To the faithful, Courage Bagels is much more than a bagel place. It opened quietly and sporadically in October in Virgil Village, a rapidly gentrifying Eastside pocket. In March, it was featured in a barn burner of a New York Times article proclaiming, “The Best Bagels are in California (Sorry, New York),” and carb worshippers soon descended (as did haters screaming, “Liar, liar, gentrifier!”).
On a recent Saturday morning, people waited as long as 90 minutes for Courage’s unique bagels—relatively small and delicate, more Montreal than Manhattan in style, with a crispy outside (the Burnt Everything is a favorite) and fluffy inside—topped with cream cheese and lox or salmon roe. For some, the difficulty in obtaining them is part of the appeal: Courage is open only Thursday through Sunday, and orders can be placed only at the shop window—not online or by phone. But even rabid chowhounds have their limits. Courage recently stopped selling loose bagels for $3 each; bagels can only be had sliced, with cream cheese ($4) or as part of a sandwich ($10 to $18).
“You know what it’s like to tell people there are no loose bagels?” Isabella Manning, the chipper woman working the window, asked. “It’s not fun.”
In the queue at Courage Bagels…
“It’s tricky because it’s not a fast situation. I’m not criticizing them because I’m willing to wait. But it seems like there could be a different distribution system. What else they need is a bathroom—I had coffee.” —Anna Campbell, 56, marketing, visiting from West Virginia
“We come every single weekend. I’m obsessed because it’s literally not only the best bagel, but one of the best foods I’ve ever had. When you have one, you’ll understand. Everything is the best version of itself.” —Rachell Le-Tiu, 31, fashion buyer, San Gabriel Valley
The only time the line moves forward is when people decide they’re gonna go to Sqirl.” —Zak Harris, 32, product designer, Boyle Heights
Courage Bagels, 777 N. Virgil Ave., East Hollywood.