[Updated 5/1/15: According to its Instagram feed, Better Bagels Boston will be at the SoWa Open Market in Boston every Sunday this season, which starts on May 3.]
The Boston bagel scene is blossoming and one of the newest businesses is based right here in Somerville. Better Bagels Boston officially launched in January but the idea, recipe testing and friendship behind the operation began long before.
Two of the founders, Sam Harden and Will Hall, grew up together in Groveland. They connected with their third partner, James Grimes, when he and Harden moved in to an apartment together in Somerville a couple of years ago after meeting on Craigslist.
“We’ve been best friends ever since,” Grimes said of the threesome’s fateful meeting.
Grimes was raised in a bagel-crazy household. His father and uncles started a bagel shop in New Jersey where he grew up and his family still owns it to this day. But rather than bring those bagels to Boston, the guys set about creating their own unique style.
“We started working on a bagel recipe last January,” Grimes said. “It’s an area for growth in Boston. Being that we like bagels so much, we wanted to do something with it.”
Better Bagels Boston’s product is a New York-style bagel that’s vegan-friendly. Making them is a 36-hour process that occurs at the Stock Pot, a culinary incubator and shared kitchen, in Malden.
“It takes time to get a good finished product,” Grimes said. Better Bagels uses “simple ingredients,” including malt extract, which gives the bagels a “nice sweet aftertaste and long residual flavor on the tongue.”
The bagels are boiled and baked, giving them a “chewy, nice mouthfeel” with a “crust on the outside.” Better Bagels come in savory flavors (plain, poppy, sesame, everything) that can be paired with their blended cream cheeses (plain, veggie, scallion).
“When we started messing around with the recipe, the idea was to develop it into a business, to turn it into a dream job almost,” Grimes said.
And while the Better Bagels founders all still have day jobs as they work on launching their new business through wholesale and pop-ups, they’re on their way to dream job status. They made their Somerville debut at the recent Magoun Square Open House (pictured above), quickly selling out of their supply at Daddy Jones.
Eventually Better Bagels hopes to open a shop of its own as well as selling at farmers markets and from carts and trucks around town. As for naming the business, Grimes said the founders talked about it for a while and eventually settled on a moniker that was a bit provocative and described their mission statement.
“The people who live in Somerville appreciate a nice, well-made product,” Grimes said. “They deserve a well-made, better bagel.”
If you missed Better Bagels in Magoun Square, you can find them when they pop up again at Cuisine en Locale on Sunday, February 22 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. And they’ll be back at Daddy Jones on Saturday, February 28 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Bagels will be available for eating in or taking out.
You can go with Grimes’ favorite, an untoasted everything bagel with plain cream cheese, or another flavor combination that strikes your fancy. And while Gimes says Better Bagels are so fresh they don’t need to be toasted, he’ll gladly warm yours up if that’s your preference.
“There’s two ways to go about it: some people just like their bagel toasted,” Grimes said. “We make our bagels so they don’t need to be toasted, but we’re not going to scoff at someone who wants it toasted. Some like it hot.”
If you choose to carry out, Grimes recommends slicing any uneaten bagels, storing them in the freezer and warming them up in the toaster when you’re ready to eat. “It’s not quite as good as fresh but it’s pretty close.”
Images courtesy of Better Bagels Boston.