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Sep 15, 2011 08:41 PM

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.

                Or what about this place:

              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!