Reviving the Bagel

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Hannah Levenson, Editor-In-Chief

Move over, Barton’s: Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen opened the Larkspur Bagelry inside the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur Landing last July and is raking up some serious competition.

Established in 5771 (that’s 2012 for non-Jewish folk), Wise Sons specializes in serving updated versions of traditional foods that can be found in any Jewish grandmother’s home. Only here are shelves are lined with Kedem Concord grape juice, challah loaves, and almond butter for sale and smashed avocado shmear and kale Caesar salad make an appearance on the menu alongside chopped liver and matzo ball soup.

It’s the ultimate mashup of the two Coasts.

Any New Yorker would tell you that it’s hard to get a bagel right on the West Coast; they tend to lack the chewy texture and hard crust of a true East Coast bagel. Wise Sons is about as close to a “real” bagel as you can get around here.

That said, people may be more accustomed to the west coast style and prefer the dinner roll-esque bagels over the bagels at the Larkspur Bagelry.

When it comes to toppings and shmears, however, the Bagelry is not afraid to venture past the norm. The West Coast Veggie bagel sandwich (closed $8/ open $10) comes on a toasted bagel with house-made hummus, pickled onions, oyster mushrooms, and “hippie greens,” their word for arugula.

The perfect option for the vegetarians and vegans out there, it’s a long way ahead of tempeh scramble and cashew cheese pizza normally associated with vegan food. The sandwich is also great for meat eaters who want a break from the typical bagel with lox.

That’s not to say that the Classic Smoked Salmon bagel (closed $10/ open $13) isn’t delicious as well. The ratio of cream cheese to fish to onion to capers is just right. It’s the epitome of a bagel sandwich. This is the bagel for anyone who is hesitant to try some of the more contemporary options offered. Eat at your own risk, because you might have to order another sandwich soon after.

The Pastrami Salmon Sandwich (closed $10.50/ open 13), which comes with pastrami-spiced smoked salmon, scallion shmear, onion, cucumbers, and tomato as well as the Spicy Egg sandwich ($7) with egg, arugula, and harissa also looked very tempting and I deeply regret having not ordered them. Well, there’s always next time.

The bagels are on the pricier side (each $2/ half dozen $11/ baker’s dozen $20) and the small size is a clear indicator of Wise Sons’ Californian roots. However, this is made up for with finely developed flavors and the use of quality ingredients. Five different types as well as onion bialys are available, and while this is not the largest selection, it’s enough to cover the bases. No chichi flavors.

For those with a bit of a sweet tooth, the shop offers several enticing desserts as well. The babka (slice $4/ loaf $13), available in chocolate as well as cinnamon varieties, is bound to settle any sugar cravings you might have.

Of course, I ordered the chocolate babka because it is always the best flavor. Slightly reminiscent of a dessert brioche, ribbons of chocolate is expertly intertwined with the sweet dough to make the perfect afternoon snack. Though slightly stale, it was still delicious.

The rugelach ($1.25) is the best bet for someone who wants something sweet but doesn’t want to commit to eating a whole slice of the rich babka. Chocolate, apricot, and walnut rugelach are available, and though I typically like chocolate the best, the walnut one was the freshest. The dough was flaky on the outside and a little bit of sugar on top with a nice helping of cinnamon dusted nuts throughout. Need I say more? The rugelach is a little pillow of heaven.

The entire operation is overseen by a helpful and courteous staff. However, it is fairly evident that the store opened recently. Utensils and water are not readily accessible, and service did not flow smoothly. However, once the deli overcomes the initial hiccups, it will improve and it did not take away from the overall experience.

Wise Sons proves that Jewish fare consists of more than just gelatinous gefilte fish or pickled herring. It has the ability to appeal to a broad group of people. Don’t come to the deli expecting a bagel identical to any that you would find in New York. Rather, enjoy the food for what it is and enjoy the coming together of cuisines.

In a shopping center that features the cult-like SoulCycle, overpriced restaurant after overpriced restaurant, and solely high-end clothing stores, it’s inevitable that the newest addition to the Marin Country Mart food scene would appeal to the same pretentious crowd. But, even my Jewish dad from the East Coast had to admit that the food was delicious, which is quite the accomplishment. Wise Sons, good job. So, do yourself a favor and head on over to Wise Sons.

It’s the wise choice.

 

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