Better Bagels Bringing a Little Bit of New York to Somerville
For decades, Boston has lagged behind the thriving, doughy, bagel and cream cheese capital that is New York City. But lately there’s been a swelling, bagel-focused undercurrent here that seems to be gaining more momentum thanks to Mary Ting Hyatt’s chewy rounds at Cambridge’s Bagelsaurus and Adam Hirsh’s New York-style pop-up program, Exodus, in Jamaica Plain. Now another worthy carb peddler has entered the fray with Better Bagels, a trio of Somerville friends who are dedicating themselves to forging the bagels of their youth.
“Boston isn’t exactly known for having high-quality bagels,” says James Grimes, one of the Better Bagel’s founding team members. “While there are definitely very good places you can get bagels, it’s not known for it. There’s a lot of space to grow in the market for homestyle, hand-rolled bagels.”
Grimes grew up in New Jersey, where his father owned a bagel shop that was later taken over by his uncles. So he’s no stranger to the perfect, coveted New York-style bagel. Living in Boston, Grimes became friends with Will Hall and Sam Harden, and the three threw around the idea of emulating those nostalgic rounds, something they finally decided to act upon in January.
“We started learning how to make bagels and taking recipes and tinkering with them and seeing what worked best for us,” Grimes says.
Since then, Better Bagels has perfected a handful of styles and started selling them wholesale and at pop-ups at Daddy Jones in Union Square, Cuisine en Locale, and The Tip Tap Room. Currently, they offer plain, sesame, poppy, everything, and garlic onion bagels topped with house-made schmears like their rosemary butter and veggie, garlic scallion, and cajun cream cheeses.
“We take time and effort to put in, all the processes to make the bagel are gone through properly,” Grimes says. “We don’t cut corners. We just try to use the best ingredients in the best way possible to give you the best bagels. We want to do different kinds of bagels. Being that we’ve only really been doing this for a little bit, we decided to keep one thing we’re good at at first, and then we’ll start getting into it and adding more flavors.”
Grimes says that Better Bagels plans to expand not only its menu, but also its base of bagel eaters. Plans for more pop-ups, farmers markets appearances, a food truck, and even a brick-and-mortar, lie on the horizon for the group. Their next pop-up will take place this Sunday, March 8, back at Cuisine en Locale for a midday boozy brunch at 2 p.m.
March 8 at 2 p.m., 156 Highland Ave., Somerville; 617-285-0167