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Meet The Woman Turning Bagels Into A Gourmet Food

Black Seed Bagels’ Executive Chef Dianna Daoheung eats at least two bagels a day, every day. Now that Black Seed Bagels is opening up its fourth storefront, Daoheung doesn’t have time to hand-make every single bagel at the self-described “modern day bagel shop steeped in old world traditions.” But she still makes sure to try her chef’s bagels to make sure they’re up to Black Seed Bagel’s standard of chewy, comforting goodness.

From the pizza bagels of yore to the rainbow bagels of today’s Instagram, Polish shtetl dwellers from a hundred years ago might have a hard time detecting their modest, bready delights in today’s gaudier monstrosities. Like most immigrant foods, the bagel was refashioned to suit the tastes of the quintessential American consumer, making it bigger, tastier, pricier and occasionally gimmickier.

At Black Seed Bagels, the bagel is a blank slate, suitable for covering with the sweet (apples and honey), the traditional (try the smoked salmon bagel) and the scandalous.

Enter The Franks Bagel, a pretzel bagel topped with house-made mortadella, a fried egg and sweet-and-spicy mustard butter. It’s part of a monthly chef collaboration bagel sandwich series, inspired by a pre-James Beard Danny Bowen, who would come in to the shop all the time to muse over potential bagel toppings. But Black Seed Bagels, a company with a definite amount of bagel cachet to spare, and a constant player in the “whose bagels are best” argument, has certainly earned its hand-boiled, wood-fired credentials.

Image by Black Seed Bagels

And with the opening of its fourth bagelry in Manhattan’s NoMad, Black Seed is determined to make its mark above 14th Street. The interior is small, and standing room only (with plans for window seats), but smooth, covered in burnished wood and a comforting respite from the stresses of the business day.

Black Seed is still adjusting to the vagaries of getting by in a neighborhood like NoMad, where weekday foot traffic is heavy and the weekend is a dead zone. It is far from the residential areas the other three Black Seed Bagels are situated in. According to Daoheung, Black Seed hopes to offer room service to Ace Hotel customers and a Continental Bagel Breakfast option.

If ordering a bagel with a shmear of lox to your hotel room at 3 a.m. isn’t your idea of a quintessential New York experience, I don’t know what it is!

Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at @shirafeder and [email protected]

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