No Bagel No Bagel No Bagel: Why Dallas Doesn't Support New York-Style Delis

Categories: Complaint Desk

bagelandloxdelinews1.jpg
Last week Nancy Nichols published a post on Side Dish that pondered the state of New York-style delis in Dallas. Nichols collected a few comments from a previous article on the recent closing of Gio's Café and New York Deli. Those comments offered some theories on why delis haven't worked here in the long term.

I will now disassemble both of them.

Theory one: The water from New York City is an essential ingredient in bagels and pastrami.

The pastrami thing is new to me, but the importance of water in bread baking is a myth I'm very acquainted with. When I was writing for the Washington City Paper, I interviewed bakers about the importance of water provenance in bread baking. One of the bakers spent thousands of dollars on a special treatment machine that could supposedly recreate New York City's highly coveted water.

At first the machine worked perfectly. People lined up to order Bethesda Bagels' rounds for a taste of New York City they could enjoy much closer to home. But then the machine broke. The owner had to use regular tap water temporarily, and he noticed the bagels weren't different at all. His customers didn't notice either. He never bothered to fix the machine.

Peter Reinhart addressed the matter in his book The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

For the record I do not believe, as many New Yorkers do, that their bagels are better because of the water. New York City water does happen to be very good, but that is not what makes their bagels better. In fact, I believe that if you make the bagels from this book, you will come to agree with me on this point.

Humble guy huh? What Reinhart was saying, though, was that technique is of the utmost importance in good bread baking, not ingredients. And sure enough if you follow his recipe, which calls for a lengthy, two-day process of mixing, proofing and baking bagels, you'll evoke the delis of New York right in your own kitchen. Besides, most bakers worth their dough filter their water anyway.

Thumbnail image for Charlie Palmer Hot Pastrami.JPG
Charlie Palmer proves that good pastrami is very possible, right here in Dallas.
As for pastrami, I suppose that water could somehow flavor the meat during the brining process. After the meat is smoked and sliced for sandwiches, though, I think the chance of any of those differences being perceivable is very unlikely. The house-cured pastrami served at Charlie Palmer downtown is an excellent example of hand-crafted deli meat. It's obviously possible here in Dallas.

Theory two: Most deli food is not healthy. Most deli food comes in huge ridiculous portions. Most deli food is fattening. It's old hat and pretty uninteresting.

I know this is wrong because you bastards love fattening food. Every blog post I publish about cheese fries, hot messes, oversized pizzas and anything else that even flirts with the possibility of causing a coronary gets me more clickage than slide shows with bare breasts and puppies combined. To call delis old hat and uninteresting shows a lack of understanding about what makes this food so great.

So let me offer a third theory: Delis don't work in Dallas because everyone that has opened one is lazy. There are no good bagels in Dallas because not one baker has taken the time to slowly ferment dough overnight so complex flavors and textures can be produced. Instead the bread is leavened with too much yeast so a bagel can be made start to finish in a few hours. Bread made this way is inexpensive to prepare and highly profitable, but it lacks character and integrity. It's one-note baking.

Deli meat fares a little better here and I'm starting to encounter more sandwiches made from house-brined meats. Bolsa Mercado does a little of this as well as Charlie Palmer, which I mentioned before. The sandwiches produced from these cuts are noticeably better than your standard deli fare.

If a deli in Dallas were to produce house-made bagels from scratch with no shortcuts, Dallasites would notice. That deli would undoubtedly have the very best bagels in Dallas because nobody else is putting that much time into their craft. If a deli in Dallas cured whole sides of salmon and sliced them before your eyes people would exclaim: Holy shit! Look at this deli! This is amazing!

Jon Daniel would weep. Little, old Jewish ladies would weep. I would weep. We'd all weep together and I'm quite certain this deli of my dreams, so long as it's properly managed, would last a lot longer than Gio's Café.


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
54 comments
nammer
nammer

maybe you don't get new York bagels because this isn't fucking new york!?

sbsz
sbsz

Deli News Preston & campbell.  The best- authentic- the real deal!

Anna_Merlan_Voice
Anna_Merlan_Voice topcommenter

This whole post is just a naked bid for me to bring the Observer staff more bagels. FINE, SCOTT, FINE. Jeez. 

racaniello
racaniello

The BEST is Rye Ridge Deli in Stamford, CT.  I miss that place!

Scagnetti
Scagnetti

Hey, Dallas isn't the only place suffering the deli blahs.

