January 7, 2015

Why Philadelphia is Still in Knead of Great Bagels

Fennel & Sea Salt from Knead
Amid all the conversations about what amazing food Philadelphia does have, one repeat afterthought remains: "...but you really can't get a great bagel around here." Many have tried - and we're getting better - but for anyone who defines a "great bagel" as the plump, fluffy wonders from New York/North Jersey, the void frustratingly lingers on. Especially in Center City, which is really our personal frame of bagel reference.

Spread brought us smaller, chewier wood-fired Montreal bagels, which are good in their own right. The trick is to head for right side of the counter and ask for a couple unsliced bagels to-go with a tub of cream cheese so you can skip the line that always snakes out the door. Watch out for the prices, though; a dozen costs $18 - yowzers.

According to Michael Klein at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Spread plans to open a second location in Midtown Village and will compete with another Montreal-style bagelry coming called Mount Royal Bagel Company. Queen Village's South Street Philly Bagels, which we often hear has great bagels but haven't tried yet, is also expanding to 17th & Chestnut in early 2015 so hope is still alive. 

Togarashi, Plain and Fennel/Sea Salt from Knead
Knead bagels is the newest kid on the block (7th & Walnut to be exact), baking a perfectly fine variety, too. They are kettle-boiled, a little larger than Spread and less dense - but still didn't satisfy our search for that big fluffy NY bagel. Looks like Midtown Lunch agrees.

At Knead you can get traditional plain, poppy, everything, etc. with butter ($2) or cream cheese ($3), as well as a standard bacon or sausage/egg/cheese ($6) sandwich.

But what's more fun about Knead is their non- traditional menu deemed for the "brave and curious." Mix and match any of their unique bagels and spreads or defer to a helpfully suggested combo for $3.50, such as: Black Sesame bagel with kimchee cream cheese; Moroccan Spiced Apricot with lemon goat cheese spread; or Superload vegan bagel with red lentil hummus.

I enjoyed the Fennel Seed & Sea Salt bagel with regular cream cheese, which had a nice boost of flavor over a plain bagel without feeling like fennel was being waved in your face. The menu suggests it with roasted tomato cream cheese, not my thing. Bradd tried the Togarashi bagel with scallion lime cream cheese. Knead staff warn you that its Japanese mixed chili pepper flavor comes with a heavy kick, but he didn't think it was very hot. The accompanying cream cheese could have skipped the lime and just gone with scallion (a personal favorite flavor). For lunch Knead also has some soups and bagel sandwich options.

Will we go back? Sure, why not, if we're in the Washington Square neighborhood and want an alternative to Talula's Daily's baked goods. Otherwise our go-to remains the South Square Market grocery store at 23rd & South, where for less than $1 we find the plumpest bagels within walking distance of Rittenhouse. Knead only delivers east of Broad Street.

We're probably not going out of our way for a Knead bagel but are happy to see more dedicated bagelries arriving to up Philly's game. We're getting all these chefs moving here from NY to open restaurants, how about someone bring down a great NY bagel shop??

Other flavors available at Knead Bagels: Pastrami Spiced and Garlic. Get there before they sell out!


The Redhead Baker said...

I really like the bagels at South Street Philly Bagels: http://www.southstphillybagel.com/ I used to live on that block and ate there just about every morning.

Tim said...

Agreed with The Redhead Baker. I used to live a few houses down and it was a weekend routine. And as a former New Yorker, I can attest that they are pretty close to what I'm used to. Much more so than any other place in Philly.

I will admit, though, that a bacon egg and cheese on an everything bagel from Spread - with the Amish jam - is something special.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with the others. I appreciate the creativity in the new bagel places, but in terms of your classic, big, crusty on the outside, fluffy/chewy on the inside bagel, South Street bagels are the best I've found. Certainly not gonna say they're the best ever, but with the dearth of good selections around here, they're pretty much the only game in town when I'm looking for the prototypical bagel on a leisurely weekend morning.

ashley horowitz said...

Come try a freshly baked bagel at the next Philly Style Bagel pop-up - this Sunday, February 22nd!!! The boys will be at Pizzeria Beddia serving bagels from 9 A.M. until they sell out, which is usually around 12. We'd love to have you!