I have now lived here in the Twin Cities for 11 years and in that time, I have alienated fans of Cecil’s Deli, Prime Deli, Mort’s Deli, Bruegger’s Bagels, and pretty much anyplace else that serves a bagel or a pastrami sandwich. But I keep trying all of them – because, at some point, I am determined to eat the foods of my people without throwing my hands up in disappointment (Larry David style). At some point, someone will figure out how to do it right and not just…alright.
Let’s talk bagels again. While I wait for my parents to arrive this weekend with a baker’s dozen from Queens, I decided to schlep to the Powderhorn Park/Corcoran/Standish triangle to sample the latest attempt at legitimately delicious bagels (and bialys). You may remember this fiasco from 2012.
Let me back up for a minute. The bialy, perhaps even more Jewish than a bagel, is virtually non-existent here in the TC. While bagels of all kinds are ubiquitous, the simple yet amazing bialy is nowhere to be found. For those unfamiliar, bialys come from Bialystok, Poland and like its cousin, the bagel, made its way to America with waves of Ashkenazi Jews. Unlike the classic bagel, the bialy is not boiled – but only baked. And there is no hole, only a depression filled with chopped onions. In my opinion, there is only one way to eat a bialy – toasted with butter.
My dad would frequently be out working on weekend mornings and home before we got up. More often than not, he would leave a bag of bagels on the counter. If I was lucky, I would be awake and downstairs to catch the bagels while they were still warm. A quality bagel doesn’t need to be toasted or to be slathered with strawberry cream cheese. Just warm out of the bag for me. Next to the big bag of bagels was another, smaller bag. In this bag was one bialy – specifically for my mom. When she got up, that thing got toasted and buttered and she always let me have a bite.
So here comes Asa’s Bakery, opening a brick and mortar location after selling their baked goods at the Midtown Farmers Market. What a fun Sunday adventure I thought – head over to Asa’s, get some bagels and bialys, schmooze a little, etc. And hopefully, they’ll be awesome and I can write this piece and people will stop yelling at me for being a bagel snob. It opened at 10 a.m. and there was a 90-minute line wrapping around the block. With my 1-year old in tow, that wasn’t going to happen, so we decided to call it quits.
Walking to the car, I saw a guy with a large paper bag filled with everything I wanted right at that moment. I shouted at him – “Would you give me one for five bucks?” He didn’t flinch and reached into the bag for a bialy. We made the exchange and there I stood with my coveted bialy, cold and with no butter.
But I have great news – even without its toasty, buttery goodness, this was a solid bialy. I could tell. So consider this a little taste of what’s to come – because one day soon, I’ll be back and will provide all of the details.