Hardly Strictly Bagels | Brain teaser: Does the Bay Area have an Einsteins

If you’ve done any traveling around the United States, chances are you’ve seen or maybe even visited an Einstein Bros. Bagels shop. But have you ever seen an Einstein’s here in the Bay Area?

No way, right? Because we’ve got Noah’s instead.

Those up on their bagel business history know that Noah’s New York Bagels was purchased in 1996 by Einstein Bros. The resulting corporate entity was renamed the Einstein Noah Restaurant Group.

But while other bagel shops swooped up by the group in the ’90s, including in Baltimore and San Diego, were rebranded as Einstein Bros., the power and popularity of Noah’s in the Bay Area made it an easy call for corporate bigwigs: Let the name stand in the Bay Area.

More than a decade and a half later, there are now 647 Einstein Bros. stores nationwide. As recently as a year ago, the Bay Area had exactly zero. But that changed 10 months ago when a small Einstein Bros. cropped up in the Hayward hills, on the campus of Cal State East Bay.

It’s one of 240 Einstein’s licensee locations nationwide (at airports and hospitals and on college campuses) and is operated by the campus’ food services provider, Aramark.

“It does a good business and the students really like it, but from an operations standpoint it’s a bit of a challenge,” said Wayne Narine, general manager of Aramark at Cal State East Bay. “They have to ship stuff up from Los Angeles, and occasionally they might run out of something, and there’s no nearby Einstein’s to run to and get it.”

The location offers a streamlined menu and is open only on weekdays. It closes up often, including for winter break and summer vacation.

Bagels and shmears sell well, as do egg-on-bagel sandwiches for students and faculty on the go. The nine varieties of bagels come “already made,” Narine said. “We just kind of heat [bake] them in the oven and finish them off.”

On the campus of Cal State East Bay

Even though an Einstein’s bagel gets a brief bath in boiling water during production, the end product is very similar to a Noah’s bagel (which is not boiled). Both are steamed when they are baked, making them “fluffy” and “more suitable for sandwiches,” in the words of a corporate PR person.

Katy Kortsch, an Alameda resident who ran a Noah’s in Oakland in the mid-’90s and now works for the Einstein Noah group as a franchise consultant, noted that the major difference between the two bagels is that “an Einstein’s bagel has cornmeal on the bottom.”

Noah’s, for the record, has 64 locations nationwide, with 58 of those in California, 33 of them in the Bay Area.

Einstein Bros. has 35 locations in California, including a licensee shop at the Presidio of Monterey — the closest one besides Hayward. The next closest one to the Bay Area is at the University of Nevada in Reno.

Manhattan Bagel (which boils its bagels and doesn’t steam them) is also part of the Einstein Noah empire; there’s one on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Despite the boiling, however, the end product is still very similar to a Noah’s bagel.

By the way, the Einstein Noah Restaurant Group is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. You might not like the group’s bagels, but you’ve got to love its stock symbol: BAGL.

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Cal State East Bay, 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward (near Science Building North)

7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays; closed weekends

(510) 885-4733



EAST VS. WEST: Adam Mesnick, owner of Deli Board in San Francisco, got back to his Cleveland roots late last year when he had a role in that city’s seventh annual Fabulous Food Show, reportedly the largest culinary event in the country.

It brought together some 500 food and art exhibitors, and Mesnick was on the panel “Jewish Deli: East Meets West” with Gary Lebowitz, the owner of Jack’s Deli in suburban Cleveland. “I grew up on Jack’s!” Mesnick beamed.

The discussion veered toward pastrami vs. corned beef. “Where I grew up, corned beef is king, but pastrami is more popular out here” in the West, Mesnick told me. “I sell double the amount of pastrami over corned beef on any given day.”



