After eating East Coast bagels, a glimpse of what PNW has to offer

Nancy and I spent part of the vacation on opposite ends of New Jersey. I was up north with my partner’s family near New York. She was in the south, near Philadelphia, with members of her family.

For me, a New Jersey bagel is an eye-opening experience. A real I-did-not-know-they-could-be-this-good moment, especially when you add a roll of pork, egg and cheese and… I’m sorry, where were we- we ?

Oh that’s right. For Nancy, bagels on the East Coast are a taste of home — reminiscent of the Saturdays when she would go to her grandparents’ house, and her grandfather would go to the local Jewish deli and bring back bagels, smoked fish and cheeses. Joy.

But in recent years, the Northwest has seriously upped its bagel game.

“I lived here for over 30 years, and saw the bagel scene get really big in the 90s with some places that started out smaller or were national chains that were pretty good, and then they – BOOM – disappeared,” she said. “And now what we see are these little bagel bakeries.”

Some are pop-ups. Some grew up like Eltana, which sells Montreal-style bagels. And there are others like Delicatessen and bakery Zylberschtein and Rachel’s bagels and burritos.

And even though Nancy hasn’t been to as many newer places as she would like, she remains true to her old standby, Bagel Oasis in Ravenna, where she loves its pumpernickel bagels, and she is also a fan of the new Rubinstein bagels location in Capitol Hill.

“What I loved about this place so much was not so much that the bagel was great – and it was – but that I had a bagel sandwich. … They said, ‘Do you want to face open?’ How did they know I don’t eat my bagel sandwich any other way.

When Nancy Leson ordered this bagel sandwich — with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers and red onion — they asked her if she wanted it open. It’s as if they read his thoughts.

So what is a good bagel?

The best answer is “the one that makes you happy”. But here are Nancy’s criteria on what to look for:

  • Boiled, then baked – not steamed.
  • Whether homemade or at least close.
  • Costs! Better if you can get them the same day they are cooked.

“Really, bagels that have sat for a day or two aren’t at their best,” Nancy said. “I like to take them out hot from the oven.”


One of the reasons Nancy hasn’t visited as many new bagel bakeries as she would like is that she makes her own. In fact, that’s what she was doing when I stopped by to chat with her.

I’ve probably already admitted that baking scares me – all chemistry and hope, with little chance of getting it right. When cooking, you can at least dilute a sauce or add a little more seasoning to the soup. But I’m here to tell you that Nancy’s bagel recipe is easy and delicious. Click here to download it in PDF format.

Nancy had me rolling bagels in no time, and it wasn’t long before we were feasting on freshly baked bagels, with “All” seasoning on both sides.

That’s right, on both sides. We threw caution to the wind, and it was delicious.

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