Food & Drink

Seattle’s New Bagel Boom

The city is suddenly rolling in dough

By Naomi Tomky May 31, 2024

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This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

With the recently opened second location of Rachel’s Bagels & Burritos, and the impending arrival of two more bagel specialists, Seattle feels on the precipice of something big. While previous bagel booms have gone bust, this wave feels different: These are proven bagel talents who know the business and come with experience, and they open in a different time and place than those previous waves.

In a city that has long held hope for great bagels, the population is finally able to consistently expect it — and that sets the bar higher for everyone. “Fewer people come by and say, ‘This is a good bagel…and I’m from New York!’” says Rachel’s co-founder Paul Osher. 

An everything bagel at Little Rachel’s inside Elliott Bay Brewing

Photo courtesy of Rachel's Bagels and Burritos

Osher, who opened “Little Rachel’s” inside Elliott Bay Brewing in Lake City in late April, called Seattle a good place to be a baker and said, “Seattle punches above its weight,” when it comes to bagels — considering the size of the city and its Jewish population. One of the key elements to creating his ideal light-but-chewy bagel comes from right here, too: high-quality local flour that produces big flavor.

“Our ingredients are good and local to PNW,” echoes Aaron Emas, who started out as a bagel delivery service and pop-up called Aaron’s Bagels — now Backyard Bagel. This summer, he will open a bricks-and-mortar location in Fremont. “The history and respect we have for the New York bagel really inspired our approach,” Emas says. He sees a demand for the kind of good bagels that give folks a sense of nostalgia. To achieve that, Backyard uses long fermentation periods, which add depth to the flavor of the dough and make crackly blisters on the surface.

This summer Backyard Bagel will open in Fremont

Photo courtesy od Backyard Bagel

Freshly baked bagels from the oven at Backyard Bagel

Photo courtesy of Backyard Bagel

Later this year, a third veteran of the area’s bagel scene will join Osher and Emas. Andrew Rubenstein cut ties with his eponymous shop last summer, and plans to open his new business, Hey Bagel, in University Village this fall. “There’s just this great community of like-minded folks, not just in Seattle, but nationwide, thinking bagels shouldn’t just be round circles of bread,” Rubenstein says. He uses sourdough and organic flour, baking them to accentuate the crackly, blistered exterior and soft, moist interior. “We want to bring real artisan rigors to bagel production.” 

Hey Bagel is opening in the fall of 2024 in University Village

Photo courtesy of Hey Bagel

The shopping center location stands to solve one of the consistent struggles of Seattle bagel shops: maintaining enough foot traffic to support baking fresh batches throughout the day. But it helps that it’s increasingly likely those feet are attached to people who care about good bagels — and great bagel shops. 

“It’s exciting to see the energy and passion. Seattlelites are showing up,” Emas says. “Seattle has a lot of room for more bagel shops.”

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