Hardest thing to find in Manhattan and Brooklyn is a Jewish deli. Sure there's still 2nd Ave, Sarge's, Katz's, Jay & Lloyd's, Mill Basin etc. but there are nowhere near the number of Jewish delis there used to be.

There was a time when you could always find a Jewish deli in every neighborhood including deeply ethnic, non-Jewish neighborhoods. Smolinsky's in Bensonhurst comes to mind but they've been gone for years.

And didn't I read that last year the Stage Deli closed after 75 years?

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

Back in the day, Sol's Deli on Oaklawn one block north of the long-gone Oak Lawn Theater was QUITE the Jewish deli.  IJS

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Nova........... and a bagel................... Waaaaaaaaaaaaah! [Myrna sobs bitterly]

Laurie Mitchell Dunn
Laurie Mitchell Dunn

Is Bagelstein's still around? I remember going to the old Coit & Spring Valley location in Richardson many times back in the 80's and 90's.

Trina Taki Hendrix-Hamilton
Trina Taki Hendrix-Hamilton

Sonya, Benny's is in Lakewood, McKinney and Addison. I brought some to work once and my boss opened the box and said 'wow these are real bagels!'

John Carl Dunlap
John Carl Dunlap

Cindy's service was sub par a few time in a row so I stopped going. Might give it a go again though.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

The question is why Dallas, with a large Jewish population base, not support a good NY deli? the list of opened/closed delis is many, none could stay open.

No easy answer. Is the food too fattening? good pastrami has a fair amount of fat, and oy vey the shmalz in chopped liver is enough to keep cardiologists busy. maybe there's too much healthy eating. if you're going to eat a turkey sandwich you don't need a good NY deli to get one.

it's easy to get the stuff for anyone to make their own dishes. CM brings in Carnegie corned beef and pastrami, they stock both nova and belly lox, sable and smoked white fish. their bagels are sometimes OK and sometimes they fail to cook them enough, but they are boiled and baked like they should be. Any good beryiah can make a great bowl of chicken soup no matter where they live.

As for bagels, even New Yorkers don't prefer their Brooklyn bagels, they're going crazy for Montreal bagels. opinions on what is a good bagel and what isn't varies and it isn't a cut and dry. Is it too dense or not dense enough? to each their own....

ThomasD
ThomasD

I lived in Manhattan Lower East Side from 2003-2007 and Brooklyn 2007-2010, had a bagel and coffee at least twice per week if not 3 times. Shops and delis always nearby.

While I have no illusions that Dallas should be a mecca of NY style delis, I found that the bagels from Cindi's and Deli News (far north Dallas) are pretty darn good. Both are closest to what you'd find in NY. Dense, chewy, soft but also a firm outside.

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

In my opinion, I still think Deli-News is overall, the best Jewish deli we have in Dallas at this time. Their bagels are very good as is their pastrami and smoked fish dishes.

As for NYC's water, whether or not it's just a myth about it's being so good or not, the one thing that makes it different from water elsewhere is the fact that it's very "soft" water with very little calcium content. It was alway's very good to drink it straight from the tap.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/drinking_water/index.shtml

Crystal Means
Crystal Means

Love Cindy's....I would say they are the best in the city...

mjs82
mjs82

Boopa's Bagel Deli in North Fort Worth does it right. Pretty much a bagel-only shop. And Chef Point Cafe in Watauga makes a mean Monte Cristo. Sure, these aren't Dallas, but they are closer than NYC.

Sonya Kuris
Sonya Kuris

I'd be willing to break my clean eating lifestyle to check out the two places above. NYC transplant born and raised- spotting good deli and a good bagel is a rite of passage.. I could go for a Knish anyway. Where are these places?

Ron Schulz
Ron Schulz

CM has great bagels. And Cindy's rocks.

Rebecca Solomon
Rebecca Solomon

Seriously! I've seen wildly successful delis outside NYC. It is just a matter of mastering the logistics and economics of the kitchen. I've yet to see anyone in Dallas attempt it. If you want a good template, see Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor MI. 30+ years and still lines out the door. They even offer classes that teach the old art of bagel making.

Greg Pulte
Greg Pulte

Dallas can support NY Deli's, Cindy's is proof of that.

Rich Lopez
Rich Lopez

Prolly cuz people don't shut up about tacos and bacon here. What?

foodbiatch
foodbiatch

The unwillingness to spend the time to make a proper bagel is probably an indication of an overall lack of good management. Gio's was always pretty packed, so it's got to be poor management.

takihendrix
takihendrix

Benny's Bagels has about 3 locations and they bake them fresh every morning. Einstein's bagels taste like paper. Panera Bread is decent at best.

