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Bagel + Lox

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  • ike. Nov 8, 2010 09:53 AM
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This is my newest food obsession. It seems to be slim pickins finding places that serve bagels with lox around here. Let's talk about where to go for this delicious combination.

Yesterday I was finally able to get one at Common Roots Cafe. Deeeelicious. The onion bagel was a tad difficult to chew through, but everything else was perfect. I will definitely be going back for another.

I've heard that the St. Paul Bagelry offers a good one as well, but I have yet to try it myself.

I'd also heard that Brothers Deli in downtown Mpls had a good one, but when I went in last week, they only had a scant bit of old lox that she wouldn't even serve me. She said she couldn't remember the last person to order it.

Where else should I go? Help me feed my latest craving!

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Common Roots Cafe
2558 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55405

Brothers Deli
50 S 6th St, Minneapolis, MN 55402

St. Paul Bagelry
1702 Lexington Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113

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  1. I'd love an answer on this also, my East Coast wife laments the lack of quality bagels and its
    Lox + Bagel combination...

    Maybe Cecil's?

    3 Replies
    1. re: eastlakovore

      here's what I'd do along with searching for restaurants that serve the lovely combination to you...(and for massive amounts of money traditionally since good lox is expensive)...I'd be trying out the fancier types of smoked salmon (has to be cold-smoked to qualify as lox in my opinion) that you can find at the Wedge and other gourmet type places, maybe Surdyk's too...yes, I'm saying, 'do it yourself at home'...........it's not rocket science, just requires quality ingredients. Try a few types of bagels, including St Paul bagelry, get some good cream cheese, Philadelphia is the usual but also try some organic cream cheese for comparison. I like it with some veggies too like sliced cukes and tomatoes and raw onion. Read the labels on the lox packages for sodium content, try to find ones with lower sodium so you'll be able to taste the salmon not just salt. Have fun!

      1. re: faith

        Right, I've made them at home before. But rather than going to a bagel shop for fresh bagels to bring home and assemble the sandwiches myself, I'm interested in learning where I can order one off a menu.

        I see that Mort's Delicatessen has a lox "platter", but the $13 pricetag prevents me from being interested. The one I got yesterday at Common Roots was half that.

        -----
        Common Roots Cafe
        2558 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55405

        Mort's Delicatessen
        525 Winnetka Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55427

      2. re: eastlakovore

        the bagel situation has actually improved a lot here with the arrival of Brueggers, Einstein and others. no more "Lutheran Bagels." it used to be that there was a small bagel bakery in saint louis park and that was it

      3. My 2 recommendations based on what I've had in that department in the last 12 months are Common Roots and St. Paul Bagelry. Both are very good. Neither are comparable to what you would find on the East Coast. Which, to a large extent, is based on the lack of demand here. Bagels aren't a huge passion here, so folks content themselves with mediocre bagels, whereas on the East Coast, if you make crappy bagels, you won't be in business very long. And there's a high turnover in lox, so it keeps it fresh. Not so much here.

        I've been looking for high quality bagels since I moved here 7 years ago. Closest I've come are Common Roots and the St. Paul Bagelry. Zeno in Uptown used to have H & H bagels overnighted in Saturday mornings, and while not the cheapest, even several hours old, they were the best bagel around. Alas, Zeno in no more.

        I'll be very interested in what you come up with. Thanks for starting the thread...I've given up my search for dead and have been willing to settle for "pretty good".

        -----
        Common Roots Cafe
        2558 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55405

        St. Paul Bagelry
        1702 Lexington Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113

        1. Actually, now that I think of it, I had one at the St. Paul Farmer's Market this summer that was heavenly. I believe it was from Golden's Deli, but from what I can gather on the interwebs, they don't serve it in the cafe. Just the market. But they're not at the market after October. Boo!

          So if you can wait until next spring, hit up the market and try it out. I think it was like $9, but the treat was worth every penny.

