Bagel Wars: The Front Line

Closures and expansions in Portland’s ever-changing bagel scene and a few new hole-y warriors you need to know about.

By Benjamin Tepler and Allison Jones April 16, 2013

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Portland’s burgeoning bagel scene. All across Portland, national chain Einstein Bros Bagels is pulling out. Reigning local champion Spielman Coffee Roasters is ramping up wholesale production and expanding on SE Division. Meanwhile two new hole-y warriors are in the game: Henry Higgins Boiled Bagels and The Bridgetown Bagel Company are quietly boiling up some of the best in town. Who’s driving the latest bagel blitz? Former employees of beloved local chain Kettleman’s Bagels have splintered into factions with their own hard-boiled dogmas and secret formulas. It looks like Portland’s food artisans have won the battle for a decent boiled bagel. Here is the latest from the front lines:

◊ Spielman Is Vying for Top Dog Status: With a new wholesale warehouse on SE Powell and big plans for the future, the sourdough-centric bagel house is emerging as Portland’s top artisan player (click through to see a slideshow from the first day of production at the new bagel factory). The 1700-square-foot bagel-making facility now churns out 2,500 bagels a day for its popular retail shop on SE Division and 22nd. OMSI has signed up for an account. The new digs are a tremendous upgrade for owner Rick Spielman, who has grown from boiling bagels on a hot plate to a massive, 45-gallon boiler with old-school German kraut crocks to ferment his sourdough starter.

Also in the works: An expansion of the retail shop. Eat Beat has learned that Spielman is taking over the former Twill Boutique space next-door. With an anticipated 30 extra seats, Spielman hopes to elevate the humble bagel sandwich with a serious lunch service. “We want to be the Bunk of the bagel sandwich—really start to utilize Portland’s local butchers and artisan cured meats.” 

◊ Just You Wait: Henry Higgins Boiled Bagels are here. After months in the wholesale game, Leah Orndoff (Kettleman’s Bagels’ previous general manager) and two former Kettleman’s bakers are boiling some of the best dough rounds in town at NE Sacramento and 52nd. Henry Higgins nails it with a crisp exterior, malty chew and a glossy finish. As for the name? “We are big My Fair Lady fans,” explains Orndoff, “Henry Higgins teaches Eliza to be proper, and we serve a proper bagel.” The retail shop is open weekends: Fri-Sun, 7am-1pm.

◊ A True Food Cart Bagel: Nestled in the Rose City Food Park pod off NE Sandy and 52nd, The Bridgetown Bagel Company has managed a rare feat: a true bagel start to finish in a food cart. Longtime Kettleman’s alum Jonathan Park mixes, ferments, boils, and bakes his airy rings 7 days a week from inside his bright yellow cart. It’s a first in Portland and already a serious player in the bagel game. Hours: Mon-Fri, 7am-2pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-3pm.

Stay tuned for updates from the sesame-seed-sprinkled trenches.

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