagel. As they ramp up supply, at some point, they're not going to have enough demand to fill at $3 and they'll be running an inefficient business, i.e. they can make x bagels, but end up only selling x - y bagels at $3, instead of selling x bagels at $2 (or some other number) that would result in more profits.

                                      We'll see how big they want to scale the business, but at some point, it won't be that the ramped up production allows them to drop price, but the ramped up production forces them to drop price because not enough people are willing to pay $3.

                                      Then again, i've been surprised and maybe there is a huge population of people willing to pay that amount...

                                      1. re: FattyDumplin

                                        volume sales at a lower profit margin is a proven formula, but for a pop up or small business to make that transition means an increased overhead. depends if they're approaching this as a hobby or want to stick around a while.

                                        when the new york bagels raised their prices above the $1 mark, it was due to an increase in raw costs going up when gas prices went up. Pizza slices hit the $4 mark around the same time.

                                        1. re: FattyDumplin

                                          Right now they could probably charge $5 a bagel. The cost is secondary to the time and effort required to get them.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Nothing says "authentic", "old world style" like upcharging 5 times the going rate.

                                            More concerning, the photos on their website, posed against their own faces would imply their bagels are too big to be old world style. So are the current version sold at Bagel Hole, where they consulted.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              A Bagel Hole bagel would cost me around $1000 including airfare and hotel. A Schmendricks bagel would cost me $10.30 including BART fare, so that's about 1% of the going rate.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                The going rate for a bagel is a buck, not a business class flight.

                                                Anyway, a generic Bagel Hole bagel-lump is barely worth the subway fare, let alone Bart fare.

                                                If they think they're preserving the bagel, or doing a service by bringing it to SF at $3 a bagel, it's a bit counter intuitive to their mission.

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  The long line yesterday at The Window on Mother's Day proves the truism "what the market will bear". Note that it's a friendly convivial group of like-minded souls, not a morning grump among them before the 10am opening.
                                                  I gave up bagels here when the only choice was soft and fluffy. Yesterday I enjoyed my Schmendricks bagels with unmitigated pleasure - like Tolkien's Gollum loving its Precious.
                                                  Life is short, enjoy what you may. Set the bar as high/low as you choose. lol, Robert - I won't be in line for a $5 bagel - I'll be eating my Bays English Muffins.
                                                  I once declared not to purchase any Chardonnay over $12 nor any Cab over $17 in the 1970's and discovered the enjoyments of other varietals. Time marches on with or without us. You've made your point, sugarfoot. I choose to 'love the one I'm with' and for now it's a Schmendricks' bagel, fickle as I might be.
                                                  How far will you go for a bagel? Saul's in Berkeley will have Schmendricks on Thursday, June 21.

                                                  1. re: Cynsa

                                                    I regret making my first remark about the price. I have no idea what their actual costs of production are as a pop-up so I shouldn't have even tried to guess what their profit margin is. As others have pointed out, they are selling out their stock in an hour or two at their current price. As others have also pointed out, that may change as they expand or as time goes on. From what I've seen, there are people involved with the business who have probably taken an econ course or two over the years.

                                                    Everyone is entitled to their subjective opinion as to whether the price is too high or just right. Some people would never pay $3 for a bagel no matter what. I paid $3 apiece for 3 and didn't regret it because after consuming, like Robert, I thought the product was superior to the $1 bagel I could have purchased down the street from Noah's.

                                                    1. re: Cynsa

                                                      It's a pop up. They're benefitting from a food trend where people are excited to experience something new, to support an interesting business...and of course, the idea of a good bagel in SF is exciting.

                                                      The truth is, what constitutes a real bagel is as polarizing a topic as pizza....the second someone mentions Bagel Hole instead of Coney Island Bagels and Bialeys, I'm suspect. I don't think the long line proves much of anything aside from good hype works in this city. We can talk when people are lining up based on glowing reviews by people like yourself, and not just the marketing.

                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                        Fair points all. And very, very true about bagel polarity. As I mentioned above, when I offer that I used to like H&H on the UWS as it was in the mid-90s, I get all sorts of reactions.

                                                        I liked the product a lot when it happened to appear in my hood on a given Sunday. I wouldn't go across town and bypass other viable breakfast options to give them my $$$.

                                                        1. re: jcormac

                                                          Size wise, how do these compare to the H&H bagels you were fond of?
                                                          I'm guessing these are more well done than the H&H as well?

                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                            Sizewise, slightly smaller. In terms of well done, yeah, probably a bit more well done but I'd really want to try their version of an onion bagel to opine with the little confidence I could bring to that comparison since I was pretty much a slave to the H & H onion bagel at the time.

                                                            Everyone is right on this pricing thing in that markets continuously work their magic by incorporating everyone's views. As I'm sure they're reading this thread, they're surely noting the comments of some here and weighing those against their actual experiences in the marketplace. Will be interesting to watch, I wish them luck.

                                                        2. re: sugartoof

                                                          "The truth is, what constitutes a real bagel is as polarizing a topic as pizza ..."

                                                          Maybe in New York, but in the Bay Area, there's a solid consensus that there have been no real bagels available in the Bay Area for a long time, if ever there were.

                                                          People who think Noah's sells bagels don't have a horse in this race.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            The point is, it's no different than opening up shop in the Bay Area and claiming you're going to make "real New York pizza".... it's a meaningless claim. Then people here pretend they're arguing an actual premise as if there's a single consensus on what makes a "NY pizza". Now imagine someone duplicates some NY establishment's pizza and sells it at an inflated price for $45, three times what the original New York establishment sells it for. All while claiming to be authentic, and taking jabs at gourmet versions of the same product. THAT is what Schmendrick's is doing with bagels.