          -----
          Golden's Deli
          275 4th St E, Saint Paul, MN 55101

          2 Replies
          1. re: ike.

            If memory serves, Be'Wiched has had it a couple of times as a special. Try calling them and requesting it. I have every confidence that they would do a great job.

            1. re: ike.

              It's the atmosphere that makes the bagels from Golden's good... they get them from Bruegger's.

            2. heh. by chance i just read an astute post on the manhattan board: "Perhaps a doughnut town cannot be a bagel town and vice versa?" ;-P

              makes sense to me. msp of course would be a doughnut town. . .

              3 Replies
              1. re: soupkitten

                I dunno...doughnuts here in MSP seem to mirror the rest of things. There is no single shop that offers a wide variety of awesome donuts, in my opinion. One shop will do a good raised, while another will do a great old fashioned. I drive clear over to Granny Donuts on South Robert for my apple fritter.

                A lot of cities have single shops where everything is great. Sort of like Sweets Bakeshop in St. Paul is to cupcakes IMO.

                I still contend that MSP is an ice cream town.

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                Granny Donuts
                1555 Robert St S, West St Paul, MN 55118

                1. re: MSPD

                  Oh...and FWIW....Common Roots plain bagel, lox, schmear and capers is my go-to. Or Bruegger's when I need my fix and I can't get up into town.

                  1. re: MSPD

                    by all means, let's keep our priorities in order!

                    in any sane universe, quality ice cream should come before any other type of sweet or savory light snack.

                    i believe it was one of the coldest days in january last year, and we got a flat tire on 94 and pulled off to fix it. with old lug wrenches, cold hands, mismatched mittens, etc, the ordeal took the better part of an hour in the bitter cold. got back in the car: "well, what do you want to do now?" and there was nothing for it. we had to go to izzy's for ice cream, after that. ;-P

                2. Personally, finding the "perfect bagel" isn't necessarily the priority. Land-locked as we are, our standards have to be realistic.

                  That said, the lox is what's hard to find. I'm perfectly fine with a place using (fresh-ish) Bruegger's bagels, so long as they're topping said bagels with some good quality lox and other related accompaniments.

                  So yeah. The intent of this thread was more about lox and less about bagels. But thanks for the suggestions so far.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ike.

                    In that vein, you can actually get a passable bagels and lox @ Brueggers...red onion, capers, cold smoked lox of unknown origin...it's the only thing I ever get there...and I've had worse...in airports.

                  2. Heavy Table recently posted this review of local bagels:
                    http://heavytable.com/twin-cities-bag...

                    As a New Yorker, I actually prefer just going to Bruggers. The bagel texture is the best and the lox is what you'd get anywhere that doesn't prepare their own fish.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: katebauer

                      You'll see in the comments that I asked about lox there as well. :)

                      1. re: ike.

                        If you just want good, packaged, cold smoked salmon: Lund's, Surdyk's, and just about every gourmet shop and grocer has Nova or Norwegian lox. I think the odds are high that most places in town that serve them, are using packaged lox rather than fresh. I presume this was mentioned above but I don't know that I want to read that much ;)

                    2. What's particularly interesting is that the "lox" step is actually the easiest. Making lox is simple, and there are several local shops that carry very good lox. So it's surprising that more places don't offer good quality lox. Especially given the Norwegian influence here, you'd think that high quality salmon products would be easier to find, that there'd be a higher demand for them.

                      In my mind, getting the bagel right is the hardest part of that equation. Bruegger's? Sure, it's fine. And once it's covered with cream cheese and lox, the flavor of the bagel itself becomes irrelevant. The only part of the bagel that really matters at that point is the crust - the rest of it is just a vehicle (to a large extent, anyway). The true quality of a bagel comes through when it's eaten plain or with a very light coating of butter or cream cheese (butter - and the more the better - is my favorite way of eating a bagel [and a salt one at that]). Under those circumstances, comparing a Bruegger's bagel to something like an H&H is like comparing farmed Atlantic salmon to Copper River salmon. Sure it's the same "kind"- but still not comparable.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: foreverhungry

                        Wow, I think it is highly interesting that people are mentioning Bruegger's bagels as acceptable, I'm from out east and I think they are fine, but I've seen many a dig at them on here in bagel discussions. I do think the quality of the bagel matters in bagels and lox. There are far too many 'cakey' and 'bready' bagels in this region, that is a no-no, they NEED to be a certain kind of chewy! And Ike, I will reiterate my suggestion to buy lox at a store and make your own since you don't want to pay the inflated prices that would be charged if any restaurant served the quality stuff.

