Remember when bagels seemed as ubiquitous as frozen yogurt or L.A. Gear shoes?
Stop shuddering. Apologies for the bad ’80s fashion reference.
Bagels once were the food trend du jour. Like frozen yogurt and pastel shoes, the concept faded but didn’t disappear. As with many a food fashion, the locally owned mom-and-pop shops that sprouted up around the trend remained while chains pulled up shop and left town once consumers showed palate fatigue.
In South Sound, two remaining bagel bakeries are worth mentioning: Bagel Brothers, founded in 1994 in Olympia, and Cascade Bagel, which has been around since the 1990s and switched hands to local ownership in 2003.
CASCADE BAGEL & DELI
Cascade Bagel started with a Seattle moniker in the 1990s. Betty Murrie and Bob Bringer bought the Lakewood bakery from their boss. Seattle Bagel became Cascade Bagel in November 2003. Before they bought it, Bringer was the manager and night baker; Murie was assistant manager. They both had worked at the bakery since 1997.
Cascade Bagel is in an interesting eating triangle – near where Gravelly Lake Drive meets Bridgeport Way – that includes Great Cuisine of India, the German Pastry Shop and Hess Bakery and Delicatessen.
The bakery doubles as a deli with a menu of sandwiches with prices starting at $2.60. Prices range from 80 cents to $1.45 for individual bagels.
The bagels are New York in spirit. However, on three separate visits, the half-dozen bagels I tried tasted doughy and slightly rubbery with little or no exterior crisp and little browning. Toasting the bagels helped in that regard.
Bagels here are smaller than those at Bagel Brothers, which saves on the calories for those who care.
From the sandwich menu, the turkey, bacon and avocado ($5.50 stacked) was the most favorably composed. It came with layers of turkey, crisp bacon and a light swipe of crushed avocados. A pastrami ($4.45 stacked/$6.50 open faced) came with chewy meat that looked to be processed and a flat ’kraut that couldn’t compete in flavor with grain mustard and Swiss cheese. Northwest smoked salmon ($5.45 stacked/$8.60 open faced) was good, but a thin layer of smoked salmon and a minuscule smear of cream cheese doesn’t make it a good value. The bagel-to-filling ratio made for a too-dry sandwich. A New Orleans muffaletta ($5.85) featured a jarred olive mix that didn’t offer enough pucker to counter the big flavors of salami, ham and Swiss.
For bagel bargain shoppers, the bakery sells day-old packages of four for $1.50.
Marc Feigen was a real estate agent who had no baking background when he opened Bagel Brothers in Olympia in July 1994.
His restaurant know-how came from absorbing the family business his stepfather and uncle operated, a small chain of pizza restaurants in California.
Feigen bought equipment from a supply company in New York. His stepfather Martin Koss and uncle Al Koss designed the space where Bagel Brothers still operates 16 years later.
“They came to my empty shell of the store. There was nothing in there,” Feigen said. “They came in with chalk and drew where everything was to go. They drew in where the seating would be, where the window would be, where the counter would be. I was certainly going to listen to them.”
The window became a viewing portal into bagel production. Diners still can sit and watch bakers at work. Feigen paid homage to Martin and Al by naming the bakery after them.
Feigen started the business with his wife, Julie Guthrie (they since have divorced). At one point, he expanded the business to four locations, then shrunk it back to the original spot.
His recipes come from the company where he purchased the bagel equipment. He’s tweaked and modified most, substituting honey instead of white sugar and adding eggs instead of just egg coloring to the egg-flavored bagels.
Feigen’s emphasis today is on Northwest-grown and created products.
The grains used to make all but two of his specialty bagels come from Shepherd’s Grain, a collective of Northwest farmers who produce and sell grain from family-owned farms.
Feigen sells coffee roasted at Olympia’s Batdorf and Bronson. He stocks cider from Lattin’s Country Cider Mill and Farm in the refrigerator case.
His bagels (75 cents to $1.95 each) have a lightly crisp exterior and just the right amount of pull and chew inside like a New York-style bagel should offer. Bagels are as flavorful as they are pliable and come in 25 varieties. Of the 10 spreads his staff makes in house, the sundried tomato and smoked salmon are my favorites.
The bakery doubles as a deli with bagel sandwiches, focaccia sandwiches and pizza. (Gluten-free bagels made by another company also are offered.) The sandwich menu features touches from Feigen’s children – the Mike Bagel, Bagel Sister and Jeremy’s Choice sandwiches are creations of Mike, 30, Alison, 27, and Jeremy, 23.
All three children worked at the bagel restaurant before attending college and starting their own lives.
What I like about his sandwiches is what most diners enjoy: They are loaded with ingredients and are a great value.
The Bagel sister ($6.50) sandwich was built on a toasted “everything” bagel. It was hefty with four layers of roast beef, a smidge of garlicky house-made pesto, melted cheddar, green leaf lettuce and tomatoes. The hot pastrami ($6.50) came with an understated dose of rye from a caraway seed-spiked bagel piled with several layers of salty pastrami, melted Swiss and a light dose of sauerkraut. The heavy smear of mustard might overwhelm some palates.
The lox ($7.50) was built on a New York onion bagel with liberally applied cream cheese, layers of velvety soft Nova-style lox, tomato, red onions and capers (if you ask for them).
Speaking of cream cheese, you’ll find it’s on the heavy side here.
Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270 email@example.com
Visit blog.thenewstribune.com/tntdiner to learn more about Bagel Boyz. The bagel bakery founded in downtown Puyallup in 2009 has closed its bistro and is offering bagels wholesale.