Trina Taki Hendrix-Hamilton
Trina Taki Hendrix-Hamilton

By the way there ARE good bagels in Dallas Benny's bagels are made FRESH daily and they have 3 locations I think. Please go back and edit your article.

Jon Jackson
Jon Jackson

You mean like Cindy's which is franchised and all over the DFW area and it's usually a 30-60 minute wait to get a table?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

The other half of this equation is that the bagels suck in NYC now too.  They are the same crap that you can get anywhere.  Why?  For exact same reasons -- rushing the process and cutting corners to cut costs.

michaelhfinkel
michaelhfinkel

Bagelsteins, at their original Spring Valley and Coit location, used to be as closed to a NY deli as you could get West of the Hudson River

xuco1
xuco1

The Reuben at Kuby's is pretty perfect, FYI. Yeah it's too bad about Dallas not having real good NY style delis, I'm in search of a good monte cristo, haven't found one yet. I'm part Cuban and was raised partially in Miami I really miss a good Cuban joint for a Cuban sandwich, places in Dallas have the ingredients correct but the bread is wrong, I only know of one place in the DFW area that makes good Cuban bread.

JohnNeelyBryan
JohnNeelyBryan

Agree with this post 100%. To take it a step further: I think the lack of good bagels is an indicator of a larger issue. How many places in Dallas make really great bread of any kind? I submit there are only 2: Village Baking & Empire (in that order). Screw building parks & bridges; we need better bread.

crustyjugglers
crustyjugglers

Anyone had Montreal bagels? I've heard they are even better than the NYC variety, but have never had the chance to try one.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

The water argument is irritating. They're going to tell me there are special minerals or other dissolved whatnot in NYC's water that can't be found in Jersey, or New York state, or anywhere else? Or that whatever that minor difference is impacts a product over the ingredients or methods? No way. I don't buy it with pizza, and I don't buy it with bagels.

Operating a quality deli is freaking hard because of the sheer magnitude of ingredients and elements you have to source and stock. Especially since Dallas probably doesn't have quite the same collection of brokers and suppliers that a coastal city has.

How about someone give it a go with a focused bagels-only shop? I don't want a deli, I just want delicious bagels (sesame please) with cream cheese. Keep it simple, don't deal with sandwiches or soups or salads, just make damn good bagels in the NY style. Smallish shop, lowish overhead, and if your location is good why can't it succeed?

Anna_Merlan_Voice
Anna_Merlan_Voice topcommenter

Even though you wrote it last February, when I still worked there. Before I brought you New York bagels. Whatever. 

markzero
markzero

@Laurie Mitchell Dunn They switched owners at least once since then, moved, and were boring when a friend and I found them a few years ago at Coit & Arapaho. I just Googled and saw an article where they moved to Preston & Royal and another location in Florida, but I don't recall seeing them there and Yelp says they're gone. So I guess they consolidated to Florida.

cynicaloldbastard
cynicaloldbastard

@foodbiatch"Gio's was always pretty packed, so it's got to be poor management."

When was the last time you were at Gio's?  It was a ghost town once LBJ construction started and they began closing at 3:00.

markzero
markzero

@Jon JacksonYou mean Cindi's? Cindy's has been spelled differently ever since a Vietnamese lady bought the failing one many years ago. It's actually a nice immigrant success story: http://cindisnydeli.com/about/ I don't think it's become a franchise, though, just a small chain.

markzero
markzero

@michaelhfinkel My mom says when she was pregnant with me, and my parents used to visit there, they'd always give her a bagel "for the baby." My memories of the original place revolve around the new pickles (half-sours, whatever) they always had out on the tables and Dr. Brown's sodas.

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

@michaelhfinkel I assume you're talking about the original Bagelstein's. Before the original (Jewish) owners sold the deli to Asians. It went downhill real fast after it was sold.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

Gilberts when they were a Preston Forest. You had the food done right, great menu with all the favorites, and even the surly person up front (the wife of the owner) who was as close to those rude waitresses at Carnegie as one could get.

xuco1
xuco1

@JohnNeelyBryan I agree, I haven't had Village Baking yet though, Empire does it right.

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

@Mervis Ima gonna taka one for the team! I'll let you know my findings.

Mervis
Mervis

Leave Big D and go to Boopa's Bagels on North Beach St in North Ft. Worth.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...