I can remember a few months back a friend came to town and they really wanted a New York bagel. Now I got spots for pizza, Chinese, Indian, but I honestly got no idea where in Brooklyn I am gonna get a real “bagel”. I mean there is La Bagel on 7th ave or The Bagel store in Williamsburg, but in my personal opinion, these places taste like bagels you can get anywhere in any above-average suburban bagel shop in America. I wanted to give my friend an exclusive Brooklyn experience.
Seriously now what kind of friend would I be if you flew over 3000 miles and I just took you to some regular-ass generic fare, that you could just as easily get around the way in your own neighborhood. I’ll tell you what kind of friend I would be, the kind of friend you don’t need.
When I went to Europe last, my friend Allen asked me where I wanted to go, and my response was simple. No major cities, no tourist traps and I don’t want to see one fucking American, and that’s how I roll. In this day and age we live, homogeneity seems to be this ever-expanding black cloud, perpetually swelling without any discretion. One must ask them self, what’s the point of traveling from coast to coast if you’re not going to engage the local vibe?
I once went to Portland and asked my friend to take me to what Portland did best; he took me to a taco truck for lunch, a pizza shop for dinner and then somehow I was the asshole for not being impressed. First off nothing tops New York pizza and I can prove it. Second: where the hell isn’t there a taco truck in this country? The last time I drove through Death Valley there was a taco truck in the parking lot of where there used to be a Dairy Queen.
Let me backtrack here before I totally loose you; how could a real New York bagel have eluded me for so long? I mean a real chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside, freshly made in house bagel. In this true Jewish melting pot of a borough, Brooklyn is the place.
Which takes me to the morning I found myself all the way out in Sheepshead Bay, on the corner of Ocean ave and Ave Z. Hungry, I was staring at what looked like an old pork store but was really a bagel shop. I started craving a salt bagel with cream cheese and lox. Place is called Ocean Ave Bagels, and this is what I saw.
Upon entering this no frills shop I notice the layout. Bagels on the left, drinks on the right, ok everything seems in order. However I am in no hurry to order, I’m not totally sold on what I want, decide to look everything over and chat up the girl behind the counter in the process.
I say “hello”
“what would you like?”
“feeling like a bagel, yet not a %100 sold on what I want”
“well you could have a flagel” she suggests to me
“whats a flagel?”
“it’s a flat bagel”
“of course it is”
“you’re putting me on?”
“no really, they’re for people who would normally scrape out the inside of a
My only question at this point is who is so pretentious that they would scoop out the inside of a bagel? Well apparently enough people to spring demand for a “flagel”. I got a joke for you… what do you call someone who orders a flagel: a flagot.. Guess that makes me a flagot because I just ordered one. Actually you’re only a flagot if you order a flagel more than three times, and so I order a salt flagel with a lox spread.
While waiting for my flagel initiation, I grab a seat and a guy comes out from the back as I am still chatting up the girl behind the counter about the seriousness of flagels. The man says he has orders for them every day. But what about the bagels, I mean this is the real reason I came in here to begin with.
This man’s name is Joe; Joe is the owner, and the new owner at that. He took over as owner of the bagel shop in October 2010. This is the man I am talking to now. First off he has people who come in from Manhattan daily to buy bagels for their very own bagel shops. They own their own bagel shops yet they don’t know the first thing about making bagels; they go all the way to south Brooklyn to get their product.
Not only that but Joe himself is blown away at the prices he hears his bagels being sold for. The highest he told me was a man who sold his bagels for $60 a dozen. Joe sells a dozen for $9.50, then someone marks them up to $30 a dozen, then charges another $30 for next day shipping (the customer lived in Ohio). All because some schmo in Ohio wants authentic Brooklyn bagels.
So what’s the secret Joe? Joe is Russian, he claims he learned from and old Jewish man. First off he only makes his bagels by hand; no machines are involved in the process. Also whilst there may be fewer and fewer places who make bagels in-house, most make everything for the day in the morning in one solid run, but not Joe. Joe splits the average run up into quarters throughout day to maintain freshness. If that still wasn’t fresh enough, then Joe has a policy just for you.
If you order a minimum of a dozen bagels and order them at least thirty minutes in advance, then he will make them for you fresh. Let me repeat that. Order a dozen bagels and wait thirty minutes, and he will make them for you by hand, fresh, on the spot.
When was the last time you had a fresh bagel? You’re fucking right, I don’t know either… It may have been fifteen years for me, and all this for just $9.50 a dozen? That’s the going rate for any normal bagel of mediocre status, but these are anything but normal. Lets be honest now, for bagels of this caliber and quality, now that’s a steal.