The Tablehopper

Lower Pacific Heights heats up with Gardenias and Wise Sons Bagel

Wise Sons bring their expertise to bageling. photo: wise sons deli / instagram


Add this to your to-try list: Gardenias (1963 Sutter Street, 415-621-7122) is now open in Lower Pacific Heights. Margie Conard and Dana Tommasino of Woodward’s Garden (it was theirs for 22 years!) have transformed the former Roostertail into quite the beguiling space perfect for a few bites and a glass of wine in the early evening, or a full dinner date, and eventually lunch on their back garden patio.

The ladies are positively giddy over the additional space — it’s like moving from a Tokyo-sized studio into a full flat — but don’t fret, all the charm and coziness of Woodward’s is still there (even a few décor items made their way over, like the chandelier). They have also been having fun installing new items, like little French door signs they picked up long ago. It’s like decorating a new house.

There is ample bar seating at a counter facing the open kitchen (partially obscured by frosted glass, but you can still see who’s in the kitchen — say hello to sous chefs Nick Fields and Ana Cabrera), and there’s a counter in a sunny nook by the front windows. Wood tables have comfortable space around them, outfitted with vintage silverware, fresh flowers, and classic bistro napkins. The walls are a calming Prussian blue — all the better to offset the vintage framed images of ladies and eclectic but deliberately chosen artwork and soft lights in the glass globes.

The tranquil back garden patio is enclosed with wood slats, umbrellas, and blooming vines, with three tables that can seat six comfortably. It will be quite the coveted place, especially on our warm Indian summer nights (though heat lamps are planned in time, because, well, San Francisco).

The menu is designed for whatever your appetite demands or the occasion calls for, starting with small bites like gougères with blue cheese and pink peppercorn, and chicken liver crostini with pickled cherries to go with a couple of aperitifs on the menu. There’s also an antipasto plate, with Olympia Provisions capicola, Parmigiano, cauliflower, Castelvetranos olives, olive oil, and chile.

“Beginnings” are more appetizer-sized, tempting plates like socca cake with shallots, corn, and roasted kadota figs and a summer minestrone. Mains include quality meats from their rotisserie (lamb, chicken) with seasonal sides (the lamb is paired with smoked eggplant, zhug, spiced carrots, fingerlings, and za’atar), plus seafood (like steelhead with corn and favas with quinoa and salsa verde) and a vegetarian selection. And somehow nothing is more than $26, even though they use such beautifully sourced ingredients.

Save room for dessert, because saffron ice cream with spiced pluots and olive oil cake with kadota figs, anise seeds, and labneh await (plus coffee and espresso from Scarlet City).

They enjoyed sourcing quality wines for their taps, and succeeded admirably. You’ll find a Macon chardonnay, plus local selections from Skylark and Broc, and a list of affordable wines in bottle, again with many food-friendly California selections, peppered with some international picks, too.

Hours to start are dinner Wednesday through Monday starting at 6 p.m. Happy hour is coming soon and weekend brunch and lunch are in discussion. Welcome to your new and lovely space, Woodward’s ladies!


Like a phoenix rising from tragic flames in January, the Wise Sons Deli duo, Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, have some great news: They found a new commissary location to replace the one they lost in the Mission fire. And they plan to open a bagel shop!

The two are currently gutting a space in the Fillmore that dates to the 1920s, right across from State Bird Provisions. Not only will the 2,200-square-foot space (with 26-foot ceilings) be a commissary bakery for producing their bagels, rye bread, their famed babka, challah, and rugelach, but they will also set aside 300 square feet for a retail section, Wise Sons Bagel (1520 Fillmore Street). Bloom and Beckerman look forward to keeping the space open and visible so people can see the baking operation, which is going to be big. Good thing they salvaged their special bagel-forming machine.

