Our city is a culinary capital: Chef Georges Perrier is known throughout the world; Marc Vetri and Michael Solomonov have won James Beard Awards; and Jose Garces is an Iron Chef.
However, there is one food that, until several weeks ago, you could not find in the city: An authentic bagel. I searched high and low. I found fake bagels in Queen Village and bakeries that shall remain nameless on the Main Line. I call these atrocities pregnant Marilyn Monroes — they’re fat, dishwater blond in color, bereft of texture and often lack a hole in the center.
For months I have been waiting for Spread Bagelry to open. The Internet was abuzz that Larry Rosenblum of Center City and Mark Cosgrove of Elkins Park were to open a Montreal bagel restaurant.
Huzzah! Real bagels can now be found near Rittenhouse Square.
A little history is in order before I tell you to run, not walk, to Spread Bagelry if you have been deprived of real bagels for years and years.
Montreal bagels are made-by-hand, treated to a hot-water bath, laced with a little bit of honey and baked in a wood-burning oven until deep, golden brown on the outside and chewy inside. I’ve eaten bagels in Montreal and they are, like our original astronauts, the real thing.
I made several visits to Spread Bagelry. I appeared on opening day and placed my order at the counter where I received a big ceramic coffee mug to fill with rich, dark La Colombe coffee ($2). You may drink as much of this splendid blend as you wish. The line was out the door, but I didn’t care. I was salivating with hope that my lunch would take me to my childhood when bagels were real.
I ordered a classic everything bagel with cream cheese, smoked nova, plum tomatoes and Vidalia onions ($9). Rosenblum places his prized bagels in a red plastic basket lined with wax paper. I found it difficult to eat this way because I like to eat my bagel and nova open face. There was little room to rearrange my lunch but no matter. One bite and I was dining on Jewish soul food at its finest. I thought it funny that the eatery included a kosher dill pickle instead of cucumbers and Greek olives, which I always serve with bagels and smoked fish.
I walked into the backroom and slid onto a banquette. The table was an adorable, small, round piece of granite — the kind found in old-fashioned ice cream parlors. I forgot to bring a book but lady luck was on my side. Rosenblum and Cosgrove provide newspapers, books and magazines for your reading pleasure.
On an blustery, rainy Sunday morning, Edward dropped me off at Spread Bagelry where I purchased a few everything, a sesame seed and a poppy bagel. Bagels are $2 a piece but worth every cent. They are made by people, not machines.
Commercial whitefish salad can be too salty, mushy in texture and contain too much mayonnaise. Congratulations to Rosenblum because he hit the mark. It is pricey — $8 for half a pound. It is, in my estimation, the finest you can purchase anywhere. Rosenblum told me they fillet jumbo whitefish at the restaurant and blend it by hand. In other word, they make it themselves.
Bagel with whitefish salad, tomato and onion is $9 if you eat it at the restaurant.
I am familiar with Acme smoked fish in Brooklyn, N.Y. Many restaurants buy their nova, regular lox and whitefish salad from them. Rosenblum said he purchases his smoked fish from Banner in Coney Island, N.Y. I did some culinary sleuthing and discovered this company treats their fish to a cold smoke using maple wood. This is why the taste and texture of the fish at Spread Bagelry was so divine.
The restaurant is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. According to the menu “our spreads are homemade — using seasonal, local farm fresh and organic ingredients whenever possible.”
Three extraordinary tips of the toque to Spread Bagelry. SPR
262 S. 20th St.
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