                                                            Everyone agrees a good bagel shop would be a nice addition to SF....House of Bagels could use some company, but how is it Wise Sons could bake their own Rye, make their own Babka, cure their own meat, and duplicate a NY sandwich at the exact price? They too started as a pop up.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                              huh? Even after getting a brick and mortar store, Wise Sons' items cost a lot more than something in NY (Katz's vs. Wise Sons = $20 vs. $12 babka and less meat per sandwich).

                                                              The $3+ per item seems to be pretty standard among pop-ups whether you're dealing with bagels, doughnuts, cupcakes, etc.

                                                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                "Wise Sons' items cost a lot more than something in NY"

                                                                False. Katz's is $15.75 without the side salad.

                                                              2. re: dunstable

                                                                Nobody held up Noah's as a good bagel, or a NY bagel.

                                                        3. re: sugartoof

                                                          More NYers should book that flight..but OW. Okay, seriously, if there's a cultural connection or growing up with deal, sure pay $3 bucks each. I won't but if people will and they can charge that price, everyone involves wins. If the prices dropped to $1 each, I'd try it but I wouldn't go out of my way.

                                            2. re: sugartoof

                                              There seems to be a cost penalty for getting large quantities, which makes sense given their low yield and desire to get their bagels into as many hands as possible. Once you take cream cheese into account, they're really not outrageously priced, perhaps commensurate with places already mentioned.

                                              At House of Bagels on Geary, a bagel with plain cream cheese is $2.65. Herb-cream cheese? $3.40. Plus tax I would assume. It's a little cheaper at Noah's, but both places make you pay a lot more for cream cheese than for the bagel.

                                              It's the opposite at Schmendricks. There, a bagel with flavored or regular cream cheese costs $4.00, $3.50 (IIRC) if you got some coffee at Faye's.

                                              Edit: the cheapest coffee at Faye's is $1. At House of Bagels, it's $1.50. That means a bagel with flavored cream cheese and coffee is $4.90+tax = $5.32 at House of Bagels. And $3.50 + $1+tax ($4.59) at Schmendricks. So, given typical bagel use at breakfast on a Sunday, Schmendricks is actually a *better* deal by $0.82. Talk amongst yourselves.

                                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                                They're still selling a bagel for $3.

                                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                                  I don't think anyone willing to pay $3 in hopes of getting something that tastes like a proper bagel cares what House of Bagels charges for their round rolls with holes in them.

                                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                                    Using that pricing is a bit disingenuous.

                                                    1. re: ML8000

                                                      I think "regular use" is fair game when it comes to complaining about prices. Fast food places aren't making big money off of their dollar menu items--- they're making money off the overpriced soda that accompanies their meal. Maybe it's not the best business decision, but Schmendrick's seems to be focussing their pricing on their main product, and having less markup for cream cheese relative to other places.

                                                      It's disingenous to the extent that it's a scenario I manufactured out of no where. That's the exact order that my companion used on their second day of sale. Which brings up the larger issue of value--- price needs to be measured against satisfaction. It seems like the only people complaining about the price are people who haven't bothered to even eat their bagels.

                                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                                        This discussion reminds me of the one about the Mission Bowling Club burger.

                                                        1. re: hyperbowler

                                                          "Regular use" is a red herring or misleading as well as the satisfaction concept.

                                                          Certainly buy something if you like it and obviously you're free to do so. However to argue regular use (combo pricing) as a fair measure is way off because it's still at the base a piece of bread. This logic could go way out into never-never land if you look at prix fixe menus, apps, etc. If you like it buy it but don't try to tell others it's worth it at 3x the usual cost.

                                                          Any way, if they can ramp up production and bring prices down to standard prices, I'll try it. At $3 bucks each I'm not inclined because I don't have a cultural or personal connection to bagels.

                                                          1. re: ML8000

                                                            Just to clarify, I do think $3 is expensive for a bagel and agree that $36 for a dozen is crazy. However, I think that $4 is close enough to the going rate for a bagel and cream cheese that it didn't bug me too much to spend it at Schmendrick's. Plus, and I have to admit, with the months of trash talk they did of other bagels, I was beginning to doubt that they could put out a good product. In the end, they made an excellent bagel & cream cheese sandwich that I'd gladly get again.

                                                            Whether the majority of non-NYers would appreciate the difference between the best (previous) SF bagel and theirs, I don't know. One of my dining companions didn't think they were anything special, and said they'd prefer a fully toasted bagel to a fresh one. My NY mentality shuttered as much as I did when a friend ordered a Corned Beef on white with mayo at Carnegie Deli (actually, so did the people next to us). Different strokes...

                                                            And, like you said, my cultural and personal connection makes me more willing to regularly spend more for an artisan product. But unless it is killer good, I'd be less inclined to spend $10 on a gourmet banh mi, $3 on a doughnut, $22 on an "Italian" pizza, when cheaper alternatives are available at 95% the quality.

                                                            1. re: hyperbowler

                                                              Why shudder? Carnegie makes multiple sandwiches with cole slaw and Russian dressing. Why should unadulterated mayo bother you? Oh, it was the white bread.

                                                          2. re: hyperbowler

                                                            Schmendrick's isn't in the coffee business.

                                                            Was the package deal you mentioned even offered at The Window/Coffee Bar?
                                                            If you still buy a bagel, isn't that still a $3 bagel?

                                              2. They have to be kidding asking $36 a dozen for bagels. They are a novelty now but I predict that they will either have to lower their prices or they will be out of business.