As for the shop, you’ll be able to order at a counter, choosing from toasted bagel sandwiches (New Yorkers can go ahead and groan, just get it out), schmears, and sliced pastrami by the pound. They also plan to roll out some sable, lox, and sturgeon, plus other items will be in the grab-and-go case, all so your brunch spread at home will rock. For those who want to hang out, 10–12 seats are planned plus some outside seating and potentially 8–10 seats on the mezzanine. Coffee and espresso service will also be offered. The operation will be open daily, from the morning to the early afternoon.

Are they out to re-create New York’s Russ & Daughters? No, Bloom says that while Russ & Daughters is a wonderful and amazing place, that’s their thing, and Wise Sons Bagels will be different. Kind of like what the Bay Area is doing out here with bagels.

The New York Times piece, “Why Is It So Hard to Get a Great Bagel in California?” was, in my mind, a bit off, with a headline that bordered on a Buzzfeed clickbait tone. The headline should have read, “Why Local Bakers Don’t Care About Making a New York Bagel in the Bay Area.” Because that’s the real story. Maybe it’s because our local bakers like to make bread products that are naturally fermented and full of flavor?

I have been thoroughly enjoying our city’s NorCal, artisan, hand-rolled spin on bagels at places like Nopa, Marla Bakery, and 20th Century Cafe. The East Bay’s Montreal-style Beauty’s Bagel Shop, Authentic Bagel Company, and Baron Baking are all making great products, too. And then there’s the classic (since 1962) House of Bagels on Geary, which has a dedicated local following. That’s fine, everyone keep complaining (especially you, New Yorkers) while many of us continue to enjoy all these rather excellent handcrafted bagels.

The article almost set Bloom and Beckerman up like they are going to save the day with their upcoming bagel operation and will fix “the situation,” obliquely dismissing these other Bay Area bagel makers — which couldn’t be further from the scenario (Wise Sons Deli serves Beauty’s bagels on the weekends). All our local bakers just want to do things their way, which is pretty much how the boys have run their deli from the beginning. (Thank you; don’t change a thing about your matzo ball soup!)

Wise Sons say their bagel preparation will be traditional: “[The bagels] are proofed for 36 hours and boiled with malt and baking soda so you get a chewy crust with those little ‘fish eye’ bubbles and a depth of flavor that doesn’t just taste like a white roll.”

Anyway, the bigger and more important point is that we’re going to have a new shop dedicated to bagels. And based on the quality of the other items Wise Sons make, that’s exciting. We deserve this.

Interestingly, it’s a bit of a full-circle scenario for the neighborhood, which Bloom tells me used to have kosher butchers and other shops where San Francisco’s Jewish community would come to shop because of the many nearby synagogues. Bloom and Beckerman are looking forward to uncovering more history of the neighborhood as they research even further.

Bloom expresses their profound gratitude to Bi-Rite Market, which has allowed Wise Sons to use their commissary space during this challenging post-fire transitional time, which has helped them keep things going. If their projections are correct, they hope to be baking in the new space in October and probably starting the retail operation soon thereafter.

With future neighbors like Black Bark from 1300 on Fillmore, this section of Fillmore keeps making me happy.


Some big news from the Daniel Patterson Group regarding Coi (373 Broadway Street, 415-393-9000): Chef-owner Daniel Patterson has decided to step down as executive chef, and Matthew Kirkley (Chicago’s L20, where he earned two Michelin stars) will become chef starting Jan. 12, 2016. On the Coi website, Patterson shares that after nearly 10 years of 90-hour work weeks, he wants to step back to have more time with his family (especially since things are also heating up with Loco’l, his joint project with Roy Choi). The Daniel Patterson Group will continue to own, operate, and support Coi in addition to the group’s other restaurants: Alta CA, Plum Bar, Haven, Aster, and Kim Alter’s upcoming restaurant.

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Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column about the San Francisco dining and imbibing scene; get the latest news at Follow Marcia @tablehopper on Twitter and Instagram for more finds.