Murray’s Bagels, Chelsea- NYC
The Murray’s Traditional $11.50
Bialy & Pumpernickel Rye Bagels with Nova Scotia Salmon, Plain Cream Cheese, Beefsteak Tomatoes, Red Onions & Capers.
Going out to get bagels and coffee on a Sunday morning is the typical beginning to any New Yorker’s day. It’s a long established custom, a widespread early bird adventure, a time honoured tradition in the city that essentially created the bagel. I say essentially because the bagel was actually first cooked up in the 17th century by the Jewish communities of Poland. They spread throughout Eastern Europe leaving a trail of wonderful name alternatives in their wake; beygl, beygal, bajgiel, beigel, beugal, beugel, böugel. By the 19th century they had reached the London neighbourhood of Brick Lane before travelling across the Atlantic with the Jewish Immigrants to North America in the 20th century.
The 20th century also saw the rise of the ‘bagel brunch’ which has provided us with today’s classic bagel; lox, cream cheese, capers & red onion. This brings me to something that New York should in reality get more recognition for, but doesn’t: cream cheese. The very first mention of cream cheese was found in England around 1583, later on in the mid 18th century recipes were unearthed in American newspapers and cookbooks. By 1820, farms surrounding Philadelphia and NYC were renowned for being the best in the business. 1872 brought around the biggest change with mass production of cream cheese being kick started by William Lawrence who bought an old cheese factory in New York State. The company was originally named ‘Neufchatel & Cream Cheese’ but was later changed to ‘Philadelphia’ in 1880. The reason behind this was that the city in Pennsylvania had a reputation as being the hub of excellent food at the time.
On a Sunday morning Murray’s was of course, no exception to this rule. The line was already backed up against the wall, little dogs yapping at each other as they stood by their owners ankles. Phone orders were being passed across the counter and through the door an employee could be seen furiously boiling bagels enveloped in a cloud of steam. It was organised chaos of my favourite kind. The menu of bagel options swung overhead, all were what you’d normally expect to see, apart from one that stood out: bialy. Having no idea what this was, I ordered it anyway. Turns out it’s similar to a bagel in it’s ingredients but instead of a hole, there’s a ‘dip’ in the middle which is stuffed with onions before cooking. The bialy is smaller in size and is not boiled before it’s baked, this makes it less chewy and gives it a matte surface. These little gems originate from the city of Bialystok in Poland.
The bagel was outstanding and probably my favourite in NYC so far…shame about the NYC price tag! However you could tell that the ingredients were top notch and we’d seen them making the bagels on site with our own eyes. The atmosphere was humming, plenty of seating inside and the staff were quick off the mark. By the time we were leaving, our stomachs full and our bagel cravings satisfied, the line was out the door. The intriguing thing was that no-one even batted an eye lid or showed any dismay that the queue was snaking out onto the street. The situation was almost English in it’s politeness and orderly character, very unusual for New York City indeed.
242 8th Avenue, New York, NY, 10011