Legendary bialy bakery Kossar’s was recently sold, but we’re going to have to wait until the flour dust settles for the new owners to share their long term plans for the landmark Lower East Side bakery.
Marc Halprin and Evan Giniger are only the third set of owners since the bakery’s founding in 1936 as Mirsky and Kossar’s. Halprin (who has 13 years of experience in the bagel and bialy business) and Giniger released a short statement last week saying, “We are thrilled to be taking the reins of this iconic and treasured 77 year-old brand. Our goal is to honor and preserve the past while slowly introducing some improvements where needed.”
You’d think you could find a good bialy in New York, especially at the oldest bialy bakery in the country. But that has not been so in the last number of years. Although famous food critic Mimi Sheraton sung Kossar’s bialys’ praises in her definitive “The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World” published in 2000, they stopped tickling her taste buds not long afterward. Indeed, a perusal of Kossar’s reviews on Yelp, Chowhound and other websites indicates that Sheraton is not the only one who hopes that Kossar’s new owners will turn those flattened rolls around.
“At the moment, we’re trying to stabilize operations,” Halprin told us. “Basically, we’re working to be able to offer more fresh product to our customers throughout the day.” Since the new owners have come on, the staff is baking more bialys more frequently. At the same time, greater attention is being paid to the timing involved in the process.
“A bialy is simply flour, salt, yeast and water,” Halprin explained, but the dough has to rest the right amount of time to develop its personality. “The proofing is what gives it its unique flavor and texture.”
“I wasn’t here back in 1936 to know what the bialys tasted like, but we are using the original recipe,” he emphasized. The new owners are also focusing on the ingredients and have introduced higher quality flour to the bakery.
Halprin defensively brushed aside the suggestion that they might be trying to jump on the trendy artisanal bandwagon. “This place as has always been artisan. ‘Artisan’ is just a way of saying you’re doing it right.”
“Both our families came through the Lower East Side. Evan’s father was even born here. So, it’s important for us to preserve the heritage properly,” said Halprin, who wouldn’t divulge his age but appears to be in this 30s. “If you’re going to make bialys, there’s no better place.”
Of course, Sheraton knows that the new owners had arrived at Grand and Essex Streets, and she’s cautiously optimistic about their bialys. “I was not surprised to hear about the sale. It clearly was going downhill and needed a fresh start,” she told us.
“The Kossar bialys have not been what they once were or should be for quite a long time now,” she continued. “I only hope the new purchaser has the right ambition and plans and will restore that delicious roll to its former, oniony excellence.”