Bagels – A story inspired by a new bagel store in town.

I love bagels although I have no idea when I had my first bagel. They certainly weren’t a part of my everyday Sicilian/American Southern upbringing. Waffles with chopped pecans, crusty bread rolls, garlic bread, long loaves of Italian bread, pizza, cornbread or biscuits, yes; bagels, no. Perhaps it was at a deli, or on a trip, I just don’t know. My first solid memory is making bagels. I’d read an article in a magazine and it had recipes for small batches of things to try at home, such as English muffins and bagels. The recipe made 6 bagels and it seemed to take all day and the entire kitchen. Admittedly, Mom’s kitchen was small and I had no experience with making bread, or using yeast. Nevertheless I persevered through the measuring, mixing, waiting, rising, forming, boiling and baking. It took hours. At last the bagels came out of the oven ready to eat. Hot, crispy outside, soft and chewy inside, and they smelled divine. I called Mom and Dad into the kitchen, got out a knife to cut the bagels, and some butter. It seemed only a few minutes until we had devoured all of them. Absolutely wonderful but too much work. I’ve never made bagels again.

When I worked at the Police Academy there was a coffee shop on the grounds and bagels with cream cheese and honey were a morning favorite. A carb overload for those of us who spent the day at a desk yet a perfect dose of carbs for those heading out to the athletic field for gym.

Some years later, on my own, I came to live in West Los Angeles – BAGEL-LAND!  Here I discovered bagel stores. Bagel stores?  Yep!  All the stores sold were a variety of bagels and a variety of regular and flavored cream cheese. And the stores were crowded, even on a workday. Lots of activity in the kitchen area as huge machines dumped formed bagel dough into vats of boiling water, then moved them on to conveyer belts for baking. The bagels were dumped into the waiting display baskets so hot that they could not be wrapped in plastic because the plastic would melt. With hot fresh bagels at hand I became a fan of making Sunday Brunch. Bagels, fruit, egg casserole, orange juice and Champagne. A winning combination. It worked well. Then I moved to Whittier.

What?  No bagel store!  At first my best friend and former neighbor Pat would happily bring bagels for Sunday brunch, but then she moved. After searching for some time I found a bagel store miles away, but those bagels just weren’t the same. Oh well, Plan B – biscuits or croissants would have to do, and they were OK.

Here and there I’d find bagels – Einstein Bros.; Noah’s Bagels; Katella Deli. All some distance away. I’d buy a dozen or two, slice them and freeze them. The bread sections of markets offered bagels, but they were soft and not at all like the West L.A. bagels I’d come to love. Nevertheless, they would have to do. More recently Panera moved close by and became a favorite hangout. Their bagels are OK but not great, yet close by and meets most basic needs.

Then, a couple of days ago, reading the Whittier Chamber of Commerce newsletter, I saw a new area business: New York Bagels, Inc. We hopped in the car and found them in an industrial area – closed for the day. We went back the next day when they were open and got an education in East Side Bagels versus West Side Bagels versus Northern California Bagels. It seems that the traditional bagels which are boiled, then baked, and develop a hard exterior crust, which I’d come to love in West Los Angeles, are popular in Northern California but not so popular on the East side of Los Angeles. Here the populace prefers steamed bagels which maintain a softer exterior. However, if requested, they will make boiled bagels for you. This is a bakery though, not a specific retail outlet. You go and place an order for the next day, designating how many you want of each of the 21 flavors. Smaller orders are picked up – large orders, over $25 and within 5 miles, can be delivered free, or for a small delivery fee for longer distances than 5 miles. The “retail outlet” sells the day old left overs and bagel chips until they are all gone, and seven flavored cream cheeses. They offer catering trays, sandwiches, and lox and bagel trays.

In our house we are now “saved.”  Good bagels close at hand. We’ve delivered a few samples today to those with a depth of bagel knowledge. The reviews were great.

New York Bagels, Inc., 11832-34 Washington Bl., Whittier, CA 90670; 562-945-6900, order form available on their website:

Do you love bagels?

What things did you have trouble finding when you moved to a new area?

Every Day Is A Good Day.  VJ

One thought on “Bagels – A story inspired by a new bagel store in town.

  1. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, there never was a shortage of bagels. The ‘real’ bagels. Hard shell and soft on the inside. When I moved to CA, it was definitely hard to find similar bagels. The big difference is the water in NY vs CA. I too, tried to make my own bagels once. It was a very long process…..boil first then bake. They came out ok, but never tried it again. When Bonjour Bagel first opened in La Mirada, it was the closest to a true NY bagel. They also had bialys! It’s a softer form of a bagel. More like a roll, but crusty. Hard to explain. They probably sell them at Brents Deli. After 30 years, I’ve accepted CA bagels. And yes, Panera is pretty good too! I guess I’ll have to try New York Bagels, Inc some day!


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