The Ideal L.E.O.

An interview with Panos Voylatzis, president of Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee in Chelsea.
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee in Chelsea, New York City.

Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee

Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee in Chelsea, New York City.

The essay "Real New Yorkers Don't Toast Their Bagels" tackles the question of bagel-toasting with eight prominent bagelers and critics. Read the full interviews for more on bagels, cream cheese, and who has better bagels, New York or Montreal.

Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee was named a "Surprising Game-Changer" by Ed Levine in 2009, and one of New York City's three top bagels (though, wink, they do note that it's just around the corner from Serious Eats in Chelsea). In this interview the amenable Panos Voylatzis, president of Brooklyn Bagel (where they even make an English Muffin bagel), talks favorite cream cheese, why toasting is bad for business, and how bagels get holes.

 

New York or Montreal?
Montreal? Isn't that the place with the old Olympic stadium? Oh wait, they also do a jazz festival, right?

 

What's your favorite kind of bagel: everything, sesame, pumpernickel, poppy, plain, etc.?
Whole-Wheat-Everything.

 

Bialy or Flagle?
You are putting me in a tough spot here. That's like asking me to choose between my cousins and then post it on the internet.

 

Nova or lox?
Definitely Nova. Sliced-on-premises, of course.

 

Sable or whitefish?
Whitefish.
 

Favorite place for a bagel other than your own?
Kidding aside, there are quite a few places in New York City serving up great bagels. But the only ones I personally eat and recommend are ours [smiles].

 

Who is your biggest competitor?
Our competition is definitely ourselves. If only you were a fly on the wall that could see what takes place in our weekly managers' meetings...

 

Some people swear by toasting. Others claim it destroys the integrity of the bagel. To toast or not to toast? Why?
Sometimes I toast my bagel, and sometimes I do not. Toasting provides a different bagel experience. It is so much more than just heating up a bagel. If you are open late, it definitely helps. We have some customers, and only a few, thankfully, who prefer their bagel toasted as soon as it comes out of the oven. You should try that one day and see how it feels on your palm. The way we see it is that the only downside to toasting is from a business perspective. Toasting definitely slows down our customer line.

 

Favorite type of cream cheese?
Our very own jalapeño Asiago. In fact, I'll grab some right now.

 

What should never be a cream cheese flavor?
C'mon, they all deserve a chance.

 

Anything you notice differently about bagels now from those of your youth?
Thanks for making me feel old [smiles]. They are definitely better now. This is why we use the "old fashioned" methods: Hand-rolled, kettle-boiled (in water only). Today we have a larger variety to choose from, and some say the bagels today are larger. The latter does not apply to us because we serve two sizes. P.S. I am 37.

 

If there's one question you wish you were asked more about bagels, what would it be?
I don't know. Maybe, "How exactly do you get those holes in your bagels?"

 

Are you:
a) A fan of the L.E.O.?
b) Leo who?

There is a middle ground here. L.E.O. is more than fine by me, but not traditional omelet-style. We serve a premium-quality smoked salmon, so it pains me to drop the fish on a griddle. The better alternative is to prepare a L.E.O. bagel sandwich. A couple of soft scrambled eggs on a bagel topped with delicious nova and red onions. I prefer my Nova smoked only, not smoked and griddled.