CHEAP EATS Bagels aren't my favorite thing. Maybe you've noticed. I haven't new-favorite-restauranted a lot of bagel places, if any, through the years. But then one day I was on my way to BART, very much in need of caffeination, and Cafe Petra was, to my surprise, all boarded up.
So the next possibility was Katz Bagels, around the corner on 16th Street. I stood outside, looking in, but had a hard time pulling the trigger. You know how it is, sometimes, when you are too uncaffeinated to make a decision — even a no-brainer, like whether or not to get a cup of coffee. Or pull the trigger.
Trouble was, I needed a bite, too, and bagels are not my thing. I mean, given butter and jam, or lox, or cheese, I like bagels fine. It's just: If I am totally honest with myself, I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive them for not being donuts.
But I was standing there trying to decide if now was the time to try, when a happyish fellow came caffeining out, noted my attitude of indecision and said, "They're good. Good bagels."
So, OK. Went in. And then was faced with a whole new problem: what to get.
What I really want (if I can't have donuts), is a cinnamon-raisin bagel, or blueberry one, with butter and/or bacon all over it. But I'm too ashamed to order it because, what will the Jews think?
San Francisco is not New York. Go ahead, little hippie, and have your toasted cinnamon-raisin swirl, or your blueberry bonnet with bows of bacon, you rube.
I couldn't. I can't. Stop taunting me, me!
This sounded good: the number three sandwich on the menu board — egg with spinach, tomato, onion, and Swiss cheese. Yeah, I could do that, and live with myself, for breakfast. Probably.
"Small coffee," I said, because it was my turn. And I still didn't know. So I said small coffee real slow.
"And a sesame seed bagel," I said, "with eggs," I said, "spinach," I said, "hmm, tomato, onion, and . . . yeah, Swiss."
"Number 3?" the woman said.
"Yeah. A Number 3," I said, "would be another way of looking at it."
She laughed, hurried to get me my coffee, and from that point on whenever she looked at me she laughed again. I had made a friend behind the counter! Which helps, where bagels are concerned. Because now, I'm thinking, I can probably go in there any time and order my bagel with ham, pineapple, and sprinkles on top. It doesn't matter. She's going to laugh at me anyway. With me.
For coffee, they serve Rodger's individually dripped brews. No idea who Rodger is, but I do like his work. One sip, sitting at the end of the counter there, and my head cleared all up.
But I still didn't know why Petra was closed. Or when. I had taken it for a neighborhood mainstay. Not that I ever went there. I mean, I did, for meeting people, when I used to date, because — even though it was only a block and a bit from my place — I never saw anyone I knew in there. Unlike, say, Java Supreme.
Petra was a nice place to sit. A nice place to, you know, get to know someone, A little. Without any fear whatsoever that Earl Butter would show up with a wooden tennis racket and/or Tupperware.
Wow, maybe my dating days coming to an abrupt end, thanks to Hedgehog, contributed to the downfall of the second-closest coffeehouse to my house, I thought, while waiting for my bagel at Katz's. And I didn't care what he was carrying, if Earl Butter came in here, I thought, I would buy him a bagel. Now that I am "in" with the counter woman.
Then I had another sip of Rodger, bless him.
My bagel came, and required salt and pepper, but was otherwise what else the doctor ordered. Delicious. Nutritious. There . . .
My new favorite restaurant is Katz. It's just a nice, comfy bagel bar, with good bagels. Great coffee. A fine place to stop, on your way to BART, and think stupid things.
Mon.-Fri. 6:30am-1pm; Sat.-Sun. 7am-2pm.
3147 16th St., SF.