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Taste Test: Stacking the Bagels

The bar wasn’t that high to start with, but the Bay Area is seeing a bagel awakening. In a blind taste test of seven plain, untoasted bagels—two of them new arrivals—14 San Francisco staffers (some ex–New Yorkers, others raised on Noah’s) voted. Following are the results in descending order.  

The winner: Schmendricks ($3)
since: February 2012   
method: Boiled and baked  
This delicious, hand-rolled, deeply golden “Brooklyn-style” bagel from a startup company based in San Francisco stood way out from the crowd with its good chew and crackly crust—though the price makes you stammer. Schmendricks defended itself: “Just about everything is organic. And they take a lot of effort. We want to elevate the status of bagels.” to find pop-up locations, Go to

2nd place: House of Bagels ($1)
since: 1962   
method: Boiled and baked
Made by an Outer Richmond bagelry celebrating 50 years, this bagel was slightly crisp and had the perfect heft.  5030 Geary Blvd., 415-752-6000

3rd place: The Bagelry ($1)
since: 1975
method: Boiled and baked
“A bit bready but nicely chewy” was the verdict from one taster, though another proclaimed this Russian Hill bagel to be “just like Noah’s.” Ouch! 2139 Polk St., 415-441-3003

4th place: Noe Bagel ($0.95)
since: 1996
method: Steamed and baked
“Smooth, shiny, and dense” summed up this
Noe Valley mainstay, though one taster called it “boring.” 3933 24th St., 415-643-9634

5th place: Katz Bagel ($1)
since: They aren’t sure
method: Boiled and baked
“Looks albino,” commented one about the exterior of the doughy bagel from Katz’s Mission district location. 3147 16th St., 415-552-9050

6th place: Holey Bagel ($1)
since :1982
method: Boiled and baked
Though a couple of tasters ranked it toward the top of their list, most found this bagel made in Noe Valley subpar. “Dry, floury, and aggressively bland,” one said. 3872 24th St., 415-647-3334

7th place: Beauty’s Bagel Shop ($1.25)
since: June 2011
method: Boiled and baked
This Oakland-produced bagel is made in the Montreal style: It’s skinny, less chewy than the norm, and slightly charred from being cooked in a pizza oven (or in some cases wood-fired). Though it’s served at the trendy Wise Sons Deli, few cared for it, calling it dry and leaden. One particularly blackened sample was described as “a campfire in your mouth.”   various retail locations at