Bagel-Starved Bay Area Imports 'Em From New York — a Day Old

Pop-Ups Thrive in California's Culinary Black Hole

Bagel-Starved: With few good options, people wait for up to two hours in San Francisco for bagels flown in from New York.
eastside bagels
Bagel-Starved: With few good options, people wait for up to two hours in San Francisco for bagels flown in from New York.

By Meesha Halm

Published March 14, 2014, issue of March 21, 2014.
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Big Apple transplants have long lamented that you can’t get a good bagel in the Bay Area. But no one expected the line of several hundred carb-craving hipsters who recently waited nearly two hours in the rain, hoping to sink their teeth into day-old bagels from Manhattan.

The breadline formed on February 8 outside a pop-up bagel cafe held at the Dear Mom bar in the Mission District. Now, San Francisco’s second bagel pop-up is set to take place March 15, when Eastside Bagels, a joint enterprise of marketing consultant Sonya Haines and chef Wes Rowe, makes its return appearance.

eastside bagels

If it seems like a big marketing ploy, in a way it is. Haines isn’t a New Yorker, but she spent a few years living in New York, and, like many others, missed its bagels when she returned to San Francisco. Seeing an untapped business opportunity, she bought the domain name nycbagels.com and hatched the idea of launching a monthly mail-order service that San Franciscans can subscribe to in order to have a box of New York-baked bagels delivered to their homes via overnight transcontinental flights.

Haines banked on the assumption that San Franciscans would deem any New York bagel (even a day-old one) better than anything they could get locally. Rowe, whose culinary expertise she enlisted, sells his namesake burgers weekly out of a local bicycle cafe. Haines saw this as a way to create buzz about her bagel import service.

Word spread quickly through social media when the duo decided to test-drive their idea for a New York deli-inspired pop-up brunch. It didn’t hurt that Haines and Rowe disclosed that they had contracted with Russ & Daughters, a renowned and venerable Lower East Side smoked fish emporium, to supply the bagels.

“Our original plan was to order 80 bagels,” Rowe told the Forward, “but as we watched the reaction on our Facebook page, we increased it to 120.”

Rowe crafted a menu that showcased the overnighted bagels, lightly toasted to compensate for their lack of oven freshness, and slathered with a choice of cream cheeses (plain, charred scallions-garlic, jalapeno, olives), for $6, or made into open-faced sandwiches topped with lox, pastrami or a poached egg, which sold for $10. There was even an oh-so-very-Californian vegetarian option featuring crispy kale, avocado and caramelized onion slaw. Not surprisingly, the everything bagels topped with plain cream cheese were the first items to sell out.


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