After years of pop-ups and supplying area restaurants with fresh-baked New York-style bagels, mother-and-daughter makers Deanna and Jackie Halcrow opened their first brick-and-mortar shop in late January.
Located in the former Gravity Pub space on Glenwood Avenue in East Atlanta Village, the tidy storefront looks as though it could be in New York City’s East Village.
The counter, deli cases and light boxes recall the downtown icon, Russ & Daughters Cafe. And so does their take on “traditional appetizing” — defined as the foods that go with New York bagels, including smoked and cured salmon, house-made salads, cream cheese spreads, and even caviar.
There’s also the classic egg on a bagel with meat and/or cheese, and bagel sandwiches piled with the likes of whitefish salad with dill cream cheese and caviar, and pastrami with spicy mustard.
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On the beverage side of the menu, you’ll find Batdorf & Bronson coffee, assorted English teas, and even Southern sweet iced tea. But it’s the soda station that entices, with real soda jerk-made seltzers, such as celery, cream and black cherry, plus chocolate, vanilla or strawberry egg creams.
Originally from the north shore of Long Island, the Halcrow family got into the bagel business after moving to Atlanta and finding the “bagel quality and availability to be lacking.”
One recent afternoon, Deanna and Jackie Halcrow were just closing up the shop, when they took a few minutes to sit down and talk about what it takes to make and serve their kind of bagels.
Deanna is a talented home cook and baker, and Jackie has a culinary school background. But it took a couple of years, a lot of flour and trial and error to perfect the recipe, and achieve the kind of flavor and texture they longed for.
“One day, I was at home, and I looked up a recipe online, and made some bagels,” Deanna recalled. “They were OK. But from there, I started researching. I bought some equipment, I got some high-gluten flour and got to work.”
A move to a shared commercial kitchen and increasing demand from neighborhood spots, such as Argosy, Midway Pub, Home Grown and Octane Coffee, helped Emerald City grow a following.
“Octane was really important,” Jackie said. “We had some friends that owned restaurants, and they were some of our first customers. And then it was just walking into coffee shops and saying, ‘Hi. I make bagels. Would you like to buy them?’ It just kind of snowballed from there.”
While many think $2 is fair for what is essentially a hand-crafted bagel, the Halcrows have sometimes met resistance to the price.
“It takes 72 hours to make a bagel,” Deanna said. “We start with a mixture of flour, water and yeast, called a poolish, that’s fermented for 24 hours. Then we take that and make our dough and form the bagels. Then they go away for another 24 hours in the walk-in. Finally, we kettle-boil them, and bake them upside-down on boards in a rotating oven.”
Asked about the Platonic ideal of a New York bagel, Deanna named the bare-bones Absolute Bagels on Broadway. But Jackie cited Russ & Daughters as the epitome of a bagel shop.
“It’s everything about them as an appetizing store,” she said. “They’ve been open forever. Their bagels are great. Everything that they do is great, and we pay homage to them, heavily. Our whitefish salad sandwich is very similar to one they have on their menu.
“But, generally, that style of appetizing shop doesn’t exist like it used to on the Lower East Side. They’re one of the last. They inspired us to have the caviar, and the choices in lox. I’m doing a salt-cured belly lox now and a beet pickle lox. And we plan on expanding some of our more traditional appetizing options and reintroduce Atlanta to this type of food.”
1257A Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-343-3758, emeraldcitybagels.com.
More images from a First Look at Emerald City Bagels