New York Bagels in Philadelphia? Indeed yes…

Where can I get good New York Bagels?  I ask myself over and over as I bite (and then give to the birds) into a doughy, tasteless “New York” style bagel.  Bland, huge, and a bit like chewing on a mattress.  I wrote about this in an earlier post and was thrilled, just a few days later,  to discover the answer on a recent trip to Philadelphia.

Learn to bake bagels

The South Street Bagel Bakery in Philadelphia

The South Street Bagel Bakery has been on 3rd avenue just south of South Street in Philadelphia, since 1996.  They seem to bake through the night and sell a range of  bagels as well as bagels with schmears and fillings.  On this past Sunday we arrived at 10.00 and the line was already out the door.  The smell of baking drifted into the street and the steamy atmosphere of a bakery that boils the bagels before they are baked was a visible sign of good things to come.  We bought a poppy seed bagel for taste and tear tests as well as two stuffed bagels for breakfast.  E had the hummous was really good and I had the lox and cream cheese (with onion and capers of course) and it was excellent.  Both were perfectly, generously filled.

The bagels are really good.  They are fat, as New York bagels are, so you cannot fault them for this and may want to share one bagel between two people because they probably weigh at least 150 grams which is a lot of bagel for one sitting.  Their virtues include:

1.  They have the shiny-chewy-soft crust of the bagel that has been boiled before being baked.

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Shiny crust of a hand shaped, boiled first, bagel

2.  They are not overly sweet which makes a nice change.

3.  They pass the tear test – being neither too easy to tear on the horizontal plane (too much air – think industrially made white bread) nor too difficult (too dense – think mattresses).  This means they are chewy and satisfying – a bagel you have to work at in a good way.

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Quite difficult to tear - neither too dense nor too airy

My only criticism of the bagels is that they have some flavour but not enough.  As ever, this is a personal issue.  I am a sourdough girl and am accustomed to it’s strong flavour so this could just be me.  I would love to know what anyone else thinks.  The bakery uses unbleached flour which is great but I don’t know how it is milled, nor where it comes from.  Whatever the answer, the flour is not that tasty and although I am absolutely certain the bagels have a long rise (although I don’t know for sure so would love it is the bakery came back to us on this) I think the flavour could be improved by retarding the rise.  I appreciate that this requires a massive fridge and so may not be feasable but the bakery could use old dough in the mix to strengthen the flavour.  Once again, just my taste and not reflective of anyone else’s!

The queue out the door is proof that the product is popular and by any measure, it’s a good product and well worth travelling to Philly to sample.  If you cannot get there and cannot live without good bagels, we will be posting a bagel recipe soon and if you want some expert guidance, click here to book into a bagel class.  Bagels three ways.  Cannot beat that.