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A Decent Poppyseed Bagel, Or Am I Dreaming?

OK, I did a due dilligence search before posting this, and I can't find any specific recommendations for a good poppyseed bagel in Seattle.

Franky, the only good one I ever found around here was at Spot Bagel in Wallingford, but alas, they're long in the grave.

I like 'em completely covered on top with the tiny black buggers, FWIW.

Hope springs eternal.


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  1. Eltana covers them top and bottom with the seeds - but my last visit, I found the bagel tough and dry without the wood flavor I expected from the wood fired oven. I hope that was just an off day.

    I still have not tried Stopsky's on Mercer Island - but through all of the opening changes, the bagels have gotten solid recommendations. Their gallery photos look a little light on the seeds.

    18 Replies
    1. re: tsquare

      Thanks, tsquare:

      Eltana's website looks like it's the kind of place I'm looking for. I'll be the smiling fat guy sitting there with 10,000 poppyseeds in his teeth.

      The "after hours" window is an ineffably good idea.

      Thanks again,

      1. re: kaleokahu

        Do go in the morning when they're coming out fresh. I'm a huge bagel snob (expat New Yorker, so sue me) but I actually prefer Eltana's poppy seed bagel - when fresh - over the poppy seed bagels at my preferred Brooklyn spots. (Their sesame's good too; I don't bother with the other kinds.)

        1. re: terrier

          Hi, terrier:

          OK, on *that* recommendation, I'm sleeping in their parking lot tonight. Thanks.


          1. re: kaleokahu

            I have found Eltana bagels to be a flavorless waste of a dollar. I hope you have a better experience - let us know what you think.

            1. re: babette feasts

              I do have to say I haven't had one in a few months, so I hope I'm not overhyping it. I don't get up to Capitol Hill much anymore.

              1. re: terrier

                They do have a little flavor, sweet, which I don't care for. Plus they are tiny.

                Since I tried making bagels a few months ago they are now one of those things that are sooo much better fresh out of my oven. I like an overnight refrigerated rise to develop a little tang and a salty (baking soda) bath to boil them in.

                1. re: babette feasts

                  Eltana's bagels are definitely Montreal-style (contains sugar and malt but no or very little salt, and boiled in a honey solution) which is not normally my thing either. I pretty much always have mine with a schmear of cream cheese which supplies some necessary salt. With unsalted butter (normally my preferred topping, especially on an egg bagel) they are definitely too sweet.

                  To me, the size is the great thing about them. Well, that and the dense, double-sided seed coating. The high surface-area-to-mass ratio is way, way better than the grotesque bread-pillows churned out by the likes of Pike Place Bagels, etc. (IIRC, Bagel Oasis makes some reasonably-proportioned bagels that are not terrible but I haven't had a bagel from there since Eltana opened.)

                  Bagel Oasis
                  2112 NE 65th St, Seattle, WA 98115

                  1. re: terrier

                    I agree--the smaller size is a good thing. It's how a bagel should be.

                2. re: terrier

                  I had one yesterday and it was good. Nice chew on the crust, soft and dense interior.

                3. re: babette feasts

                  Hi, babette:

                  I was really hoping you were wrong, but you were right. I was so excited to finally be trying Eltana that I bought a baker's dozen before even trying.

                  On the positive side, they are liberal with the poppyseeds, and the two spreads I bought were good. But the bagels themselves were prety flavorless, and I didn't like the texture--I thought they were "stale bread-y" rather than moist-springy-chewy. I froze the remaining 12, and I'm probably going to soldier through them (maybe under a fried egg), or cubed for croutons.

                  Overall, I was sorely disappointed with Eltana.

                  So I'm back to looking... I'm no bagel expert--what's the closest in Seattle now to what Spot Bagel used to make?


                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Sad, I really was hoping my last visit was an off day. They never were as good day old as fresh, but freezing and toasting made them at least okay. I wonder what they would do if you actually returned them? (Too out of the way to bother?)

                    I noticed PCC has switched to Blazing Bagels. Nothing special, but a far amount of poppy seeds. Still haven't tried Stopsky's.

