Where to Find an Old-School New York City Bagel

new-york-city-bagel

Like pizza and black and white cookies, bagels are quintessential New York City food, and yet it’s only within the past few years that they became part of the repertoire of the historic bakery.

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You haven’t had a bagel like an Orwashers Bakery bagel. The crunchy outer layer gives way to a chewy inside with just a touch of sourness; it’s not a puffy New York bagel—it’s an old-school New York bagel.

new-york-city-bagel

“I felt it only fitting to venture into bagels so that I could elevate the bagel to its proper status. … I wanted to re-create the bagel of my youth.”

“One of the best ways you can eat an Orwashers bagel is by the dozen. When you bite into it, the older generation will be reclaiming a delicacy of New York’s past. And for a more modern customer, I want them to taste the flavor of a real New York icon,” says Orwashers Bakery owner Keith Cohen.

Like pizza and black and white cookies, bagels are quintessential New York City food, and yet it’s only within the past few years that they became part of the repertoire of the historic bakery.

Abraham Orwasher opened up the original Orwashers Bakery in 1916, on East 78th Street, and for more than 90 years his family baked breads and pastries using recipes passed down through the generations. When Cohen bought the company in 2007, he preserved much of the bakery’s traditions while also looking for ways to expand the brand.

“We’ve been an Eastern European Bread Bakery for 100 years” says Cohen. “I felt it only fitting to venture into bagels so that I could elevate the bagel to its proper status. Growing up in Queens, the bagels I ate were a lot chewier and more flavorful than the bagel store bagels we have now. I wanted to re-create the bagel of my youth.”

new-york-city-bagel

The crunchy outer layer gives way to a chewy inside with just a touch of sourness; it’s not a puffy New York bagel—it’s an old-school New York bagel.

Bagels, believed by food historians to have originated in Poland, first arrived in New York in the late 1800s along with Eastern European immigrants. They were hand rolled, boiled and then baked and tended to be smaller and chewier than the ones we see in many New York bakeries today.

That’s the bagel Cohen set out to create after opening Orwashers flagship Upper West Side location in 2016. Most bagels are boiled, and Orwashers did that, too, at first, but then in an effort to make the bagel-making process more efficient, they decided to try steaming them in the oven instead.

“Choosing steam instead of boiling was out of necessity, both space and equipment. I know some people would say that not boiling your bagel is a sacrilege. But I gotta tell you, I think I can change your mind,” says Cohen.

Bagels at Orwashers are a two-day process, which relies heavily on starters and an overnight fermentation before rolling the bagels and baking them for 16 to 20 minutes. On any given weekday, the Upper West Side location makes 40 dozen bagels with bakers like John Wersan arriving as early as 3:30 in the morning to start the process.

“There’s no talking between 3:30 and 6, we’re just all focused on the baking,” says Wersan.

Read More: Keith Cohen, of Orwasher’s Bakery, shares the secrets to making the perfect sourdough starter.

The everything bagels, with their custom blend is the best seller. Unlike your traditional everything bagel, at Orwashers the bagels get dipped in the everything seasoning, rolled and then dipped again so that the everything blend is baked inside the bagel as well as on top.

new-york-city-bagel

Unlike your traditional everything bagel, at Orwashers best-selling everything bagels get dipped in the everything seasoning, rolled and then dipped again so that the everything blend is baked inside the bagel as well as on top.

On the weekends the Upper West Side location makes around 840 bagels, or 70 dozen.

The bagels, which in addition to everything come in plain, sesame and “Fort Grain” come out of the oven warm and chewy, ready to be scooped and ate straight up, with cream cheese or as the bookends of a sandwich.

new-york-city-bagel

“When you bite into it, the older generation will be reclaiming a delicacy of New York’s past. And for a more modern customer, I want them to taste the flavor of a real New York icon,” says Orwashers Bakery owner Keith Cohen.

They’ve become a popular part of the business which also sells wholesale to popular NYC establishments, including Chop’t Salad, Murray’s Cheese, Flex Mussels, Zabar’s and more.

Stop into Orwashers on the Upper West Side, Upper East Side or in Fort Greene and take Cohen up on his challenge to change your mind about a steamed bagel—especially the double-dipped everything bagel.

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