Utopia Bagels—of Whitestone, Queens—Rolls into Mid-Town Manhattan

When the famed outer borough baglery opened in Murray Hill, Straus News’ bard of the bagel beat bolted over. Is it worth the dough?

| 21 Jun 2024 | 07:17

Well, East 34th Street may not have reached Nirvana, but now there is a Utopia— Utopia bagels that is.

Since June 2, the venerable Whitestone, Queens bagelry’s second ever store is open from 7 A.M. to 4 P.M. every day of the week, and, unlike opening day where it took an hour to get a bagel—the long lines have died down.

Why is Utopia such an instant sensation? Besides Utopia’s vaunted reputation for being among Gotham’s bagel elite, their Midtown East location at Lexington Avenue is situated a near perfect crossroads.

Eighteen different types of bagels are individually prepared by hand-rolling, and then placed in a boiling kettle. The result? A nice color, achieved by a baking in the 1947 carousel oven, and different from the usual norm of NY Bagel stores. The taste of each is a nostalgic voyage to a bygone era.

More secrets? The location is spotlessly clean, with wide spaces made for an easier order and pick up process. My cup of black Lavazza drip coffee was fresh and hot—at 330 P.M. Very few similar venues can offer the same at that hour.

Co-owner Jesse Spellman is in charge on the floor to make sure there are lots of smiles all over this space. Customers and staff alike seem to be happy under his watch.

Jesse got his start at the original Whitestone location, which his dad, Scott Spellman, owned with a partner. Regarding his move to Manhattan, Jesse said that, after looking at other East Side locations, this was the one that was just right.

“We wanted to open this specific location to students—Norman Thomas High School is around the corner—front line workers at all the nearby medical facilities, local residents, workers, anyone who needs a good bagel with some trimmings.”

With a 41-year tenure in Queens, opening up a Manhattan branch represents a new era of bagel-to-the-future thinking. With his two partners, Jimmy and Angelo Toulous, Spellman took on this project with the energy and situational stamina that is part of all New Yorker’s DNA.

While other East Side locations were scouted, the owners had a Goldilocks moment at the intersection of 34th and Lex. Every detail of the new store was thought over and refined, including some bagel cartoons in the restroom.

The array of choices available (on a bagel, of course) to customers might almost be a little overwhelming, but given a few minutes to peruse the signage, one can find their bagel and trimmings zen.

While the original Whitestone location offers a somewhat broader range of appetizing specialties, Spellman told Straus News “We will always evaluate and see where we can improve. If there is something we need to add, we will add it.” Like every new establishment, tweaks will happen as the weeks and months

What’s next? The Utopia Bagels recently announced that brand will continue with the opening of a third outlet at 26-11 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens. This newest location will have a 15-year lease for 6,800 square feet for two levels, including one off the sidewalk.

Roll on, Utopia, roll on!