There was once a time in my life when a good bagel meant that my dad had gone to Costco and picked up a bag of cheese bagels from the bakery section and an economy-sized tub of cream cheese. And while anyone can admit that a Costco bagel surely is delicious, it’s nothing in comparison to a real fresh bagel.
Now that I’m here in Portland and living the urban in-city lifestyle sans transportation, Costco bagels are out of the question for me. Luckily, I’ve discovered some wonderful options within the city that have opened my eyes to what a real bagel tastes like.
When in doubt, follow your Jewish friends to their favorite bagel and schmear joint (I got lucky, my roommate is Jewish) because, in my experience, they’ve always got a good nose for bagels. And if you’re running low on Jewish friends, then here are my top three recommendations:
1) Kettleman Bagel Company
Locations: 2314 NW Lovejoy St.; 2235 SE 11th Ave.; 845 SW 4th Ave.; 2200 NE Broadway; 4704 SW Scholls Ferry Rd.
Whatever part of Portland you’re in, you can likely find your way to a Kettleman’s for a delicious freshly-made bagel. Locally owned and operated, the bagel company was founded in Portland in 2006. They use fresh ingredients and produce them in small batches throughout the day to ensure that the bagel you’re getting is basically fresh out of the oven. The variety of bagels offered includes: everything, blueberry, pumpernickel, and sun dried tomato – just to name a few. The cream cheese flavors are what really caught my attention here: smoked salmon, mixed berry, cinnamon raisin walnut, pimento olive… they even have Tofutti vegan cream cheese! Whether you’re stopping in for your morning coffee and bagel breakfast, or you’d like to pop in for lunch to try one of their bagel sandwiches, Kettleman’s will consistently serve you a fresh and delicious bagel that is both Kosher certified and vegan-friendly.
2) Kornblatt’s Deli
Location: 628 NW 23rd Ave.
Kornblatt’s New York Style Delicatessen is dedicated to “New York Cuisine” and “Jewish Soul Food”, according to the website. And from my experiences with both New York cuisine and Kornblatt’s, I can say they certainly live up to their claim. With 14 varieties of bagels – including salt, blueberry, and sesame – Kornblatt’s bagels are boiled and baked daily to ensure freshness because, according to them, “You haven’t lived until you’ve noshed on a fresh bagel.” They also offer two unique creations known as the Pizza Bagel and the Bagel Dog. For your toasted bagel, you can opt for such cream cheese flavors as green onion, garlic herb, and spicy chili, or you can add some salmon or white fish. The list of tasty options is long and the bagels are always fresh and soft, so stop in for a bagel when you’re strolling along beautiful NW 23rd.
3) Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen
Location: 1038 SW Stark St.
The first few times my Jewish roommate took me to Kenny & Zuke’s, I was too busy involving myself in a love affair with the egg-salad sandwich to even glance at the bagel selection. When I finally did stray from the usual for a fresh, handmade bagel, I found myself slightly disappointed that it had taken me so long to do so. A Portland original dedicated to traditional Jewish fare, Kenny & Zuke’s offers handmade bagels and bialies boiled and baked daily. You can get an onion, garlic, or poppy bagel, just to name a few, and top it with butter, cream cheese, lox, and capers. The bagels are rolled by hand, and are not “giant balls of hard dough, or soft breads,” according to their website. “They are faithful approximations of the handmade bagel. Each rolled with love.” That handcrafted love is exactly what you’re getting when you treat yourself to a Kenny & Zuke’s bagel.