                    I too have resorted to homemade this past spring and summer, but I don't have my technique down too well. The shape and boil part is tricky.

                    1. re: tsquare

                      Hi, tsquare:

                      Oh well, it's OK, it was my fault for buying the whole bag. I'll either use them or crumb them up and feed the birds.

                      Can it be *that* hard to make a bagel? Again, I'm not a connoisseur or from NYC, so I don't think I have all that high an expectation. Like I said above, I really liked Spot Bagels in Wallingford Center.


                      1. re: tsquare

                        For shaping, I think it is easier to round the dough portion as if you were making a roll then poke through the center and widen the hole, rather than form a rope and try to connect it to itself. For boiling, you just need a big enough pan and a wide skimmer. I use the recipe from Peter Reinhart's 'Bread Bakers Apprentice' (more or less), with an overnight rest in the fridge after shaping to develop flavor. Next day, boil and bake.

                        1. re: babette feasts

                          yup, I do both of those, but I am using the no-knead bread dough recipe. Maybe just not workable enough. Thanks.

                          1. re: tsquare

                            Isn't no-knead pretty loose & wet? Bagel dough should be pretty stiff.

                            1. re: babette feasts

                              Not after it's been refrigerated for a few days. But, yes, possibly more wet than desirable. You need a deft hand.

              2. re: kaleokahu

                If you like sweet spread, try the date cream cheese one. So good. I also really liked the fava bean spread for a savory option. Fig was too sweet (maybe it would be good over cc?).

                If you make it to Portland, try Kettleman. I always ask friends to bring me a dozen Kettleman bagels when returning from Portland - I have a few in my freezer now. YUM. http://www.kettlemanbagels.com/

                Or what about this place: http://seattlebagel.com/retail

              3. re: tsquare

                Found myself on Mercer Island last night. Picked up plain, poppy, and onion bagels from Stopsky's Deli. Tried one this morning, toasted with a smear. Poppy seeds are only on top half, but the bagel was far above average. Nice crunch to the crust hinting that had it been fresh it would have had a good chew from being boiled. Inside had a good crumb - maybe a touch of sourdough? I could definitely be wrong, but the bread itself had good flavor. A little smaller than the huge bagel shop places, but larger and better shaped than Eltana's. Also got a meat knish full of corned beef and potato. Got an excellent review from the eater - just needed some mustard. He also liked the onion bagel best.

              4. Hey Kaleo:

                Whenever I'm craving a "real" bagel I head to the Bagelry on Railroad Ave. in Bellingham. They also make wonderful bialys (rare to find in the NW) and an addictive chocolate chip spread that for some reason never makes it onto a bagel but rather direct to mouth via spoon.


                And while you're in B'ham check out Mallard Ice Cream next door:


                4 Replies
                1. re: LemonyRoux

                  Hi, LemonyRoux:

                  Thanks for the tip. I'm in Bellingham every so often, so I'll try Bagelry. Maybe on the way to or from breakfast at Diamond Jim's. {edit: NOT the Diamond' Jim's in Fed Way}

                  Aloha a me Mahalo,


                  Diamond Jim's
                  1616 S 325th St, Federal Way, WA 98003

                  1. re: LemonyRoux

                    Hi, LemonyRoux:

                    Made it up to B'ham this morning, and... WOW. THANK YOU.

                    I'm not even enough of a student of things bagel to adequately describe how good these were. AT LEAST AS GOOD AS SPOT WAS. Best $1.10 I've spent in a long time. This place is an eloquently-expressed reason to move to Bellingham.

                    I asked for my poppyseed bagel split, toasted and jalapeno cream cheesed. The response? "We don't toast our bagels... [dumb look from me]..."We don't need to, they're fresh." Crunchy on the outside, chewy and half-moist inside. The only minor blip was the poopyseeds were not bestowed in any special abundance.

                    There's another cool thing about Bagelry: They don't accept plastic. I was half P.O.'d to hear this, but when I stepped up to their in-house cash machine, there was a little sign that read: "We donate 100% of the fees from this machine to Whatcom Food Bank" Really, really cool.

