Celebrating Bagels in the Village
January 15th is National Bagel Day. Bagels are a huge part of many New Yorkers’ daily lives. However, many know little about the history of the bagel. To celebrate, we thought we would give you a brief history of bagels in New York to showcase how bagels took over and became a New York staple.
The Village also happens to have some of New York’s top-rated Bagel shops. Read on to learn about New York’s finest and where you can get a bagel to celebrate.
History of New York’s Bagels
Tony Cenicola of the New York Times wrote: “The first known mention of the bagel dates from 1610 in the community regulations of Krakow, Poland. The world’s biggest bagel factory is in Illinois. Still, no other food is so associated with New York as the “Jewish English muffin,” which spread from the Lower East Side in the early 20th century. “Pizza belongs to America now,” Josh Ozersky, a food writer, said, “but the bagel was always the undisputed property of New York.”
It is believed that bagels made their way to New York with the influx migration of Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s. The first production of bagels in New York started in small local bakeries solely in Jewish neighborhoods. Even into the modern era, the presence of bagels throughout the United States was largely confined to the Jewish communities, predominantly in New York City. In 1960, the New York Times had to publically define a “bagel” to its readers as “an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis.” As the Jewish immigrants started to assimilate to New York and move into different parts of the city, they spread their love of bagels like spread on a bagel. By the 1980s, the number of bagels within the city had skyrocketed and New York Bagels started to take their reign as the go-to breakfast in the city.
Popular Bagel Spots in the Village
Tompkins Square Bagels (165 Avenue A. & 184 2nd Avenue)
Tompkins Square Bagels is a local staple in the East Village. Tompkins Square Bagels offers customers a warm, homey, welcoming environment to enjoy a killer bagel. The owner, Christopher Pugliese, sought to create a place where no one could ever feel out of place to fit the welcoming aura of the East Village. Chris has added a modern edge to his bagels by offering nontraditional bagel options such as rainbow and even red heart bagels during Valentine’s Day.
Black Seed Bagels (176 First Avenue)
Black Seed Bagels occupies the space where De Robertis Pastry Shop baked cookies for 110 years. Many of the historical features of the space have been kept intact by the current owners, such as hand-cut wall titles and round “penny tiles” on the floor. The bagels at Black Seed earn their name as they are greatly inspired by the Montreal style of bagel-making which values a heavy covering of sesame seeds. They are also boiled in water with honey for an added touch of sweetness.
Murray’s Bagels (500 Avenue of the Americas)
Since 1996 Murray’s Bagels has been serving Greenwich Village wonderful traditional, NYC bagels that have been a real crowd-pleaser. Murray’s prides themselves as standing out with thinner, dense bagels with a crackly crust and interior chew. You can find all the go-to options at Murray’s as well as various meat-filled varieties such as chicken cutlet, pastrami, and salami.
Russ & Daughters (179 E Houston St)
One of the most famous places in the neighborhood to pick up a bagel complete with lox and shmear is Russ & Daughters on East Houston Street. As we noted in a past blog post, bagel shops like Russ & Daughters “ became increasingly popular on the Lower East Side in the early 20th century due to a large influx of Eastern European Jews. In the 1960′s there were 30 appetizing stores on the LES alone! Now, Russ & Daughters is one of the last of its kind and is committed to preserving this unique food culture.” You can learn more about the history of Russ & Daughters here.
Supporting Small Business
Here at Village Preservation, we are actively seeking out ways in which we can help small businesses survive in this current state of New York real estate. You can learn more about our small business efforts here and take action to support your favorite local establishments here.
And here is a handy map of all of our Businesses of the Month:
Each month, a local, independent business is featured on Village Preservation’s website and blog Off the Grid, and shared via our electronic newsletter, showcasing one of the Village, East Village, or NoHo’s great and unique retail or commercial treasures. Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village or NoHo.
What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc