How New York Institution Ess-A-Bagel Makes Its Beloved Bagels
The quality of a New York bagel is unlike anywhere else: Some say it has something to do with the water. Others say it's a matter of using the best ingredients.
At Ess-A-Bagel, the second-best bagel shop in New York according to Yelp users, it's also about process, precision, and practice.
Videographer Paul Lin went behind the scenes at Ess-A-Bagel to see how they make this light, chewy New York food icon.
First, a little history. Ess-A-Bagel, which means "eat a bagel" in Yiddish, was founded in 1976 at its first location on 21st Street and 1st Avenue. It later added a second location on 51st Street and 3rd Avenue.
Ess-A-Bagel's bagels are so popular that the line is usually out the door. The staff is super friendly, quick to strike up a conversation while they expertly work behind the counter.
The dough is made with yeast and, after it rises, it's cut, rolled, and formed into rings. Unlike other breads, bagels don't just get thrown in the oven—they're boiled first.
Boiling the bagels essentially sets the crusty outside before it goes in the oven. That way it doesn't lose its shape. The bagels are flipped with a large slotted spoon and boiled for about 30-60 seconds per side.
After the boil, the bagels can be sprinkled with seeds or other toppings. Then the bagels are laid out on big stacked trays and baked in the oven until they get a nice golden exterior.
Ess-A-Bagel can bake dozens and dozens of bagels at a time in its high-capacity oven.
The kitchen staff removes the warm, fresh bagels from the oven with what looks like a large pizza peel. Ess-A-Bagel bakes continuously throughout the day (not just in the morning), so the bagels are always fresh.
They're kept in wire containers until customers order them. They can be bought by the dozen...
...or ordered at the counter and fixed with any number of cream cheeses and salads, or buttered and enjoyed as is.
The staff slices it, shmears it, and tops it with a healthy dose of lox.
After the bagel is adorned with the appropriate fixings—onions, tomatoes, capers—it's served to a lucky customer.
Ready to enjoy!
Ess-A-Bagel was #2 on our list of best bagels in New York. See the other nine shops on our list.