Bagels are one of those foods that seem distinctly American, yet their origins tell a different story. They were first brought to the U.S. in the 1800’s by Eastern European immigrants, and they are thought to have originated in Poland over two hundred years prior. Bagels did not become mainstream in the U.S. until the 1970’s, but they have proliferated ever since.
This heightened popularity has led to the rise of pre-baked, frozen and packaged specimens that bear no resemblance to the original. Finding an authentic product has become a difficult task, especially here in New Hampshire.
The folks behind Bagel Café have remedied this problem. The bagels at this humble little shop on Hanover Street are the real deal. Owner Ismail Kahya has been crafting these tasty rings of dough for over thirty years.
“I started this business in 1986 Long Island, New York. After that, I moved to New Hampshire in 1996 and I opened my own business,” said Kayha.
No shortcuts are made at the Bagel Café. All bagels are freshly made on the premises each morning. They are shaped by hand before being steamed and baked to a golden brown resulting in a soft interior and slightly crisp exterior that cannot be duplicated.
“Customers notice because they are fresh baked daily. They are not frozen or par-baked bagels. They notice the taste because we have our own recipe. That’s why people love us. We’ve been in Manchester for 23 years,” said Kahya.
Bagel café carries all the classic flavors, including onion, sesame, cinnamon raisin and French toast. The most popular varieties are plain and everything, the latter of which is coated in a tongue-tingling combination of poppy and sesame seeds, garlic, onion and salt. No bagel would be complete without a thick schmear of cream cheese, and Bagel Café offers a dozen homemade varieties.
Breakfast sandwiches are especially popular during the early hours of the day and the café offers turkey clubs, BLTs and other deli sandwiches for lunch. There are even homemade pizza bagels, which combine two quintessential New York foods into one toasty masterpiece.
For a true taste of New York, order the Nova Lox Bagel. This assertive sandwich features smoked salmon, plain cream cheese, tomato, onion and capers. The sharp, salty flavors are tamed by the rich cream cheese, making for well-balanced breakfast or lunch.
Although the original location is in Manchester, Kahya opened a second café in Bedford about seven years ago. He plans to open a third operation, but the location has yet to be determined.
A well-made bagel is a reminder that the most satisfying foods are often the simplest. Bagel Café is giving these addictive breads the attention they deserve.