                    Thanks for the rec, Lemony.


                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Hey Kaleo:

                      Glad to hear you made it to B'ham to sample my favorite "local" bagel place. If in your wanderings you find yourself in Portland, Ore,, be sure to check out Kettleman's. I discovered them last weekend when I was visiting that city. Quite a decent bagel and a very good bialy. I inquired with the owner if they were planning on expanding to the Seattle area (based on a rumor I heard), but he confirmed that it wasn't in the cards right now, due to the economy. Darn. (But a good excuse to go back down and visit Portland again!).


                      1. re: LemonyRoux


                        I owe you one for this rec-- I have deep roots in B'ham, and have had a retinal blindspot to this place. I've followed their team at Ski-to-Sea, but not (before you) taken them completely seriously. Serious, responsible, delicious place El Bulli would do well to replicate. Smoked Black Cod on a bagel? Masterful.

                        Thank you!


                  2. Transport yourself back in time and find SPOT BAGEL BAKERY.
                    Entrepreneurs please hear this...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: mrnelso

                      Or do a search and find out he's decamped to San Francisco!


                      1. re: Jeri L

                        Thanks for posting this - I'm going to be there for Christmas and I know what we're going to get for Christmas breakfast!

                        1. re: Lauren

                          Okay, I used to like Spot 20 years ago, but now that I've traveled to NYC so many times I find it hard to imagine I'd still think Spot is very good. Am I wrong? Were the bagels really that good?

                          1. re: christy319

                            Nevermind, Spot has already gone out of business!


                            I go to SF for work regularly so I took the opportunity to see if I could get a NY bagel there, via Chowhound. The consensus is no. Why IS it so hard to do???

                            1. re: christy319

                              How crazy that just as I rediscovered them, they closed! And I had called my family and everything! Their web site makes no mention of closing...

                              You bring up a good question. I have no idea if their bagels were really as good as I remember. In my mind, they were slightly smaller and less bread-y than the ones you get around here these days. They had a slight pull when you bit them. I really liked the texture. My favorite was the salt bagel.

                              1. re: Lauren

                                I appreciate your question, Lauren, as the time-gap clouds memory, but Spot still has top-billing on my internal Seattle bagel appreciation meter. Good tooth and engaging flavors, unlike the atrocious remotely-bagel-shaped-bread-products you'll find in bulk at supermarket delis.

                    2. The Russian Delicatessens and Bakers have a better idea than the poppyseed bagel which explains the dearth of the ones you are used to. Compared to the Russian pastry, the bagels you talk of taste like cedar roofing shingles.
                      The pastry is "BOULOCHKA SMACK" and is rolled pastry with almost half its weight in poppy seeds.
                      A word of warning: because of the fact that even the poppy seeds contain a narcotic opiate, if you eat one boulochka smack each day for a week, and you skip a day, you will really miss it! (Or is that just because the boulochka smack is so darned good?)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: PeteSeattle

                        Wo ist das Russian Delicatessens? I'll risk being hooked on Boulochka Smack.


                        [edit: oops, just saw the info below]

                      2. Blazin Bagels are SOOO much better eaten fresh at the mothership near Marymoor park. About 80% as good as the Bagelry, and the bialy's aren't bad either. But it's too far to go every Sunday morning, sigh.

                        Where can I find one of them Russian smack-thingies?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: eatsshootsandleaves

                          You can buy BOO-loch-ka Smack at the Russian bakery and deli in the D & S market behind Wal-mart in Renton. I'm sure theyr'e available at other places as well since I've seen them in other stores.
                          You might call any "European Food Store" you know about or run across the name of. There's one on Sunset drive in Renton near Union, I believe, called Vladimir's or Viktor's or something with a V. There's another one between 130th and 145th on Aurora Avenue, and another one in Bellevue near the community college.

