When I wrote about visiting Scout, on Sunset, to get a familiar breakfast bagel, a holdover from my stint as a New Yorker, a friend texted shortly after: Scout? Go to Brooklyn Bagel! And thus, an awakening began. Because I moved back to LA in 2016, and a faulty brick wall caused this beloved bagel shop to close indefinitely in 2015, I simply hadn’t been. I had heard Brooklyn Bagel reopened in late 2018, but just hadn’t gotten around to going. This text sent me on a journey, and created the kind of coverage cycle I always hoped Cinnamon would; Oh you like that place, try this one, too. (And yes, I will do Belle’s Bagels in the near future, because they are unique in their own way, and they have the best toppings. Two words: Salmon skin.)
Now, that I’ve been to the remote spot on Beverly a couple (many) times — doing editorial research, I insisted — I’ve learned the bagels are definitely delicious. They are small and crisp and sorta-sour like they’re supposed to, dotted with nutty seeds (sesame) or filled in the middle with slick, salty onions (everything), and finished with tight, crackly crusts that give way to a doughiness without venturing into underdone territory. I forgave myself for missing this not-too-far-off-the-beaten-path gem due to its closure, and am now set on making it right. I even bought a whole dozen bagels and brought them to a friend’s video shoot last month for good luck, before remembering: she’s gluten free. (Poor me, I ate bagels for a week straight.)
I’m not sure why anyone would get a bagel that isn’t sesame or everything, unless forced to by lack of options, but I did make myself try a pumpernickel once, for research, and it was deliciously tart, leaning into the sourdough but not letting anything eclipse the rye, not even the caraway seeds mixed into the dough (!) Incredible balance, really, and I liked it a lot for someone who only eats sesame or everything bagels. Personally, I do not care for any egg bagels, but I did find it comforting that the shop offers them, along with a poppy egg variation.
Sweet bagels are disgusting, but they have them. Cheese-covered bagels usually make me sick, and I’d always rather go all the way in for pizza if I’m in the mood for that much cheese covered bread, but they have those, too. They also have bialys, which I think are worthless. But they have them! The bagels, bialys and onion stix (equally worthless, but fine because they don’t attempt a bagel shape) are all baked fresh, seven days a week, as they should be. The shop is open 6 AM to 2 PM only, so if you’re hungover and craving a bagel, get out of bed before 1:45 PM and don’t drive there slowly, not paying attention, only to miss your chance.
On the flipside, if you go in after 1 PM, all the bagels are half off, because they must bake fresh ones for the next day. You can also call to place your order ahead of time, which I’ve started doing, because there’s often a wait. I would prefer if they offered cream cheese that was only mixed with scallions, but they offer an herb blend, instead, so I’ve been adjusting. Some of the sandwich makers put the tiniest film of cream cheese on the bagel, as if karmic counterparts for their New York brethren who tried to kill me by smashing a whole pound of cream cheese into my bagel. It’s not bad that they do this, I could probably stand to eat less dairy, always, it’s just different.
Brooklyn Bagel does remind me of New York, because of all the bagel flavors and how fresh they are, but it’s also very LA because the sandwiches come slow, and all the combinations are written out neatly and formally, pre-priced, instead of calculated in the bagel slinger’s head as he makes it (though you can build your own sandwich; it’s allowed.) These bagels are boiled before baking, which is what makes them taste so good, and they help disprove the theory that the only real way to make bagels is with New York water. The shop has a great feel, but it doesn’t have any bodega wildness, even if it is a quaint old building, just next door to the original shop that had the faulty wall.
I’ve learned the shop first opened in 1953 (!) by founder Seymour Friedman and operated in West Adams until 1965, when the operation moved to the block where it’s currently housed. Then, Seymour’s son Louis worked alongside his father, and later shouldered the family business for a while, until in 2015, the Friedman family sold to a new owner, Vanik Elchibegian, who took over, and was almost immediately met with the fateful wall collapse. Tough break, but I’m glad he was able and committed to get the store back open.
Final thoughts: I would prefer the 49 types of cream cheese that bodegas have, especially laid out front in the big tins, especially scallion cream cheese. I would also prefer if these bagels were just slightly bigger, with more surface area, and if the everything variation had dried garlic and dried onion on it, even if the fresh onion is an interesting power move that I respect. Overall, I recognize that bagels aren’t consumed in quite the same way in LA, and the majority of the business Brooklyn Bagel does is wholesale, so these amenities would probably hurt their overhead. Despite it all, as far as I can tell, these are the best bagels in Los Angeles. I like them very much, and I will continue to eat them as research for this piece, even after it is published.