As you walk into Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, take a moment to look at the framed photographs on the wall. You'll get a short lesson on the history of bagel making in America.
Three generations of the Friedman family are represented. My personal favorite is a yellowing group portrait with Louis Friedman, a founding member of the New York Beigel (i.e. Bagel) Bakers Union, in a 10th anniversary photo taken in 1937.
Bagel making at that time was an apprenticed trade. Of Russian descent, Louis had a son, Seymour, who first set up shop in the West Adams district in 1953. Back then it was a Jewish neighborhood. He named it Brooklyn Bagel Bakery simply because that's where he was from.
As the landlord raised the rent and the neighborhood changed, the Friedmans decided it was time to move. The current location was chosen mostly for size, zoning and freeway access for their delivery business.
There was an unexpected rise on walk-in retail business, people on their way in and out of downtown can easily pull over and shop.
"It's the water," one argument goes on why you can't make a "New York" style bagel in Los Angeles. In the interest of self preservation, we're going to stay out of that debate. It turns out water is an important part at a critical point in the process.
Seymour's son, Richard Friedman points out that the air is drier in Southern California. The dry air has an adverse effect during proofing (when the dough rises). Brooklyn Bagels solved that problem by using steam boxes for proofing.
Most of the bagel recipes they've come up with stuck, but for fun I asked Richard about the "not so popular" variations. In an odd way, it reflects some cultural trends.
Everyone remembers the low carb diet craze that put the kibosh on Krispy Kream's foray into world domination. Brookly Bagel's answer, a gluten free bagel. That lasted all of one year at best.
The sun-dried tomato version was phased out last year. Pesto, garden vegetable and Asiago cheese met the same fate. Sometimes a bagel is just a bagel.
The Southern California staples--jalapeno/cheese, cinnamon/raisin--remain popular sellers.
What does Richard like? Perhaps nostalgic for the flavors of the old brick oven at the West Adams location, he points to their specialty, the hearth-baked water bagel.
Rather than being placed on a tray, they are baked right on the shelf of the oven. The heat is more directly transfered to the dough from below giving it more flavor. Do a taste comparison and let us know what you think.
Brookyln Bagel Bakery is located at 2217 Beverly Blvd. LA 90057. Phone is (213) 413-4114. Check the website for hours of operation.