Growing up in the shadows of the Boston skyline, I developed a fondness for bagels. While I am sure my mother got us bagels, what I really remember is having the best bagels at my friend Jay’s house.
When I was 13 years old, my family moved out of Revere, Mass. I said good-bye to friends, and my life was set on a new path. Over the miles and over the decades, I never forgot those bagels. My friend’s mom, Linda, recently connected with me on Facebook, and we “talked” about those bagels. I believe she and her late husband, Gerald (who was an incredible baker himself), would pick up the bagels at a couple places. The only one I remember is Katz Bagels in Chelsea, Mass.
Katz Bagels was founded as a bakery by Harry Katz, in 1938. He made challah, rolls, bread and bagels, but it became apparent the people wanted the bagels. “We, at Katz Bakery, take all the necessary steps to ensure the quality of our bagels,” Richard Katz wrote on the company’s website. “My father taught me never to skimp on the quality of your ingredients because you only fool yourself, not your customers.”
When Wendi and I visited Manhattan this past summer, we had the chance to try the bagels at Ess-a-Bagels. These bagels were incredible. We headed there one morning, but we got there too late. The line was way out the door.
Bagels must be boiled. Bagels you buy in the grocery store in the dairy case or freezer are typically steamed. Boiling the bagels lead to chewy interiors and crispy exteriors. Ess-a-Bagels boils them (as does Katz).
I have had some good bagels over the years after leaving Revere. Bruegger’s Bagels, Einstein Bros. and Marx Hot Bagels (in Cincinnati) all make good bagels. Wootown Bagels in Wooster make a good one, too. But, for me, Katz is the best I have ever had. It is hard to articulate why. If you ever find yourself in the Boston area, check out Katz Bagels, you will be glad you did. (And, pick me up a garlic and a sesame seed.)
I should also add, Katz Bagels had the biggest and best whoopie pie I ever had.