3 new bagels shops leading St. Louis' bagel boom
For nearly 50 years, the Bagel Factory, a tiny, cash-only spot in Creve Coeur selling bagels and bagels only, was a St. Louis bagel landmark. When it closed last year, a void opened in the retail bagel scene (though there are plans for the shop to reopen under new ownership).
Why does St. Louis have so few dedicated bagel shops? To start, you’re likely working graveyard shifts for the morning breakfast rush – plus, if they’re New York-style, operating a scalding vat of boiling water and incredibly hot oven simultaneously makes for a challenging work environment. Large-scale bakeries like Companion Baking have been making steamed bagels for years, while some small-scale, artisanal bakers, like Baked & Boiled Bagels, sell to shops or at farmers markets. Restaurants have contributed their own welcome additions to St. Louis’ bagel scene, like Songbird with their housemade sesame seed bialy, Olio’s Jerusalem bagel, and the new Deli Divine with bagels sourced from New York City. Yet the brick-and-mortar bagel store remains elusive.
Happily, a few brave souls have recently answered the call. Here are three new spots offering their best bagel to St. Louis.
Ted Wilson of Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery announced that a bagel shop was coming years ago, before the pandemic. There was an epic night in January 2020 when they first tested out their bagels for a New Year’s pizza bagel party; and then we had to wait. Three years later, Bagel Union opened in Webster Groves. It was worth the wait. Inspired by New York bagels, which are boiled then baked, they offer flavors like cornmeal, everything, poppy seed, salt, sesame, onion and tzitzelnickel; sweet options like the cinnamon-raisin and the cherry crunch, with crunchy sugar crystals on top, are available too. The schmear (cream cheese), Gina Marie by Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., is simply made from three ingredients: cultured milk, cream and salt. The everything with plain cream cheese is a classic combination for a reason; the everything mix has a hefty dose of salt. Don’t miss the egg bagel here, which has a golden tinge to the dough and is slightly softer than the familiar chew from their other bagels.
Where the menu at Bagel Union really shines is the sandwiches. The Delox, made with lox from Durham's Tracklements and Smokery (a smokehouse run by a St. Louis native and based out of Michigan), cream cheese, dill, capers, lemon oil and red onion, is an elevated iteration of the classic. The salmon roe with cream cheese, pickled shallot, dill and lemon oil is finished with jewel-like salmon roe that add pops of salty, ocean flavor and is beautifully presented. The Goldie Lox has the same toppings but is finished with thinly shaved, smoked golden beets offering earthy, smoky sweetness to each bite.
8705 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, bagel-union.com
This Chesterfield bagel shop was launched in April 2021, initially operating out of a commissary kitchen. Why bagels? “We were dumb!” quipped co-owner Doug Goldenberg. But really it was because there were no bagels nearby, so co-owner Scott Lefton started making bagels at home. That grew organically from baking bagels for his family to sharing them with friends to eventually heading to the commissary. When Goldenberg and Lefton opened their brick-and-mortar space in April 2023, they estimated needing to make 900 bagels per day; it turned out they needed to make double that number per day during the week and 3,000 per day on weekends to keep up with the demand. Evidently, Lefton was not the only one feeling the bagel shortage out west.
Lefty’s offers a number of bagel flavors from plain, sesame seed, poppy seed, everything, tzitzel, onion, garlic and salt to rotating specials like triple chocolate chip. They also offer egg sandwiches at breakfast, with their bacon, egg and cheese being the most popular; their Lox o’Love with velvety Nova lox and plain cream cheese wins out in the smoked fish sandwich section. Lefty’s sources fish from Samaki Smoked Fish, a family-run smokehouse in the Hudson Valley. “I wanted to bring ingredients nobody else had. We did a blind taste test from different smokehouses, and Samaki was the best,” Goldenberg said. Their pastrami lox sandwich was also a standout: Cold smoked salmon with a pastrami spice rub brings sweet-and-spicy notes to the fish.
13359 Olive Blvd., Chesterfield, 314.275.0959, leftysbagels.com
C&B Boiled Bagels
When Amy and Matt Herren decided to open restaurants in Wood River (the first of which was 1929 Pizza & Wine), they knew bagels were going to be a focus. “There’s such a hole in the market, and everyone felt it; that’s why you’re seeing bagel shops opening up,” co-owner Amy Herren said. At C&B Boiled Bagels, Matt works on the dough and Amy works on the rest of the menu, which includes many flavored cream cheeses and sandwiches. The bagel dough is mixed, proofed overnight, boiled and baked. The bagel menu offers usual suspects like everything, sesame and salt (theirs uses Maldon sea salt) as well as less conventional varieties like cranberry-walnut or a cinnamon-raisin where the raisins are rehydrated in chai concentrate. The cream cheese varieties are fun too, like dill pickle and ranch seasoned with Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packets; each flavor has a vegan version. “The town is responding; it is shocking to see how many regulars we have. On Saturdays, the line is out the door,” Herren said.
62 E. Ferguson Ave., Wood River, Illinois, 618.216.2269, cbboiledbagels.com
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