Israeli bakery Frena, which opened in SoMa under the name “Taboon”, is opening a second outpost on Geary at 20th. The proximity to all the Eastern European bakeries/grocery stores makes the Outer Richmond a natural fit.
What do people like at Frena? I’m curious about their bagels, Israeli style and otherwise. Their filled donuts are stellar, you’d never know they’re vegan, and I’ve enjoyed a few different pita items.
More info at J. the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California
I’m curious as to why you think this has anything to do with Eastern European stores.
I don’t know the owners’ logic, but there’s a concentration of Russian Jews in the outer Richmond and that’s the only neighborhood I associate with Jewish (of various traditions, and not necessarily kosher) foods— the only giant challah in SF to my knowledge is at Moscow Tsibili across the street, (cheap) smoked fish at New World Market, bulk pickles, frozen blintzes, farmers cheese, halvah, hummus, and various Israeli goods.
Ashkenzai Jews, primarily from Eastern Europe and Russia, formed the largest component of Israeli society and brought with them baking traditions (including bagels) of their places of origin.
Frena is kosher, and the Richmond probably has the highest concentration of religious Jews in SF, (some of whom are Russian). That’s the reason. Frena is a middle eastern bakery, its products centered around items such as burekas and sambusak, and the baker is of Jewish Iraqi parentage.
The Russian grocery stores don’t really cater to kosher-keeping Jews, so the connection is sort of once-removed.
The store with the most Israeli items in SF is Taraval Farmer’s market. They carry several brands of Israeli (US-made) hummus and salads, schug, amba, and imported frozen malawach, jachnun and burekas, (all mass produced, though). They also have good quality Israeli tahini.
They are open! Except on Saturday’s
Went a few days ago in the later afternoon.
Bought a Honey Cake loaf for something around $12. It is parve, which is great for me since I don’t eat baked goods with milk in them. The ‘liquid’ element is orange juice and chai. I thought it was particularly good. Nice spiced flavor, not oily and not dense. At first I thought that was too expensive, but I was pretty happy with it, and it’s a whole loaf.
Also bought 2 little mini cinnamon rolls and 2 mini chocolate rugelach. These were both dense and chewy to the extent that I found them a bit odd. The rugelach worked better for me because chocolate and dense makes more sense to me for some reason.
I came for the jelly donut but they were out. I need to ask if the ‘custard’ filled donut is also vegan. I wouldn’t have even guessed as they do have items with cheese on the menu so it’s not completely vegan there.
Frena Bakery, 6th St. SOMA, SF
Got the feta and roasted eggplant Sambusak/Pocket ($7.99), Frena style ($2.99) which means they cut it open and add boiled egg, tomatoes, onion, pickles, tahini and spicy sauce. The pocket is thin and was nicely toasted and stayed crisp despite the generous filling. I didn’t detect the typical saltiness from the feta and it was melty so maybe it wasn’t feta - unless there is a mild Israeli feta that turns gooey when heated. No real smokey/roasted flavor from the eggplant. The spicy sauce was fresh pureed jalapenos. Overall it was quite hardy for a veggie lunch and decent but none of the flavors really popped. I would go back to try one of their massive bagels though -they appear to be almost twice the size of a NY bagel.
The green spicy sauce is schug, a Yemenite condiment that’s ubiqitous in Israel (brought there by Yemenite Jews), made mainly from ground chili peppers and cilantro. Frena’s is reasonably good, although the spice is toned down for Western tastes. It’s made without preservatives, so I buy it for use at home to save the (small) trouble of making it.
Frena now has a truck! Each day, they’re in a different part of the Bay Area, making ~3 stops per day (usually at a local Chabad). You can preorder items for pickup at the truck, or go there and take your chances with what they have. They’ve been in Pleasanton, the closest stop to us, on Fridays, so I ordered a 3-pack of Romanian bagels, 2 of the vegan sambusak (these have a mushroom filling), and an almond chocolate babka. The Romanian bagels are more “savory” than American bagels, with a texture like a good pretzel but without the malt that a pretzel (and an old-school bagel) has. Was a bit disappointed that the babka is pareve and not dairy, but the almond chocolate has a nice filling of almond paste and mini-chocolate chips. Sweet, but not super-rich, and really good with a cup of black coffee. The truck schedule, which updates on Tuesdays, and the order form can be found on their Website: http://www.frenabakery.com.
Wow, they really get around! I can’t wait to walk to their Mission/Noe location!