Why Non-New Yorkers Toast Bagels

An interview with Arye Lewkovitz, owner of Daniel's Bagels.

Daniel's Bagels in 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.

Is the great New York City bagel extinct? It's up for debate. But Arye Lewkovitz has his followers. Just a few years ago, Daniel’s Bagels in Murray Hill was noted by New York Magazine as making the neighborhood's best bagels. Read on to discover why this bageler contends that out-of-staters like their bagels toasted.


New York or Montreal?
For sure, the New York bagel.


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


Bialy or Flagle?
I don’t eat those.


Nova or lox?


Sable or whitefish?


Favorite place for a bagel other than your own?
Favorite other than mine? Tal bagels.


Who is your biggest competitor?
Mmm, maybe H&H.


Some people swear by toasting. Others claim it destroys the integrity of the bagel. To toast or not to toast? Why?
Not to toast. First of all, when you bake the bagels and they’re very fresh, they’re already crispy outside and soft inside. People that come from out-of-town, or another state, their bakeries bake them and make them once or twice a day, so, often when they get them they’re very hard. They like to toast them to make them as if they’re fresh. But we keep our ovens on all day. So we’re constantly making fresh bagels that are crispy outside and soft inside. There’s no need to toast them.


Favorite type of cream cheese?
Let me explain. I have high cholesterol, so I don’t eat cream cheese. I eat tofu cream cheese. But I used to eat veggie cream cheese.


What should never be a cream cheese flavor?
Not to be? Hard to say. It can be any flavor. We even make cherry, strawberry, chocolate, we mix them with cream cheese.


Anything different you notice about bagels now from those of your youth?
I didn’t used to eat bagels when I was young, but we have been in business here for 20 years. We use the same recipe and the same flour. Some places use cheaper flour to save money so the taste has changed.


If there's one question you wish you were asked more about bagels, what would it be?
I don’t know.


Are you:
a) A fan of the L.E.O.?
b) LEO who?
I am Leo. How you know? I am Leo. I go by Arye. But Arye is Leoni in Polish.