By Elle McLogan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After opening the popular Jewish deli Shelsky’s of Brooklyn, Peter Shelsky saw bagels as the logical next step.

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“Bagels are sort of a natural extension,” he said. “Why put amazing nova and smoked fish on bagels that are less than perfect?”

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OPEN SESAME (w a lil salt)

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In his view, New York bagels have become far from perfect.

“I think bagels in the city have gotten huge, and they’ve gotten soft. Bagels should not be soft and huge,” he said.

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At Shelsky’s Brooklyn Bagels in Park Slope, he aims to solve this problem.

“Steve Jobs once said that people don’t know what they want. You’ve got to tell them what they want. We have to re-educate people that that’s not what a bagel is. A bagel is actually dense and chewy with a profound crust. The defining characteristic of a bagel is its competing textures, that crust on the outside and this dense, chewy interior crumb,” he said. “We really wanted to bring it back to its original glory.”

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“We use a sourdough starter, which was brought to us by Matthew Tilden, formerly of Scratchbread,” said co-owner Lewis Spada.

“We call [Tilden] the dough whisperer,” Shelsky said.

Tilden is now churning out large batches to feed hungry breakfast crowds.

“We’re going to do a couple thousand [bagels] on a weekend morning,” Tilden said.

At Shelsky’s, a yield that large is no easy feat.

“Good bread takes time to mature,” Spada said. “Our bagels take three days before we bake. We’re not going to make a bagel just for the sake of making a bagel.”

While you won’t find super-sweet bagels on the menu, there are inventive savory creations.

“We’re forgoing the blueberry bagels and rainbow bagels. We’re not doing that stuff. What we do have is a cracked pepper and salt bagel. We joke around and sort of call it a ‘bagel au poivre’ because it’s a pretty well-crusted bagel with cracked pepper and salt. It’s got a nice peppery kick to it,” Shelsky said.

Shelsky’s is also elevating the classics, like the egg bagel, with unexpected ingredients, such as turmeric, annatto seed, and Indian sulfur salt.

To add interest to the humble whole wheat bagel, Shelsky’s incorporates steel-cut oats, rye berries, and hemp seed.

“When you bite into that bagel, you know it’s special,” Shelsky said.

Shelsky’s Brooklyn Bagels
453 4th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 855-8814

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Elle McLogan


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