Find challah, bagels and more Jewish holiday fare at these local spots.
Whether it’s post-Yom Kippur bagels or round challahs for Rosh Hashanah, the Peninsula Jewish community doesn’t have to go far to enjoy its break fast fix from a traditional New York-style bagel shop during the Jewish High Holidays. The Midpeninsula is home to a selection of shops with East Coast roots dedicated to serving up the quintessential boiled-and-baked New York-style bagel and other Jewish holiday fare.
For nearly three decades, Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels has served up kosher bagels from inside a corner shop on Palo Alto’s California Avenue decked out with photographs of New York City street scenes and Hebrew signs from Brooklyn. Just about 1 1/2 miles up El Camino Real at Town & Country Village Shopping Center is Boichik Bagels, the Berkeley-based newcomer that opened its Peninsula outpost in 2022 and attracted national attention – and lines of customers – after the New York Times named its New York-style bagels among the best in the country. And at Palo Alto’s Edgewood Plaza is House of Bagels, which has been serving New York-style bagels in the Bay Area since 1962. The shop claims to be the first in the region to serve original New York bagels.
All three businesses were founded by East Coast Jewish transplants and pride themselves on serving authentic New York bagels made from family recipes passed down for generations.
While each business makes batches of bagels fresh daily, nothing compares to the volume of orders they will make during the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement. The holidays start with Rosh Hashanah on Friday, Sept. 15, and end at sunset on Sept. 25 to mark the end of Yom Kippur, which many Jewish Americans typically celebrate with bagels, lox and cream cheese to break their daylong fast.
It’s the busiest time of the year for these businesses.
Maria Arzate, general manager of Izzy’s, said the shop begins preparing for the holiday as early as August, ordering special ingredients for its Rosh Hashanah menu and bringing on an extra staff member just to take phone orders, which typically start coming in about 15 days before the holiday. In addition to its bagels, Izzy’s churns out a variety of holiday menu items, including honey cakes, apple cakes and challah – a braided bread usually served in religious contexts and rounded during Rosh Hashanah to symbolize the cyclical nature of a year. These challahs come in plain, sesame, raisin, poppyseed, chocolate chip, whole wheat and whole wheat sesame varieties.
“We work day and night,” Arzate said.
At Boichik Bagels, holiday orders come in from across the country, CEO and founder Emily Winston said. She said they typically sell 2 1/2 times more bagels than normal during the holiday week.
Winston, who now operates a factory in Berkeley that can churn out 50,000 bagels a day, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, spent years trying to create “that perfect New York bagel” that she craved so much after moving to the Bay Area. New York bagels are known for their firmness and size, which is often attributed to the region’s water.
“I try to make everything taste the way it does in my old country — the East Coast,” said Winston, who grew up in New Jersey during the 1980s and frequently spent time in New York’s classic bagel shops, including the iconic Zabar’s and H&H Bagels, known for serving bagels that were firm on the outside and doughy on the inside. “That’s what I grew up with — that’s what I want to try to recreate.”
Larry Chassy, president of House of Bagels, a Bay Area mainstay since opening six decades ago during a time when there were few (if any) New York bagel shops in the area, said that during Yom Kippur, “We sell a heck of a lot of bagels.”
Chassy’s father, Sid Chassy, a native New Yorker from a family of bakers, built up the business using traditional family recipes that have remained unchanged to this day, according to Chassy, who told the Jewish News of California in 2008 after his father died that those recipes are locked up tight in a family safe.
He said the company served the basics: plain, egg, sesame, onion, poppy seed, rye and pumpernickel.
“It was the only place in town,” Chassy said. “People came from all over.”
House of Bagels now has 18 Bay Area locations that are franchised and owned by local families. Its bagels also can be found on the Midpeninsula at Piazza’s Fine Foods, Robert’s Market, Bianchini’s Market and Mollie Stone’s Markets.
Just like Izzy’s and Boichik, House of Bagels produces fresh kosher bagels daily in its own factory, which involves rabbinical supervision of all stages of the food production process to ensure that foods and food combinations forbidden by Jewish law do not contaminate the ingredients, facilities or machinery used in making food.
Arzate said since Israel Rind founded Izzy’s in 1996, the business’ kosher standards have remained unchanged. The menu consists of dairy and parve items, shipped directly from specialty purveyors across North America and baked daily in-house with kosher certification of the VAAD of Northern California.
She said the business is about more than just serving bagels: It is about connecting with the community.
Izzy’s is a place where rabbis come to get orders and where Jewish families go for authentic goods that can be hard to find elsewhere in the Bay Area, she explained.
“Without the Jewish community, this business would not exist,” Arzate said. “We see this place not as a regular place of business — it’s totally part of the community. … like a Jewish community center.”
Winston shared similar sentiments about Boichik, which means “cute boy” in Yiddish. While she is happy her bagels appeal to people of all backgrounds, she is very much focused on bringing an authentic experience to the cultural group with which bagels originated.
“I’m very much immersed in the Jewish community,” Winston said. “I consider (Boichik) a Jewish business. It’s for people who have that (background) and want that food. Its core identity is Jewish — it just happens to work for everyone.”