What started with one man’s regular complaints about the difficulty of finding a good bagel in San Francisco has turned into a series of Sunday pop-ups around the Mission featuring small, crispy, untoasted bagels made by a new venture called Schmendricks.
Schmendricks, Yiddish for fool or nincompoop, is the creation of two Mission couples. So far it seems anything but foolish. At their first two pop-ups in front of Faye’s Video on 18th Street, they sold out of bagels quicker than it takes to wait in the Sunday morning line at Tartine Bakery.
Co-founder David Kover grew up eating bagels in Brooklyn and felt a hole in the Bay Area market. He longed for the bagels of his childhood. “I remember getting a bag from the bagel shop and ripping into it,” he says.
He complained so much that his college friend Dan Scholnick suggested they figure out how to make their own bagels.
The two friends and their wives began testing recipes. They started with one from a blog, did a lot of reading on the Internet, and for more pointers, Kover contacted his friend from middle school who worked at his favorite bagel shop. They continued tweaking the recipes, making “some really bad bagels on the way,” Kover says.
They unveiled their bagels at brunches with friends. They learned to give the yeast time to work, to get the boiling time right, and to make sure the boiling bath had the right mix of malt and alkali. The dough needs to be firm, with a dense consistency.
Once they began to like their bagels, they joked that they could make a business out of it, toying with the name Schmendricks. But last fall, Scholnick’s wife, Deepa Subramanian, stopped joking around. She decided the bagel business could work and quit her job as a corporate lawyer to plunge full-time into making bagels.
The group rented part of a commercial kitchen on the border of the Mission and Potrero Hill districts. Subramanian, who grew up in India and had her first bagel when she went to a U.S. college, now spends her days in the kitchen, rolling and boiling bagels.
They’re smaller than typical Bay Area bagels. This is important to Kover, who says the bagels he idolizes are not large and puffy, but small, dense and flavorful.
“It should have that crisp exterior, that density on the inside that gives it some chew,” Kover says. “Other bagels, they’re basically white bread in a circle; it’s not that bagel consistency. It should have that malty, salty taste to it.”
With the bagels already popular, there’s been no easing into the venture. Kover regrets not being able to hand people a bag of a dozen bagels yet, but the business is just getting started. In addition to hosting the handful of pop-ups, the partners led a workshop at 18 Reasons last week. They are also experimenting with a subscriber model, where people will be able to order dozens of bagels for work events or other occasions.
The other three owners have not quit their day jobs. Kover sometimes rushes from his job as a psychologist with the San Francisco Unified School District to the kitchen to start rolling dough. Kover’s wife, Dagny Dingman, is an English teacher in Berkeley when she’s not making bagels. Scholnick’s day job is as a venture capitalist at Trinity Partners.
In a few years he envisions “the tiny little bagel shop with the steamed-up windows.” They plan to stay in the Mission, where they live and have already been welcomed by businesses.
“We don’t want to be cafe owners,” Kover says. “We don’t want a place where people are going to sit down and have a coffee and bagel. We envision a window where we can hand out a dozen bagels. It’s not a place you want to stay and hang out; you just want to get your bagels and rip into them.”
Schmendricks bagels will be out again today at 10:30 a.m. at 780 Cafe, the former Summit on Valencia.