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Hand-Rolled, Cold-Proofed, New York-Style Poppy Bagels Are Blooming in Oakland

Self-taught bagel maker Reesa Kashuk gives her former pop-up a sunny new home on Telegraph Avenue

Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

Here’s a big, bready opening for the Bay Area’s bagel fans to sink their teeth into: Poppy Bagels, the hit pop-up baker Reesa Kashuk started out of her home during the early days of the pandemic, officially opened its doors in a sunny space on Telegraph Avenue this week. The shop took over the former home of Dona Tomas just a few doors up from Rose’s Taproom, and as of Thursday, February 9, Kashuk and her team are rolling bagels and stacking up open-face sandwiches for the neighborhood.

It’s a simple menu of loose bagels ($3) and open-face bagel sandwiches, plus drip coffee and tea. Kashuk says she hopes to add a few more offerings down the line — perhaps a soup of the day, perhaps more sandwiches — but the focus will always stay on the bagels. With the new space, she and her baking team can produce nearly 300 per batch (though they’re not maxing out that capacity right now) and they’ve adapted her recipe to account for the super-sized equipment they’re using now.

Kashuk says she’s been practicing the dough in the new bakery for several weeks, and every single Poppy Bagel still gets hand-rolled before being cold-proofed in the walk-in for 36-40 hours. The cold-proofing allows the bagels to rise more slowly, she explains, which helps them develop a deeper flavor. Next, they’re briefly boiled in malt and lye, covered in toppings, and then moved into the massive revolving tray oven to bake. The hulking silver oven is ideal for baking bagels, Kashuk says, since the heated stones and rotating trays ensure the bagels get an even bake and develop that signature bagel shine.

The sandwich menu is tight and straightforward — “I’m pretty simple when it comes to all things,” Kashuk says — so you’ll have five options plus what they’re calling the Freshie, which just means whatever bagels most recently came out of the oven served with butter and salt. “The idea is we’re not baking everything at the top of the day,” Kashuk explains. “It’s a really different thing having a bagel 15 or 30 minutes out of the oven.” Those who’ve followed Poppy Bagels to the Grand Lake Farmers Market should recognize the sandwich options including the Basic, which layers scallion cream cheese, red onion, tomatoes, and chives, and the Honey Truffle, which stars black truffle chive cream cheese and local honey.

The plan is to add an egg and cheese bagel sandwich later, as well as some more lunch-y sandwiches like tuna fish and egg salad. For beverages, Kashuk’s sourcing beans from a friend’s Brooklyn-based company Superlost, making them the first shop in California to feature the company’s coffee. Teas are coming from local Flowerhead Tea, and they’ll also be squeezing fresh orange juice every morning.

Kashuk made some massive changes to the space with the help of an architect including transforming what used to be the Dona Tomas dining room into a kitchen big enough to house Poppy Bagels’ big oven. There are nostalgic touches throughout the shop, including white penny tiles along the front counter, but Kashuk says she didn’t want it to feel like just another New York-inspired bagel shop. To prevent that, there are distinctly modern and California touches too, such as golden-hued poppies folded into the tile work, funky light fixtures, and an eclectic collection of colorful flower-centric art.

Kashuk, who lives within walking distance from the new shop, says she hopes to fuel the early risers with bagels and coffee, so the shop will open at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday and Friday and at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Those looking to catch a bagel for lunch should slide in before the shop closes at 2 p.m. Kashuk says she’d like to expand to 5 days a week eventually but will ease into things and see what the neighborhood wants. But the fact that she raised funds to support the shop’s opening via microloans from fans and others in the community through SMBX should be an indicator that Oakland and East Bay residents are ready to welcome Poppy’s permanent location into the scene. Kashuk says she’s still a bit amazed to see how everything has come together since she first started baking bagels at home. “I thought, ‘It would be super cute to have a storefront,’” she recalls, standing in the middle of the bright, modern shop with a smile.

Poppy Bagels (5004 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland) is open for limited hours through Saturday, February 4. Check the Poppy Bagel website and Instagram for updates.

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