Katz Bagel Bakery
I have lived in the Boston metro area for 12 years and I’ve not had a single proper bagel since my arrival. Not one, not once, not ever. And I’m from the state of New Jersey, where the bagels flow like water and the streets are paved with cream cheese. In the entire time I’ve lived here, through college, 7 different apartments, a wedding, a condo, a dog, essentially my entire adult life, I’ve not had a single bagel worthy of the type I know from home and growing up.
I’ve had two bagel places on my radar for a while, after picking up some information on the Boston Area forum of Chowhound, Rosenfeld‘s in Newton, and Katz‘s in Chelsea. Late last night as we were drifting off to sleep, we decided to go grocery shopping early this morning (9 am, early for some), and we had previously decided to check out the new Market Basket store in Chelsea, and so a plan clicked in my head. “We can go to Katz’s for a bagel on the way!”, I murmured in my almost-sleep state, and began to get VERY excited. This morning, I jotted down the address for the GPS and we headed out.
First things first — this place is way closer to our house than I anticipated, and it was shockingly easy to get to on a Sunday morning. From our neck of the woods, it was pretty much a straight shot on route 16, with a few turns near the Everett-Revere line into Chelsea. Katz’s Bagel Bakery is very small, about the size of a small bedroom with a kitchen off to the side. The first thing that hit me was the smell. That smell — it was PERFECT, bringing to mind every good bagel shop I know from back home. The second it hit my nose, I knew we were in for a treat. I saw a handful of bagel types under the counter, including garlic, onion, plain, pumpernickel, marble, cinnamon raisin, and sesame. To me, these are the quintessential bagel flavors, and I was happy to see them represented. Over to the side, I saw some pizza bagels (!), and around the back a few loaves of what appeared to be raisin bread. Behind the cashier was a small fridge which contained a few beverages and tub upon tub of cream cheese. There was also a very cute little soda machine which looked like it was from the 60s, which advertised 50 cent sodas.
Upon entry, the guy behind the counter was chatting with another customer about the Pollo Campero down the street, which opened earlier in the year to round-the-clock crowds and insane demand. Apparently someone had taken the “drive through” mentality of the restaurant a little too seriously, and actually drove their car through the side of the restaurant. It is closed until further notice, which is quite sad as I was also looking forward to getting there soon. The cashier continued the discussion with us as we approached, and then we gave our order. I ordered a garlic bagel with cream cheese, and Elysabeth ordered an onion bagel with their homemade lox and chive cream cheese. He asked me, “You don’t want lox and chive?” I mentioned that this was my first trip to the store and wanted to get a baseline with the plain cream cheese first, but he gave me a little sample on a plastic knife to try, and I was sold. Two bagels, and two bottles of water later (“I have coffee too!”), we were out of there without so much as a bag. We headed back to the car to enjoy.
These bagels, in my somewhat qualified opinion, could stand up against some of the best back in New Jersey. It was warm, with a slight edge to its crust that gave in to an amazingly chewy center, which blended with the cream cheese flavor and a strong hit of garlic that wasn’t kidding in any way. This was truly the bagel of my dreams, the home away from home, that I’ve been missing and only getting to experience on those few trips to New Jersey we take every year. There is no exaggeration: this is the real deal. The only thing that could have possibly made this better would have been another one on the spot. Luckily, we were already away from the shop, so we didn’t entertain that possible indulgence.
Given the proximity the store is to our house, and the proximity the store is to this gigantic new Market Basket location, I envision this becoming a small tradition for our Sunday mornings whenever possible. I will be sure to take all visiting friends and family from home here, and would urge ANYONE with a taste for bagels to make the trek as it is ENTIRELY worth every second traveled and every cent spent (which, for the record, was only $7 for two bagels with cream cheese and two waters).