Midnite Bagel opens its first storefront this Wednesday, June 1, rolling its wildly popular and uniquely San Franciscan bagels into the Inner Sunset. Taking over a former boba shop, it’s a streamlined square space with a big window and black-and-white counter, with about a dozen stools to snag a seat, as revealed by Eater SF. Midnite will be selling its usual flavors, from pumpernickel to buckwheat black sesame, as well as smoked salmon sandwiches, muffins, scones, cookies, and granola. For baker and owner Nick Beitcher, the cozy shop is the culmination of years of hard work, from borrowing ovens and baking overnight to finally putting fresh bagels directly into customers’ hands. “It feels really amazing to finally be approaching the starting line. That’s kind of what this feels like … ” Beitcher says. “It feels very satisfying.”
Beitcher was born in the Bay, grew up in upstate New York, and spent his teens in West LA, where his family was part of those Jewish communities. He trained in fine dining, including Per Se in NYC and Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Burnt out as a line cook, he decided to bake bread for a bit, then stayed for eight loyal years at Tartine in its glory days, rising to run the kitchen at the original bakery on Guerrero. But through the sourdough obsession, he knew bagels were missing from the local scene. He started baking at night, using the kitchens of Chad Robertson at Tartine and Josey Baker at the Mill. For the first Midnite Bagel pop-ups in 2019, they would crank music and sell bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches out the window (not literally at midnight, we’re talking dinnertime). Some questioned whether San Franciscans would crave an evening bagel. They ate their words when Midnite developed a cult following.
When the pandemic hit, Beitcher baked from home in the Outer Sunset, then a shared kitchen in San Mateo. The bagels exploded in spring 2021, when the NYTimes highlighted Midnite as one of the best bagels in the country. Beitcher got slammed with $10,000 worth of orders in 72 hours, and sales doubled at the farmers’ markets. There was a dark time when he’d start at 9pm, bake at 3am, take a nap, run home deliveries, hit the farmers’ market, and drive back down the Peninsula. He’d been scouting locations for months, with a couple of near misses. But the great press was the final push, and he signed the lease for the Inner Sunset. Beitcher originally wanted a combined bakery plus cafe, but couldn’t find the perfect existing space, and says it would have cost nearly a million dollars to build out. Instead, he’s now baking out of a kitchen in the Dogpatch, and driving fresh bagels over to the Sunset a couple of times a day. A Kickstarter is calling on the community to help with initial costs, and Beitcher feels at home in his own neighborhood.
Of all the bagels of the much-discussed boom in the Bay, breadheads generally agree that Midnite bagels are the most Californian or specifically San Franciscan in style. That boils down to several factors: Beitcher bubbles sourdough starter for natural leavening. He kneads in whole grains, including hard red wheat, dark northern rye, and buckwheat from Oregon and Washington. And he ferments longer and hydrates higher (by bagel standards), meaning a softer dough. He’s willing to venture slightly irregular shapes with a less height and more spread, and even risk consistency on density. Because the rewards are exceptional bagels, with the kind of aroma that makes you take a deep breath when you pop open the box, and chew contemplatively through the full flavors of toasty grains and sourdough tang. “Our focus is on not just making another New York–style bagel,” he says, which he feels has been narrowly defined for a long time. “We’re approaching it with an open mind and curiosity.”
So if you’re into a classic NYC style bagel, that’s cool! There are lots of great options these days. But if you love SF sourdough and want to try the wildest bagel on the West Coast — you’ve come to the right shop.
Midnite Bagel opens its first storefront on Wednesday, June 1 at 646 Irving Street at 8th Avenue. Hours are Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 4pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 8am to 4pm. As always, the bagels are available for pickup through Pastel across the Bay Area.