Richmond District fans of Frena’s kosher sweets and savory baked goods won’t have to schlep to SoMa much longer. More than two years after opening a small cafe and sizable production facility at 132 6th Street, the city’s only kosher bakery (which was originally called Taboon, but quickly changed its name to Frena) is expanding to 5549 Geary Boulevard (at 20th Avenue), where it will open as soon as the end of the month.
“We have a lot of clients that are living in this part of town, it’s a big Jewish area,” says Frena partner Isaac Yosef, who counts four synagogues in the neighborhood.
With just a handful of kosher bakeries in the Bay Area (Izzy’s in Palo Alto and Grand Bakery in Oakland are others), there’s clearly a niche market for Frena’s fare. But Yosef emphasizes that Frena’s products — goods like challah, zaatar bagels, and burekas based on recipes from his business partner’s grandfather — aren’t just for Jews who keep kosher.
“We are kosher because it’s a bonus, because we want to make sure everyone can come and eat,” Yosef says. “Many kosher businesses fail because they only go out to the kosher community, and there’s not really enough clientele for that.”
Frena, which also runs a catering business, will bake most of its products on 6th Street. But the new Richmond location boasts a brick oven, which will bake some products and toast pita pockets, which customers can order “Frena style” — stuffed with boiled egg, pickles, spicy sauce, and onion before they’re baked a second time.
Beyond staples like challah and rugelach — “you have to have a good rugelach,” says Yosef — he’s most proud of Frena’s pitas. “It’s not like any other dough or bread, it depends on the quality on the baker... Pita must be played by ear — too hot, play with the yeast, proofing time changes. You have to feel the oven, feel the heat.”
Yosef praises Frena’s head baker, Yanni, who doesn’t give his last name. “He’s like Cher,” Yosef says. But all of Frena’s staff has learned the art by now. About 70 percent of the team was formerly incarcerated. “We’re lucky to have them,” Yosef says. “A big part of Jewish culture is having a second chance.”
Frena’s Richmond District outpost has hired staff and will open shortly: Stay tuned.