On Suits – one of my favorite TV shows – Harvey Specter is often shown leaving the office to get himself a bagel from a cart on the street corner. I never thought much about his bagels. After all, most Americans are familiar with bagels, and they seem like something easy for food vendors to sell out of a small cart on a street corner. I was a full-grown adult before I learned that New York City had its own style of bagels.
And it was only recently that I realized that the bagel had been raised to an art form in the Big Apple.
The story goes that bagels were first introduced to America by Polish Jews, who made this special type of bread starting way back in the middle ages. In fact, the first record of a bagel is found in 17th-century Krakow (where bagels are still a delicacy sold on street corners, but they’ve been renamed obwarzanka). In the great migrations of the 19th and 20th centuries, these people, as so many others did, brought their food with them, and voila! bagels landed on Ellis Island.
They then took off like a shot. New Yorkers loved them, especially when they were made into a fancy sandwich that they could eat while walking. Thus, the New York Bagel was born.
The tradition is alive and well today and, being who I am as a person, I had to join in. I actually tried a couple different kinds of bagels from a couple different places, but I wasn’t wowed. I certainly didn’t find anything that would make me want to put these bagels on a hit TV show. And then I hit the Googles, which led me to Zucker’s.
Zucker’s is a neighborhood bagel shop, which boils and bakes all their own bagels fresh every morning. The place was founded by a native New Yorker, Matt Pomerantz, who grew up with a love of the NYC food scene, and decided to open his own bagel joint, which he named after his mother.
But I knew none of that when I walked in. The first thing I noticed about this place was that it is an Operation, with a capital O. When my friends and I walked in, the line started at the cash register, wrapped along the deli counter, where deli masters were calling out for orders left and right, and wrapped back on itself, winding through the four or five tables in the seating area back to the door.
When I say the deli masters were calling out for orders left and right, I’m not exaggerating. They called the next person in line, took their order, made their order, left their order at the register with a word about whose it was, then returned to the next person in line. Having worked in both education and customer service, I’ve navigated my fair share of organized chaos. But let me tell you, I have no idea how they kept orders straight in that place – they were taking and making them faster than the cashiers could ring them up!
Not only that, but they got the orders right! The four of us ordered four different things, and we each got exactly what we asked for. Super impressive.
I was looking for a bagel that could be on a hit TV show, and I found a bagel that could have its own hit TV show. I’ve always loved a good bagel sandwich, and Zucker’s takes it to the next level. I got the Columbus sandwich, which is egg whites, smoked bacon, swiss cheese, and avocado on your choice of bagel. Color me stuffed.
Two of my friends got equally extravagant bagel sandwiches. One was the Lexington: your choice of bagel with egg whites, swiss cheese, and spinach loaded on. The other extravagant bagel was cinnamon sugar with honey and walnut schmear (that’s cream cheese, for those of you who aren’t hip to the Yiddish). Our other friend opted for the traditional lox and schmear – which he very generously let the rest of us try. I can confirm that it’s excellent.
If you’re in Manhattan, track this place down. They have locations in several neighborhoods around the island. Or, if you can’t make it to the Big Apple to get a big bagel, they deliver nationwide.
Visiting Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish:
Getting there: Zucker’s has four locations:
- Tribeca: 146 Chambers Street
- Flatiron District: 40 E. 23rd Street
- Grand Central: 370 Lexington Ave.
- Upper West Side: 273 Columbus Ave.
Hours: All locations are open 6:30AM to 5:30PM daily, except Grand Central, which is open Monday through Friday from 6:30AM to 5:30PM and Saturday and Sunday from 7AM to 3PM.
Website: If you want to check out the menu or get more information, you can visit the Zucker’s website here.