It’s a cool early Monday in the Mission. Walking on 24th Street, the smell of freshly baked bread draws me to La Victoria Bakery, a Mexican panadería where a line has formed for, not Mexican chocolate and sweet breads, but bagels.
“Because they’re free,” says a customer, as he puts 10 bagels in a paper bag adding he prefers to keep his name out of any article.
No matter. The creator of Bagel Monday, or Free Bagel Monday, doesn’t mind those who stock up. “There isn’t really a limit,” says Danny Gabriner, who has been giving away Monday bagels at La Victoria for the last year. “Maybe we would think about it if one person requests over 100.”
Why the largesse? The Mission, it turns out, is bagel-starved.
“Most people have never had a fresh bagel,” says Gabriner, who eats a fresh one every day. “I would like everyone to have one.”
Everyone, as it turns out, translates into the dozens of people who pick up the 100 to 300 bagels Gabriner distributes at La Victoria at 2937 24th St. Like any traditional bagel, he says, these are handmade and boiled - made two hours before customers begin to arrive at 8 a.m. to pick up their share.
“Some people take 20,” says La Victoria owner Jaime Maldonado.
By 3 p.m., Maldonado says, all but a last hard bagel are gone. Monday is the only day of the week Sour Flour makes bagels. If you need a delivery, there’s a per-mile charge.
Gabriner says the reason for Free Bagel Monday is “to connect with people.” The people who make the food and the people who eat it should have a relationship. “Giving away free bagels helps me make those connections.”
Roger Feely, baker for Soul Cocina and La Victoria, says simply, “Danny likes to share and bake. That is why he does it.”
At the same time, Gabriner promotes Sour Flour, a baking business he started after quitting his “bullshit” work at CNET, an online review site.
“I wanted to keep bread free,” he says. And he tried. From May 2009 until November 2009, he gave away bread, but the cost ended that experiment.
Sour Flour now sells bread to various local businesses.
Unlike bread, “bagels are cheaper to make,” Gabriner says. His costs are about 25 cents a bagel.
Maldonado says his favorite part of Bagel Monday is when Gabriner brings out the smoked salmon — too expensive to give away.
The giveaways allow Maldonado to connect with bagel-lovers, beyond La Victoria’s typical customer base of Latinos.
“People will learn to make bagels, and feel good about making them,’” he says.