                          Call the place you're asking for, and ask if they have boo-loch-ka Smack. (Accent on BOO) and if they don't have it, they'll tell you who does.
                          Warning: I'm not sure if it's a real problem, but since they include more weight of poppy seeds than flour and there is enough of an opiate in poppy seeds to show up on drug tests as heroin (or at least there used to be, we might have better refined drug tests now) it is a real possibility that you can become addicted to these wonderful pastries! (That just might be because they're so danged good, by the way, rather than being addicted. I haven't had one in some years, and I wish I had one now)

                          1. re: PeteSeattle

                            The place on the corner of Sunset & Union in Renton Highlands is called Vitmar.
                            I shop there monthly and all the Slavic/Russian/Polish/Ukranian food items really
                            bring back a taste of 'home'---Brooklyn and Manhattan(NYC).
                            But just about all their items are in Russian,so be prepared to ask the nice ladies that
                            run the place to translate!

                        2. Surprised no one has mentioned Bagel Oasis.
                          They have good ones, bialys too.
                          Don't expect hip or cute and I suspect their front staff turns over a lot BUT year in, year out they have made consistently good bagels like you'd find in the midwest or east.

                          Bagel Oasis
                          2112 NE 65th St, Seattle, WA 98115

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: JayDK

                            Would someone from the New York Nostalgia community please explain what a Bialy is? All I know is that it's Polish for "White" and can't get around that! (It's pronounced BYOWee in Polish because the "L" has a slash through it, which changes it from an "L" to a "W"
                            Mom used to tell a story about how in the Chesapeake Bay during WWII a Nazi submarine ran aground. (It's still there, and I think you can still see it.)
                            Naturally, the guys on the sub were sent to prison. They mentioned that in prison they thought the white bread they were given to eat was part of their punishment for being foreign enemies! They didn't know that dark bread, whole wheat bread, rye bread, and pumpernickel are rare treats in the US with its pride of refined white flour.
                            We have more white flour than any nation on earth, by the way.

                            1. re: PeteSeattle


                              Basically a bagel with a dimple rather than a hole and not boiled; the dimple can be filled with onions and other stuff.

                              1. re: acgold7

                                Dzikuie! (jeen-KOO-ye, it means Thanks in Polish)
                                Polish is a Western Slavic language separated from the eastern ones by many centuries. Thus it has L modified to W, and like Ukranian, all "G" sounds are replaced by "H" (which is important to chowhounds trying Eastern food)
                                And it also has nasal vowels. So Lech Walesa has a last name that in English you'd pronounce "Vawensa"
                                And the Russian treat, the dumplings called "Galushki" are called "Holishkes" in New York, since New York Jews came from Poland.

                                By the same token, the Russian treat called (Little pigeons) or Galubki, are called in Polish Hawompki, which you can hear on Tim Allen's comedy show "Tool Time"

                                I'm thinking about making a visit to a Russian delicatessen I've been going to for years and explaining to the proprietor, a nice Russian lady, about Chowhound and opening a thread about what to expect to find when you visit her shop.
                                I'll need permission from her first. (I don't know if she speaks any English at all)

                          2. I moved to Seattle (originally a NYer) about 2 years ago and have been SORELY disappointed in their bagels. Eltana has been recommended over and over, but I don't think they taste too good, they're tiny and expensive, and the space is weird. I have resorted to making my own bagels.

                            If anyone wants a taste of a homemade bagel, let me know! I've been thinking about opening a place in Seattle and would love some feedback.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: katedw203

                              I don't get the buzz over Eltana.
                              Even if you don't call it a bagel it tastes yucky to me.
                              Good luck on your venture, count me in

                              1. re: JayDK

                                I'm reminded of the complaint of Marsellaises that no other place makes Bouillabaisse. The heart of the complaint isn't the food, it's the fact that they're not in (Marseille, or New York) anymore. And when you look deeper, the complaint is "I'm not young anymore"
                                A bagel is a piece of bread. It won't taste like a New York bagel anywhere else because in the rest of the country you don't have New York smells.
                                And that's what you want, not the bread.