                        Good lox is and always has been pricey. Here's a money-saving tip, in the 60's my dad would buy maybe 1/4 lb (at over $10 a lb) and cut it into 1-inch square pieces , then serve it- we'd take a bunch of the little pieces and stick them onto the creamcheesed bagel... unlike the way the expensive delis/restaurants usually serve it, with a big folded slab of lox. I think the little pieces work fine, then you can taste the other elements, the cream cheese, the bagel...I prefer that to the big slab version.

                        1. re: faith

                          I agree that the bagel's quality matter in a bagel in lox. Obviously a lender's quality bagel wont' cut it. But like anything else, once you start piling on "heavy" ingredients, the "vehicle" becomes less and less important (to a large extent anyway - that's not always the case) - at least that's my view. Agreed - bagel can't be cakey or bready. Some are too dry. Some you need to chew for too long - you want to swallow, but need to keep going, like a bad steak.

                          I've been curious as to why good lox is expensive - at least, it's expensive here (being MN). Lox is easy to make. In theory, it shouldn't cost anywhere more than double the price of a slab of mediocre salmon. And frozen vacuum packed lox - because of the salt and smoking preservation - lasts well over a year (I've seen written up to 3 years), so places should be able to make a bunch at a time, thaw and use as needed.

                          I love bagels. And next to a salt bagel with a stick of butter on it, bagel and lox is a very close second. And while a bagel at home is great, there's nothing like reading the Sunday paper at a bagelry (like the Federal Bagel Institute [RIP] in Philly) while enjoying a fresh high quality bagel with a smear of cream cheese and a hunk of lox, all the while people watching. Bagel and lox screams for ambiance. Sadly, that type of ambiance paired with high quality bagel and lox is largely lacking in MN. And while I'm no hard-and-fast critic of chains, Bruegger's doesn't provide the same ambiance and quality. IMO.

                          1. re: foreverhungry

                            I'm going to try making some lox this winter (when it'll be easier to cold smoke something, have to do some cheese while I'm at it) I'll fill the water pan in my smoker with ice instead of water and build a small fire with a chunk of smoldering wood. The hardest part will be getting it sliced thin enough as I don't have a slicer. I may have to buy one.

                            1. re: foreverhungry

                              Traditional Gravlax is not a smoked product. Salt cured and smoked salmon is another product unto itself.

                              The reason it is so expensive is that it requires time, space, sanitation, technique, and loses weight in the curing process. It is not difficult on the home level, but I'd suggest sanitizing your refrigerator before starting, and keeping the process in the far back of the box to avoid temperature flux every time the door is opened. Slicing it also requires a degree of skill and a proper knife (not common in a home kitchen).

                              1. re: keg

                                Didn't know that.

                                1. re: keg

                                  Right, commercial "gravlax" is sometimes smoked, and is mis-labelled as gravlax (more of the making up of names for marketing purposes).

                                  But from my understanding, making lox doesn't strictly require refrigeration for two reasons - time frames of the steps are short, and because of the high salt amounts used. The first step - dry salting with a salt-sugar mixture - can be done in a cool environment - the salmon fillets are packed in salt for about 12 hours, and given the environment of salt and the dehydration that's happening, refrigerating isn't needed. After that is the brining - and given the very high salt concentration in the brine, again, refrigeration isn't needed if you're using cool water. Then there's the coating (or "painting") with whatever you're coating it with. At this point, again, refrigeration isn't needed, and you're probably best off applying multiple layers of the glaze with a fan blowing on the salmon to enhance dehydration. Then there's the smoking. If you're reasonably clean and tidy, sanitation shouldn't be an issue. But I'll consult Ruhlman and Polcyn when I get home.

