Order a pint of Guinness and you’re told it doesn’t travel well. In Galway they’ll point you to Dublin, where you’ll be sent to the Guinness Brewery on the River Liffey. At some point, you wind up chasing a dream.
Such is the case with the New York bagel in Los Angeles.
Empirically, we do have New York bagels. Whole Foods Markets carries the same bagels sold in New York’s H&H stores, perhaps best known as the site of Kramer’s 10-year labor walkout on “Seinfeld.” The long-deceased Bagel Nosh chain, where Jamie and Paul were married in the middle of the night on “Mad About You,” has a residual outlet in Santa Monica, but not the fraternity of Thai bakers trained at the New York franchises still found throughout Manhattan.
“I think it’s difficult now even to find a good New York bagel in New York,” says La Brea Bakery and Campanile co-founder Nancy Silverton. “It’s much more difficult to make a boiled, hearth-baked bagel than it is to make a steamed bagel, which is what you see most often today. Even at La Brea Bakery, we had to fight to boil our bagels and our customers didn’t want them anymore. Unfortunately, the bagel-savvy customer is a dying breed.”
Still, you have to try. V Life Weekend tested 10 Los Angeles bagels. The control group was a box of bagels FedExed overnight from Bagel Oasis in Queens, which “New York Eats” author Ed Levine named as one of the six best bagelries in Gotham in the New York Times.
The testers took Levine’s standards as their own. “The quintessential bagel does not suffer from elephantiasis,” he told V Life Weekend. “Malt lends a little bit of sweetness, but it’s also slightly sour — like the taste of dark beer.”
This survey was conducted at Variety headquarters in Los Angeles, using a statistically random sample of magazine staffers and unpaid interns. Plain bagels were served dry, lightly toasted and were no more than four to five hours old.
Bagel Oasis, BagelOasis.com, New York
A real crust, malty flavor, no sweetness: a bagel’s bagel
Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, 2217 Beverly Blvd.
Golden color, malty flavor, hard crust, soft center and just 1¼ ounces
Whole Foods Markets, 11737 San Vicente Blvd.
Dense H&H bagel, too sweet for many, favorite of others
New York Bagel Shop, 11640 San Vicente Blvd.
A real crust, good texture and flavor, but huge
Western Bagel, 11628 Santa Monica Blvd.
Crisp exterior, extra chewy; a little sweet with malty aftertaste
Bagel Factory, 3004 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Crispy crust and doughy center; almost a sourdough flavor
Noah’s Bagels, 11911 San Vicente Blvd.
A texture like heavy bread; best as a cream cheese delivery system
Bagel Nosh, 1629 Wilshire Blvd.
Fair crust, but a doughy and bloated 4½ ounces
Bagel Broker, 7825 Beverly Blvd.
Airy and slightly inflated; prefab taste and appearance
Blessed King Bagel, 109 N. Fairfax Ave.
Musclebound hamburger bun, pinhole center
Schwartz Bakery, 441 N. Fairfax Ave.
Kaiser roll in disguise; tastes like soda bread