Bagels are an integral part of New York food culture, but what happens when (deep breath) Russians and Bulgarians bring a French-Canadian-inspired Polish bagel recipe to Brooklyn? Mile End's Canadian smoked meat has previously charmed a deeply judgmental city, so maybe it's not beyond the realm of possibility for the new B&B Empire to upend New Yorkers' bagel arrogance. Or is it? Our knee-jerk reaction suggests they may have their work cut out for them.
B&B Empire, which opened Tuesday in a converted historical site in Cobble Hill, is the first location in New York that produces "Montreal bagels" in house. Though you might see Montreal bagels advertised at other delis, they are almost all imports. Fresh from "a custom made wood-burning oven," the Montreal bagel is a bit sweeter, denser and less salty (zero salt, in fact!) than the New York style bagel.
Top recommendations from B&B Empire owners include the Montreal bagel with smoked pastrami, smoked salmon ($7.50) or the scallion cream cheese ($3.25). For those with a sweet tooth, the cinnamon apple crepe and orange honey crepe ($7.50) have also been in high demand. Straying from the concept of an authentic Jewish Deli, the menu also includes salads, soups, sandwiches and... penne? Well, there's an explanation for that. Chef Iggy Kostov explains the plans for the future: "We want to convert the place into a full service Montreal-style restaurant for evening hours and as a catering service for parties, but before we want to perfect our product and market it to retail stores and bagel shops."
Though the owners made pains to stress that the menu and product would improve over time, Gothamist staffers yesterday conducted a premature evaluation, comparing several Montreal bagels with the not-exactly-phenomenal bagels from local purveyor La Bagel Delight. Here are some of the criticisms voiced during our office taste test, which, to be fair, was conducted by lifelong NYC bagel snobs:
- "This is like a strange simulacrum of a bagel. Which makes sense because Canada is sort of a simulacrum of the United States."
- "How would they feel if we went up to Canada and started shoving maple syrup down their throats?"
- "The flavors are very subtle, and if you want more of a bready taste, you're in luck. They're more airy than dense."
- "Speaking of which, can we get some maple syrup to drown these in?"
- "It does make a lovely conveyance for toppings, because the flavor is so... subdued?"
- "What's going to happen now? The Canadians are going to come down and start displacing American bagel workers?"
- "To be fair, this is what I'd expect if I told a Canadian to make me a bagel."
- "Bagels certainly have become fetishized, eh?"
- "This bagel is like a party in my mouth. A party that people forget to bring beer to and ends at 9:30."