                                  Lox can be made, start to finish, in about 2 days (at the most?). Yes, weight loss is a big issue, and that certainly accounts for a part of the price issue. But it's kinda like jerky - the stuff is ridiculously expensive in the store, yet ridiculously easy to make at at. Yes, there's a lot of weight loss in the process, but then again, I've always used chunks of meat that either have been in the freezer for a bit too long, or have a ton of connective tissue and sinewy in them, to the point that grinding it isn't even a great option. It's not like you're going to use a prime chunk of beef to turn into jerky. Ditto with lox - what's the point of using a Copper River fish, when you're going to salt the bejeezus out of it, smoke it, and paint it with a glaze. I suspect most lox makers use the cheapest salmon available.

                                  1. re: foreverhungry

                                    Three words on bagels: MAKE YOUR OWN. I have been doing so for about three years now. I make sixteen in a batch and freeze them. They are a lovely thing! Crusty, toothy, chewy, flavorful. Baked to my desired goldenness.

                                    The bagel I got a Common Roots was dry and hard. Bruegger's is too cake-like, but at least the most consistent and not full of chemicals. As for the rest, I HATE cakey, marshmallowy bagels!

                                    I understand what is being said about the bagel mattering less than the topping, but as an avid baker for many years, I believe that any bread product needs to stand on its own, and only then will it enhance whatever you use it for. The whole only being a sum of its parts, etc.

                                    Anyone want bagel-making lessons?

                                    -----
                                    Common Roots Cafe
                                    2558 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55405

                                    1. re: sandylc

                                      We've moved a discussion of bagel recipes to the Home Cooking board, at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/751008

                          2. I went to St. Paul Bagelry Sunday morning and had their lox plate ($5.95, I believe). It was OK. Bagel was very good. Cream cheese was good. Lox was just OK. It came as a made sandwich, not a plate with a bagel, a tub of cream cheese, and a pile of lox. Had capers and red onion also.

                            Biggest complaint was the lox. It was average. Didn't have much flavor. Eating a piece of lox by itself, you could tell it was lox, but it certainly wasn't anything to travel for. Eaten as part of the sandwich, you wouldn't know there was lox there.

                            After much searching for bagel and lox breakfast, I'm close to concluding that there isn't a decent representative to be found in the Twin Cities, at least on a regular basis. Perhaps except for Common Roots, but I haven't been there in a while.

                            -----
                            Common Roots Cafe
                            2558 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55405

                            St. Paul Bagelry
                            1702 Lexington Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113

                            1. If you want it done right, do it yourself, right? :)

                               
                               
                               
                               
                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ike.

                                I agree that with some things, doing it yourself better guarantees the results you want, and for something as straightforward as bagels and lox, where you don't need fancy equipment, it can be the way to go.

                                But what you're giving up is the atmosphere, which you can't recreate. In Philly, I'd go on Sunday mornings to the now-defunct FBI (Federal Bagel Institute, by the Art Museum), grab a bagel and lox plate and the Sunday Inquirer, and stay a while. It was great fun.

                                That said, your pictures above look delicious! Nice job!

                                (may I ask the source of your recipes for the lox and bagels?)

                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                  Well yeah, but then anytime I cook at home I'm "giving up atmosphere". I'm not going to plan 5 days ahead every time I crave a bagel/lox, but it's good to know I can do it myself better than anyone in town.

                                  I basically used Peter Reinhart's bagel method as my guide, and the lox was an amalgamation of a few different recipies. Basically just coating the flesh of two pieces of salmon with a mix of salt, brown sugar and pepper, pressing them together flesh-to-flesh, wrapping, and sticking in the fridge for 4+ days. There's more to it, but a quick search will tell you all you need to know.