Boston’s Hottest Bagel Pop-Up, Brick Street Bagels, Looks Ahead to 2024

After a busy 2023, founder Jordan Renouf plans to keep his Instagram-driven baking project growing with new pop-ups and, eventually, a permanent space.

Two black bins are full of puffy bagels with various toppings.

Brick Street Bagels. / Courtesy photo

It’s a chilly Saturday morning in December, and outside of Frenchie Wine Bistro on Boston’s Tremont Street, a line begins to form. Jazz music audibly plays from inside the South End restaurant, loud enough to keep the growing queue entertained. At the front of the line is Jordan Renouf, who’s been up since 2 a.m.—mixing, rolling, and prepping for this morning’s rush at Bar Mezzana’s commercial kitchen, which he borrows on weekends—preparing the reason everyone’s here: a limited supply of warm, handmade bagels.

This is Brick Street Bagels, Renouf’s Instagram-ignited baking project based in the South End. In November 2022, Renouf noticed that his neighborhood didn’t have a bagel shop and, using his dad’s recipe, made a few of his own batches. Once he posted them on social media, the neighborhood response was quick and enthusiastic. “Within the first couple weeks, I had a couple people reach out about buying them,” Renouf says. “All of the growth since then has been totally organic word of mouth.”

And so, Brick Street Bagels—with a name inspired by his neighborhood’s architecture—was born. For the first seven months of operation, Renouf cooked his bagels at his home, delivering them by bike to customers across the city. At that time, the project was a side hustle for the baker, who continued to work a 9-to-5 job in the non-profit space.

Eventually, as demand for his bagels grew, Renouf knew something had to change. He quit his job and began working on Brick Street Bagels full-time. He also brought on a team, including a core staff member, Andrew, and “a rotating cast of characters from the community.” Then Renouf moved to a new business model: the pop-up. He wasn’t sure how customers would respond to the switch.

“It got to a point where it was much more convenient for people to come to me and get them,” says Renouf, “but that was a big leap of faith.”

A brown bag with a stamp that says Brick Street Bagels sits in a bin alongside a few rows of bagels.

A Brick Street Bagels pop-up at Frenchie in December 2023. / Photo by Elisabeth Hadjis

During the week, a pre-order window opens through Brick Street Bagels’ Instagram page. Customers are encouraged to purchase their bagels online, since quantities sold on the spot are limited. On Saturdays, Sundays, and the occasional Friday, Renouf’s clientele makes its way to a pop-up location—usually, a park or small storefront in the South End or South Boston—to collect their bready bundles.

Demand for Brick Street Bagels hasn’t slowed in 2024, which Renouf attributes to social media and word of mouth. Getting your bagel order secured in advance can be tough—the pre-orders often sell out in minutes—so prepare to make your way to a pop-up early. With lines consistently growing to 100 to 150 people long, increasing Brick Street’s capacity is something Renouf is actively working towards this year.

“Every single week, there’s a big chunk of people who didn’t get bagels, and I really want to be able to bring bagels to those people,” he says. “In pursuit of increasing production significantly, the next big step is to increase the number of days I’m selling per week.”

Renouf believes it’s his dedication to a handmade process that sets Brick Street Bagels apart from other bagel options in the city: He hand-rolls the bagels before boiling, dipping in toppings, and baking. “It takes a lot more time, and it costs a ton more money because you’re paying for labor the entire time,” he says. “I do think that it makes a difference, and I also just think it forms a connection between you as the producer and the product you’re making. I think you lose some of that with a machine.”

The result is a crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside bagel that’s definitely worth the hurdles to get one. The current menu focuses on the classics: salt, everything, plain, and sesame. But there are some funkier options too, like rosemary sea salt and asiago, the latter of which is always the first to go, says Renouf. “The cheese bagels have this very intoxicating smell, so people are all about getting those,” he explains.

Two lines of bagels - some topped with salt, some plain - sit in a black plastic bin.

A Brick Street Bagels pop-up at Frenchie in December 2023. / Photo by Elisabeth Hadjis

Delicious bagels aside, this business is about more than baking for Renouf, who hopes his pop-ups can be a friendly and welcoming space for the neighborhood. Hailing from a small town in Vermont, Renouf says this kind of communal interaction is what he enjoys the most about the job.

“Oftentimes, when I’m at the table serving bagels, I’ll hear people as they’re walking away, and they’ll turn to the person behind and be like, ‘Oh, it’s so good to see you here’,” he says. “It’s been cool to create space for those community interactions to take place.”

With a little over a year of business under his belt, Renouf is looking for new partnership opportunities. This month, Brick Street Bagels held pop-ups at Bar Mezzana and at Neighborhood Wines, both locations with owners who were early supporters of Renouf’s idea. Eventually, he’d like to support artists with his business and, one day, find a permanent home for his bagels. As he puts it, “We’ve got to get through the winter, but when it’s warm again, I’m excited to find new, cool spaces to pop up in and continuing to work myself into the community.”

South End and beyond,