Black Seed brings sweeter, trendier bagels to Brooklyn
Black Seed, the popular purveyor of hand-rolled, Montreal-fusion bagels, opened its first location in the borough on Wednesday on a busy Brooklyn Heights block.
When Black Seed debuted its Nolita location in 2014, massive lines stretched down the block.
The same thing happened last summer, when the bagel shop opened at The Ace Hotel in NoMad. The driving factor behind those lines, according to co-owner Noah Bernamoff, is the shop’s Montreal/New York hybrid techniques.
“We’re the only bagel shop in New York that has the fusion of the two cities,” Bernamoff told me at the store’s opening on Wednesday at 123 Court St.
Dianna Daoheung, the James Beard-nominated executive chef behind the unique style, has developed a technique in which bagels are boiled in water with honey before being baked in a wood-burning oven and generously coated with seeds.
Though it took almost five years for Black Seed to land in Brooklyn, Bernamoff said he’s been eyeing the neighborhood for some time. “I’ve been in this neighborhood for over a decade … and I’ve always been curious about the area of Court above Atlantic,” he said. “It made sense — we have great neighbors; we have great landlords.”
The company has approximately 75,6000 followers on Instagram, and a quick search for the #blackseedbagels tag reveals thousands of well-lit, thoughtfully staged shots of manicured hands holding myriad bagel sandwich creations.
They may be trendy, but Black Seeds’ bagels are not “gourmet,” according to Bernamoff. I asked him if maybe they were “artisanal,” and he was not thrilled with that terminology, either. “That’s one word to approximate the category,” he said. “But at the end of the day our bagels cost the same as going to any other bagel shop.” (A half dozen will cost you about $9, but a bacon egg and cheese goes for $10.95.)
“What’s beautiful about bagels is — it’s kind of the opposite of ‘gourmet,’ in a way — it’s perfectly democratic,” he added. “I think of it as an everyman’s food.”
Bernamoff has specific ideas about what makes a good bagel: “a nice snappy exterior; fluffy and flavorful and dense on the interior; the perfect irregularity of a hand-rolled product; and a smoky wood-burning oven.”
As for the idea that the secret ingredient to New York bagels is New York water, Bernamoff told me it’s a myth. “Other places in the world also have very good water,” he pointed out. “And baking is science — and the science of water and the science of flour can be adjusted. You can make baked goods wonderful everywhere.”
The spreads at Black Seed range from the standard (veggie cream cheese and tuna salad) to the unexpected (lobster tarragon spread and house-cured beet lox). The bagels lean toward the traditional, although you won’t find cinnamon raisin (my personal favorite — sue me) on the menu.
There is no singular “best” option, according to Bernamoff, but he does have a go-to order. “I like sesame bagels — not toasted — with scallion cream cheese and smoked salmon,” he said. “I’m like an old grandpa in a senior millennial body.”
I took that as a recommendation and ordered the Bernamoff special (a very normal order). It was good; a sweeter bagel than most, absolutely covered in sesame seeds, topped with fresh-tasting lox.
Black Seed is a judgment-free zone, according to Bernamoff. He has “no problem” with people who toast freshly baked bagels, he told me. “I used to feel very particular about some things, and I’ve matured past that point. I’m more comfortable with the idea that everyone wants to order what they want, and that’s okay.”
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