                                1. re: PeteSeattle

                                  True, you can't go back either.
                                  But I know a good bagel when I taste one.
                                  Actually I wasn't that impressed with the NY bagels I've had.
                                  Nor was I too fond of Montreal bagels.
                                  The wood fired ones I had in Quebec were quite tasty - but different.
                                  Don't get me started on Quebec, we had pastries that were out of this world.
                                  Around here Bagel Oasis makes the bagel closest to what I like.
                                  Katedw203, have you tried their's?

                                  Bagel Oasis
                                  2112 NE 65th St, Seattle, WA 98115

                                  1. re: PeteSeattle

                                    Hi, Pete Seattle:

                                    With respect, not so fast. I'm no New Yorker (or NY-ophile), but Eltana is just plain disappointing, even accounting for nostalgia and mortality.

                                    There's also the issue of "the water". I take no position on this, but I did see a Food Network show (series forgotten), on which episode pizza crust was the topic. There was a (supposedly) blind tasting of otherwise- 4 identical pies, the only variable being the source of the water used in the dough. The tasters were 4 NY pizza "experts". ALL FOUR correctly identified the pie that was made using NYC municipal water.

                                    Again, I don't take a position on this, but the result--if honest--is pretty remarkable.

                                    Then, there's the issue of bagel and deli culture, which I think is pretty much lacking here in Seattle, and pretty deep in NYC.


                              2. As a 60 y.o. Jewish woman whose parents are from Brooklyn and who grew up near the Fairfax area of L.A., I would like to clarify that a "traditional" bagel, which is what I understand most people believe they are looking for, is fairly small and dense. As a goyishe friend of my father's said 60+ years ago when introduced to a bagel for the first time, "Oh, a concrete donut" and proceeded to fall in love with them. And while I have found them in Montreal, I'm not sure there is a place in the US that still makes them the in the "traditional" style. As bagels became more and more mainstream they grew larger, breadier and more like tractor tires than the bagel we once knew and loved. Many of you may be too young to remember the 1960 Levy's bagel company ad campaign, "You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to love Levy’s " with photos of Asian, native Americans and others eating a bagel. Finding a decent bagel today is challenge here and elsewhere. Best bet is make your own and keep practicing until you get them right.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: twinsue

                                  Hi, twinsue:

                                  Based on the above, I'm interested to know if you've tried Eltana's bagels, and how you think they compare with your "traditional".

                                  If your comparison is favorable, I think I'll stick to the unauthentic goy.


                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    I've only had them once and since reading the thread, I think I will go by tomorrow and get more and report back. The one time I had them, I thought they were pretty good. Someone hand carried them from here to my son's wedding in rural wisconsin, so they were a day old by the time we had them, so I would like to get a fresh one before commitment to internet paper a decent evaluation.

                                  2. re: twinsue

                                    Yes....I too remember the Levy's ad...."You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's'........
                                    but back in the day,in NY.......it was referring to their seeded rye bread.....delish!
                                    Now that's another story altogether!!

                                  3. So actually *on* topic, I managed to wrangle my co-workers into going to Blazing Bagels in Redmond, and thought the bagels there were just okay. BUT, there were a ton of poppyseeds on the poppyseed bagels, I even took a picture for you!, but my phone battery was too low to save it :(

                                    My main complaint about my everything bagel is that salt wasn't included in the "everything", and I love it when they have the salt chunks on them. It wasn't as dense as Bagel Oasis (plus, I miss the salt! Someone give me a salt lick, seriously), and a bit bigger, but not as big as a lot of bready soft bagels you see in town.

                                    Bagel Oasis
                                    2112 NE 65th St, Seattle, WA 98115

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. My apologies to all who were offended by my comments.
                                      As penance I'll go to Eltana and eat a bagel!

                                      1. Here's a link sent by my friend whom I met on Yahoo's wood fired oven user group.
                                        It's generally agreed by these members that the best bagel comes from a wood fired oven because of the way the crust turns out. And I agree - (Eltana not withstanding)

                                        The link takes you to the "beigel" street in London (where there probably aren't any complaints about it "not being a NY bagel")


                                        Wouldn't it be fun for all the bakers contributing to this post to bring their bagels to a pot luck?