Don’t Believe the Hype: Black Seed Bagels Are Just So … Ordinary

Posted on: July 21st, 2014 at 10:26 am by
This image has been archived or removed.

The world of bagels is not unlike the world of pizza – even a bad bagel is still a good bagel. From Lenders to Pain d’Avignon – I’ve never met a bagel I didn’t devour. Give me an “as is,” toasted, grilled, sandwiched, buttered, cheesed – I draw the line at loxed, unless I’m in the mood to destroy something beautiful. I will usually defer to an Everything toasted with butter or cream cheese, because I like to keep a subjective running tally of the best I’ve had. Few have been the champion of my affections; most are unsung heroes plugging along, feeding my daily bagel addiction, lulling me into a false sense of security that they’ll always be there, only to vanish suddenly and send me spiraling into an unwarranted carbohydrate detox, roaming the streets on a quest for bagels as good as (fill in the blank).

Black Seed on Elizabeth Street, as you’ve probably heard by now, is the “it” place for Montreal-style bagels. So they say. It’s the brainchild of Mile End’s Noah Bernamoff (famed for driving the sought after bagel down from Canada daily), and Smile’s Matt Kliegman. I read the reviews, I bought into the hype, I salivated over the descriptions of hand-rolled chewy, dense bagels first boiled in honey water, then crisply baked in a custom wood fired oven. Honey water – if that isn’t something straight from the chalice of Zeus, I don’t know what is. They also, from what I’d heard, purvey decent coffee (Stumptown). This was my holy food grail. It had to be.

This image has been archived or removed.

Black Seed

When I arrived, the line was six deep; just about time for second breakfast. The menu was sort of a pain in the ass to peruse in tight quarters, and written in script on a mirror. But no matter – I went with my one-of-two failsafes, an Everything with cream cheese, toasted.

I’ve read more than I’d care to admit about these so-called “bagel wars” between New York and Montreal, as well as purist propaganda on “the proper way to eat a bagel.” I’ve come across highbrow tones that insist bagels should not be toasted – Montreal bagels in particular. These have been minutes spent that I apologetically can never get back; in their wake, I can only offer up this one personal absolute: if your bagel cannot be delicious when toasted, I want no part of it.

I waited several minutes, the steady line of patrons hugging the wall and doing a tiny shuffle when those who chose to eat within the confines of the shop had to get up for napkins, sugar in their coffee, etc. I giddily ordered and slid to the right to await what I presumed to be the best bagel ever. I recall the cashier saying something like $6 or so, but I handed her my debit card, completely oblivious – yes, fine, whatever it costs, money is no object, I must have this bagel!

This image has been archived or removed.

Finally, they called my name, and I swear the world stopped spinning and a light shone down from the heavens as the Black Seed employee handed me my small, warm prize wrapped in white paper. I squeezed past hungry onlookers and scurried to Sara D. Roosevelt Park to scarf it down. I found a perfect spot, and unwrapped it. It looked pretty well-done, but maybe this is what the whole Montreal thing is about – charred bagels! After all, it’s not like I’ve had many in this style before.

I grinned to myself and took a bite. It was salty, but not terribly so. It was small, and slightly burned, but these things didn’t phase me. What nagged at me as I tried to tell myself that this was a spectacular bagel, was that it tasted so… so… nondescript. And then the echoing cashier’s price tag came back to haunt me, and my skeptical American brain kicked into judging gear: “This? This is worth that much, and it only tastes ordinary?” As I watched the kids zipping about in the park, I took a moment for self-reflection. First, I felt a little bad about buying such a costly baked good, especially knowing at least five other places in the neighborhood that could provide me with equal or greater satisfaction, and at a fraction of the price. I blamed myself for ordering a toasted bagel – perhaps I should shell out and give them another go. But I knew in my heart it wasn’t a toasting issue. I blamed gentrification and the emperor’s new clothes hype effect it’s had on maintaining a successful enterprise on the Lower East Side. This bagel is a microcosm for what’s happening to the neighborhood.

And then I resolutely blamed Montreal. Because, history of this fine food aside, they should really leave well enough alone.

 

 

Recent Stories

Full GovBall Lineup Announced for Summer 2020

This year marks the 10th anniversary of The Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island, and Founders Entertainment has tapped some big names to kick off the celebration. Headliners for this year’s festival are GovBall veterans Tame Impala, alongside New York indie darlings Vampire Weekend. New additions to the top slots include venerable Fleetwood Mac […]

International Center of Photography Launches at Essex Crossing Next Week

For the International Center of Photography, four years of transition come to an end next week, as the institution plans its inauguration at Essex Crossing. The 40,000 square-foot museum and school, reunited for the first time since the midtown move, will debut on January 25 with a free “Opening Community Day.” Visitors on day one […]

Michelin-Star Chef Bringing Omakase to Former Black Tap on Ludlow Street

From shakes to sushi. After the epic bomb that was Black Tap, 177 Ludlow Street is now taking a more upscale tack. Omakase, which is Japanese dining for the ultra-luxe set. Real Estate Weekly has the scoop, reporting that a new mystery tenant, who currently owns and operates eight restaurants in New York and Tokyo, […]

‘Karvouna’ Evicted from the Bowery After Less than a Year

Restaurants can’t seem to make it work at 241 Bowery. The latest entrant, Karvouna Mezze, just joined the growing list of failures at this address. The City Marshal paid a visit to the restaurant and shut it down. All told, Karvouna lasted barely one year. Partners Dimitris Vlahakis, Wei Chen, and Chef Giuseppe Scalco (Merakia […]

Beastie Boys and Spike Jonze Announce New Documentary for Apple+

Apple yesterday announced that a new Beastie Boys documentary is coming to its Apple+ platform this spring. Right alongside the 26th anniversary of Ill Communication. Beastie Boys Story is just that – the history of the band as told by surviving members Mike D. and Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz. It’s based on the bestselling Beastie Boys […]