Lox and Loaded

Wise Sons wants to fix San Francisco's bagel problem

San Francisco has a bagel problem. This isn't exactly a new revelation. New York ex-pats have long bemoaned the state of the bagel in the Bay, and a one-day pop-up in 2014 that hawked bagels "imported" from New York's iconic lox-and-bagel emporium Russ & Daughters drew waits upward of two hours—in the rain.

Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, the owners of San Francisco's popular nouveau deli Wise Sons, want to fix that problem with their new Wise Sons Bagel project. Starting yesterday, the bakery's highly anticipated bagels—which come in poppy, sesame, salt and everything flavors for now—are available by delivery, and Bloom says their eight-seat bagel shop should be open by the end of the month.

Less than an hour after delivery started, the San Francisco Chronicle posted reactions from its newsroom. The first remark? It's "not as toothy (chewy) as a New York bagel." But for Bloom, a perfect facsimile of a New York bagel isn't what he's after: "I've learned to never use 'New York' or 'Montreal' to describe anything. People have a tendency to say, 'Oh, this isn't a New York bagel,' or 'New York is the gold standard,' but I don't think it's that simple."

Instead, Bloom and Beckerman want to create their own signature bagels. "We're just trying to make something with the proper amount of chew, something that toasts well. Most people would call us out [saying], 'You don't have to toast them,' but I'm all about texture and crunch," Bloom explains.

Bloom isn't stuck on tradition when it comes to fillings either—"We have the privilege of being next door to a Korean grocery," he says. And the flavors of that shop have crept into his sandwiches, like one spread with kimchi cream cheese. There's also a West Coast veggie bagel stacked with roasted squash, hummus, pickled onions and mixed greens.

However, the duo aren't completely forsaking all tradition. "In New York, you've got institutional deli: If you want lox, egg, onions, you go get that. If you want a more modern take on a deli, you go to Mile End. In San Francisco, we never had either," Bloom says. "So in a way, we're the lox and bagel and the more exciting thing. We're trying to find a balance."

Bloom knows that bagel lovers are a tough crowd. For many, it's nostalgic, something from "the old country"—even if that "old country" is New York's Lower East or Upper West Side—and nothing will ever measure up to those memories. But when Beckerman and Bloom opened their deli, they faced a similar challenge: Pastrami sandwiches are deeply personal, and "bagels are probably more divisive," Bloom says. So "we're readying the staff."

Find Wise Sons here, or in our DINE app.

Find Mile End here, or in our DINE app.