For decades our bagels were the butt of Woody Allen jokes. How times have changed. Armed with quality flour and yeast, the city’s bakers are reviving old-world traditions by slow-fermenting, hand-rolling, and kettle-boiling their way to enlightenment.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in northeast L.A., where a carb scene once dominated by O.G. Brooklyn Bagel Bakery (currently under renovation) has been flooded with chewy-crusted specimens not quite New York-y (thick and puffy), not quite Montreal-y (thin and dense), but somewhere in between—call it the L.A. style.
Veteran baker Roxana Jullapat offers a full spread of artisan pastries at the homey all-day restaurant she runs with husband Daniel Mattern, but nothing has transfixed locals like her chewy, barely-sweet bagels. Jullapat serves them toasted with ale-cured salmon and herbed cream cheese; Mattern, who eats one daily, prefers a swipe of peanut butter.
Best known for colorful carb wheels encrusted with things like cinnamon sugar and Hot Cheetos, Evan Fox’s hip-hop-inspired operation specializes in pillowy, super-moist bagels that are hand-rolled and baked daily. Yeastie Boys’ music-blasting food truck posts up in Silver Lake on weekends, but a brick-and-mortar along Melrose is in the works.
Having grown up on bagels at a Jewish day school in L.A., Zack Hall drew from traditional Eastern European recipes while engineering Clark Street’s tangy, long-fermented bagels. Once he figures out how to fit a giant boiling kettle into the kitchen, you’ll find them at the sprawling Echo Park café-bakery he plans to open this month.
After years of research and tweaking, Gjusta alum and East Coast traditionalist Jason Kaplan arrived at his ideal bagel: plump but not too plump, with a supple chew and thin crust. Flavors like onion or salt-and-pepper are sold by the dozen or topped with smoked whitefish at the weekly Hollywood Farmer’s Market and at Maury’s soon-to-open bagel shop in Silver Lake.
Doing business from a tiny take-out window attached to The Hi Hat club, Nick Schreiber and J.D. Rocchio sling hand-rolled bagels starting at 7 a.m. until they sell out — which is usually before noon. Try the beet cream cheese or smashed avocado with hot sauce for a twist on the standard schmear.
Home baker Ari Skye roams northeast L.A. on her red beach cruiser, hawking organic oval bagels from a wood crate. Though not an adherent, she gives her bagels a Montreal-style tilt, shaping them leaner than a New York bagel and poaching them in honey-accented water for a hint of sweetness. Look for her on weekends in front of Intelligentsia Silver Lake.