FOOD TRUCK FRIDAY: The first Friday of every month, Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco hosts Food Truck Shabbat from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Rabbi Ryan Bauer and music soloist Marsha Attie lead a “Shabbat-style” service, after which the attendees — usually 150 to 250, many in their 30s and 40s — gather for shmoozing and a nosh/dinner from a food truck.

The vendors usually are the Old World Food Truck or San Buena taco truck, and an Emanu-El oneg host foots the bill (although sometimes you can buy extra grub if you want to).

“People stick around for an extra hour and a half; they just want to socialize,” Bauer said. “It’s a great way to connect to each other.”

The event is open to the whole community. On Feb. 1, the food truck will be La Falafel. For more information, visit www.emanuelsf.org/yac.




The Old World Food Truck can now be found every other Sunday in Larkspur, along with seven or so other trucks, at Off the Grid at the Marin Country Mart, which runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Next appearance will be Jan. 20. Owner Kenny Hockert has added brunch items (until 1 p.m.) such as in-house cured and smoked lox on a House of Bagels bagel, corned-beef hash and challah French toast … King Knish, a new San Francisco-based operation launched by caterer Ramni Levy, is going to begin selling its knishes Thursday, Jan. 17 at 4th and King Streets in San Francisco (near the Caltrain station). The plan is for “King Knish On-the-Go” to run from 8 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. The buzz should start soon, because the knishes are really good. For more information, follow @King_Knish on Twitter or visit http://www.kingknish.com … Chowhound.com has cited Oakland’s Baron Baking in its list of Top 10 new restaurants, pop-ups and food trucks in the Bay Area in 2012. Baron’s makes New York–style bagels that are available at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley and a few other locations listed at www.baronbaking.com … Speaking of which, the New York Times’ Dec. 24 dining and wine section included an article (www.nyti.ms/WEWJl0) headlined “In the Bay Area, Bagels as Good as Brooklyn’s.” It’s mainly about Baron Baking and its founder, Dan Graf … Another popular New York–style bagel purveyor, Schmendricks in San Francisco, is still on hiatus, with no word on the operation’s future … As of early this week, “Beyond Bubbie: Stories from the Recipe Box” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum still had a few dozen tickets available. The Jan. 24 event celebrating the launch of the interactive, online “cookbook” BeyondBubbie.com includes NPR’s the Kitchen Sisters, the owners of Wise Sons Deli in a knish cook-off, plus a lot more. Details at www.thecjm.org … The Grand Lake Kitchen in Oakland now has Beauty’s bagels (plain, sesame and everything) on weekends. Thus, the café’s open-face smoked salmon cream cheese sandwich goes from rye on weekdays to a bagel on the weekends … Beauty’s Bagel Shop, meanwhile, is soon going to debut a pumpernickel variety, plus the egg-and-tomato-sauce dish shakshuka, an Israeli favorite … The Authentic Bagel Company in Oakland reports that its new house-cured corned beef (in a sourdough-rye bagel sandwich and by the pound) has been a hit. The shop also has started selling bagel chips as well as a snack mix of honey roasted peanuts, Chex cereal, bagel chips and buttermilk ranch pretzels … Shorty Goldstein’s, the new deli ticketed for downtown San Francisco, probably won’t be open until February at the earliest. The owner still won’t disclose the address … A documentary filmmaker who has already made films about a cantor and a klezmer group is getting ready to release his latest, “Deli Man.” If you have an affinity for pastrami, matzah ball soup and simply the feel and smell of a traditional Jewish deli, check out the 12-minute trailer at www.vimeo.com/53381762 … Joanna Karlinsky, who operated Sweet Jo’s café at the JCC of San Francisco for nearly two years, has launched Sweet Jo’s Chili & Biscuits. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaKarlinsky or visit www.joannakarlinsky.com for information on her pop-ups and products. Her JCC café closed in January 2011. — andy altman-ohr

Hardly Strictly Bagels runs the second Friday of each month. For more frequent Jewish food news, Send hot tips and out-of-the-way finds to [email protected].

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.