There are a few items that tourists must eat on their trip to New York City. Thin crust pizza, a dirty water hot dog from a cart, and an authentic NYC bagel. There are probably more, but for the sake of keeping this article down to a decent word count, let’s stick with three.
Something makes bagels from “New Yawk” a bit different from its relatives around the nation. Maybe it’s the water, or perhaps it’s the different things you can put on top of it. It’s a basic bread-type food with many possibilities. “Bantam Bagels” on Bleecker Street has popped up and is offering a new spin on the classic carb, making them bite-sized and filled with flavor combinations that will make you “change the way you bagel”, or so their slogan says.
The story behind Bantam Bagels started with a dream from two Graduates of New York’s Columbia University, and I don’t mean some lofty dream-like goal. I mean a literal dream, when Nick Oleksak woke up one night and told his wife, Elyse, that he dreamt up a bizarre food product. 24 hours later, that bizarre subconscious thought turned into reality – a pint-sized stuffed bagel ball.
Fast forward to 2013, and the couple has opened up their first store with plans for long-term growth. The tiny shop on Bleecker is easy to spot, with a sign of a hanging rooster jutting out from their storefront. Inside, you will be greeted with the familiar scent of baked bread, and the not-so-familiar taste of the many different toppings and filling wafting around the place. You can buy these mini-sized bantam bagels as singles ($1.50), or get a three-pack to try a few different tastes for $5.
The Hot Pretzel is their version of what you would get on the NYC streets or at a ballgame. This little bagel is filled with dijon mustard and a sharp cheddar cream cheese, topped with sea salt crystals like you would see on one of those enormous pretzels in a stadium. The sea salt is quite… well, salty, and I enjoyed the cheesey mustard filling that oozed out of the sides, with the mustard balancing out nicely against the cheddar.
The Bleecker Street is their take on a pizza bagel, with a thin slice of pepperoni placed atop a bagel filled with marinara & mozzarella cream cheese. The meaty garnish would be interesting to try if it was in the filling as well and perhaps cheese was on top, but as is, the bagel was a good mix of tastes that worked well, considering I did not think that tomato sauce would work with cream cheese.
Lastly, the “boxed lunch”, which was your normal plain bagel filled with a peanut butter cream cheese and grape jam, crushed peanut sprinkled on top. A comfort food favorite to seal inside a bagel, sweet and salty and worth taking the risk on. I wish there were some peanuts on top to add more of a crunch to it, but otherwise, the filling was good.
There is also a variety of monthly mini-bagels, but you will have to head to the shop to see what is cooking.
Bantam Bagels flip your expectations of what a bagel is, without deconstructing it too much (I can not wait until some intrepid culinary genius tries to make a minimalist bagel). There are over a dozen varieties to try currently, along with the monthly special, and I look forward to tasting a few others, such as their Greek spiced bagel with feta and olive cream cheese, or the Cookies & Milk bagel. My one desire that would make this place better would be to play more with textures, since right now this eatery is all about the filling, and I think adding something more to chew on will greatly enhance the experience of these mini-bagels. If you are in the area, it’s a unique snack that you should check out for yourself.
Bantam Bagels is located on 283 Bleecker Street in downtown Manhattan, NYC. You can learn more about their business & catering options via their website.