For almost a year, the spot that used to be one of New York’s first Bareburger locations on the corner of First Avenue and 73rd Street stood empty. Where there once buzzed a vibrant, wood-paneled burger joint offering large patties and fries then sat a closed, green-boarded storefront. Now, B&B Bagels takes its place and the neighborhood teems once again.
“Great bagels,” said more than one patron when the shop opened in mid-May. “Great to have in the area,” said others as they sat outside on warm spring days.
For Avi Bador, the genial Israeli native who owns the shop with his wife Rachel Benavi, the choice to open his store was simple. “The site became available, and I had a good feeling it was going to work here,” he says on a recent early evening. “And I took it.”
Since then, the shop has been packed. A weekend morning walk reveals the store bustling with New Yorkers looking for a good bagel, a long line leading from the entrance to the glass case displaying eighteen different kinds of cream cheese. Atop the case, over the heads of Marcello the Sandwich Man and Naama the Barista, sit the bagels. Fifteen varieties of them.
“It’s no shortcut,” Bador says of what makes a quality bagel. “You do it like the real New York, Brooklyn bagel. Hand-drawn, with all of the ingredients. No shortcut. You do it with the recipe and do it the right way – no shortcut, don’t save on ingredients and material ...You cannot save on material; you have to put everything.”
Bador’s bagels are baked on premises at 5 a.m. every day and, by the time the shop opens at 6 a.m., they arrive hot and fresh. Coming in such varieties as plain and whole-wheat everything, the bagels sit next to bialys and have received favorable reviews.
On one recent visit, an older patron even said something like, “That was one of the best bagels I’ve ever had” while, another Saturday afternoon, two young men devoured their egg-and-cheeses before starting their day.
“It had a nice crunch outside and was very soft inside,” writes reviewer Marianne W. of her bagel on Yelp. Another Yelp reviewer named Steph W. writes that hers was “dense, chewy, yet soft.” The seasonings, she continues, “had the perfect amount of salt” and she comments, “I’d say the bagel delivers in taste.”
As with a pickle or a pastrami sandwich, it can be hard to spot a quality bagel and not everyone will agree on what’s substantial and what isn’t. As its three-and-a-half out of five stars on Yelp and bustling tables indicate, however, B&B Bagels pleases most customers and succeeds on this front.
“It’s All About Bagels,” goes the shop’s slogan and Bador means it. “I’ve been doing this ever since I’m fifteen-years-old,” he says. “I started to work in a bakery. I’m forty-eight today...Israel is different. Israel doesn’t have bagels. And I came here,” he continues, mentioning that he moved to New York twenty years ago and operated a bagel place with his brother in Murray Hill for several years.
“You Gotta Be Here”
The no-nonsense owner doesn’t work alone, however. The other B in B&B stands for Benavi, the last name of his wife, Rachel. Like her, Bador works at the shop every day and often makes the sandwiches himself. Together, the couple works twelve-hour days and works towards their shop’s success.
“You gotta be here every day,” Bador says. “You have to check, to see that everything is fresh, everything is clean, everything is the way it should be.” In his black shirt and slim jeans, a cellphone often in his hand, Bador is in many ways the modern, busy café owner. His warmth, however, the times he tosses in an extra bagel or offers a free muffin, is what distinguishes him as an owner and draws admiration from his staff.
“Avi’s here,” Karen the Counter Girl said one afternoon a few weeks back when Bador entered the store. “Avi’s here,” she repeated as he put some bags down behind the register. Bador returned with a smile, seemingly content with the success of his café.
“It’s good results,” he says, knowing that his outdoor tables crowd with patrons most weekday mornings. “I see the reaction of the people. It’s good feedback. Yeah, very good feedback.”
Still, Bador isn’t done. “It’s taking time to build,” he says. “It’s not where I want it yet, but it will be. I have a long process. Of course, I want it to be more busy, more stuff. We’re working on a catering menu right now. A lot of things. And I’m planning to open more places.”
By day’s end, in addition to serving some of the most savory coffee in the neighborhood, he wants customers “to get the best experience as far as having good customer service, a good product, fresh, tasty, to sit in a place with air conditioning in a good environment.”
With the bagels baking and the coffee flowing, Bador and Benavi, along with their refreshingly friendly staff, are set to stay around the city for awhile.
“I want it to be more busy, more stuff. We’re working on a catering menu right now. A lot of things. And I’m planning to open more places.” Avi Bador of B&B Bagels