Opening day at Poppy Bagels in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood, Feb. 1, 2022. (Photo/Lillian Ilsley-Greene)
Opening day at Poppy Bagels in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood, Feb. 1, 2022. (Photo/Lillian Ilsley-Greene)

Bagel fans line up early for Poppy Bagels opening in Oakland’s Temescal

Before the doors even opened at 8 a.m. Thursday morning, a small crowd had amassed outside Poppy Bagels in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood.

It was opening day for Poppy, a business Reesa Kashuk started four years ago out of her apartment, making deliveries in the early mornings before her advertising job.

The opening brought out fans new and old — including Kashuk’s visiting mother. Bundled in puffer jackets and scarves, customers lined up down the block, chatting among themselves and sharing their connection to Poppy.

Justin O’Hara only heard about the new bagel shop this week after seeing a Poppy’s Instagram post, but was among the first 10 people in line. He lives in the neighborhood and came out for bagels at 8 a.m., planning to get a plain with some of Poppy’s house-made cream cheese.

Also in line was Chris Telles, Kashuk’s architect, who helped to plan and design the layout of the store. His order was a half-dozen bagels and one of Poppy’s open-faced sandwiches.

Kashuk’s mom, Nuna Alberts, flew from her home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, for the first day. She waited in line with the rest of the customers before coming inside and setting up shop at a corner table, accompanied by other family members, to watch her daughter in action. The family was always foodies, she said, but she never expected this.

“We never baked in our house!” Alberts said.

Kashuk’s first outside event was in 2019 at a Saturday pop-up in San Francisco, followed by a stand at the Grand Lake Farmers Market in Oakland. Lines were always long and demand high. When she announced her plans to open a brick-and-mortar location last year, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Good bagels, previously hard to find in the Bay Area, are now everywhere. Schlock’s and Midnite Bagels in San Francisco and Boichik Bagels, with locations in Berkeley and Palo Alto, have emerged as formidable players dishing up the Ashkenazi Jewish staple in recent years.

Kashuk has held the lease on 5004 Telegraph Ave. for a year. Permitting issues delayed construction, but the team finally began work on the space this fall, she said.

Temescal had long been the ideal location for Kashuk’s shop. The neighborhood had everything she was looking for in a permanent home for Poppy, she said. “It has that neighborhood feel, but also foot traffic and enough of its own kind of vibe.”

Inside Poppy, the atmosphere is light and bright. Posters pop on white walls, and the air smells of coffee (sourced from Brooklyn) and bagels (hand-rolled fresh every day). There are small café tables with stools, along with a bar that lets customers see right into the open, always busy kitchen. A back patio shared with Pizzaiolo, a pizzeria next door, offers outside seating.

Bagels are $3 each, $17 for a half-dozen, your pick of plain, sesame, salt and pepper, garlic, onion or the eponymous poppy seed bagel. Schmear is $2, or $8 for a takeaway tin. Coffee is $3.75, tea $3. For the soft open through Saturday (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), the menu is limited.

Looking forward, Kashuk hopes to have Poppy open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. If that goes well, she’ll add Wednesdays as well. The full menu will feature a new item, an egg and cheese bagel.

“I want to make sure the bagels are great, the service is great,” Kashuk said.

The day before the opening, she was unsure how things would go. The limited hours of opening day were intentional, designed to give her and her team time to learn the routine before taking on a full day.

“I think it’ll be busy.” she said. “I tried to make more bagels than I think we need.”

Kashuk and her team made 650 bagels for Thursday. By 9 a.m., some flavors had already run out. Shortly before noon, they sold out.

Lillian Ilsley-Greene
Lillian Ilsley-Greene

Lillian Ilsley-Greene was a staff writer at J. from 2022-2023.