The Bagel

Down on Fairfax, south of Olympic, there’s an area now known as Little Ethiopia because it contains around a half-dozen Ethiopian restaurants and one or two retail stores with Ethiopian groceries or gifts.  Back in the eighties and before, most of the buildings housed delicatessens and the largest was The Bagel, a very genial place with very mediocre deli food and not much of it.

People went to The Bagel for the waitresses, who were the friendliest in town.  Every time I went there, the place was full of older men who, I got the impression, went there every day to flirt with them.  (They were mostly older women — older than me, not older than the older men.)

There were two parts to the menu at The Bagel: Hot food and sandwiches.  Except at breakfast, they always seemed to be out of whatever hot food you tried to order.  I’d try to order the roast chicken and the waitress would say they were out.  So I’d try to order the pot roast and the waitress would say they were out.  So I’d try to order the brisket platter and guess what.  Finally one time, I just turned to her and said, “Let’s do this the easy way.  Tell me what you do have.”  She answered, “The chicken soup and any of the sandwiches except the turkey pastrami, and we’re out of sourdough and egg bread.”  Then she leaned over near me and said, as if she didn’t want anyone else to hear, “The owner only orders the things people are buying.  No one’s ordered turkey pastrami lately so the kitchen doesn’t stock it.”

“Well, let me think about what I want then,” I said.  “In the meantime, I’d like a bowl of chicken soup and a bagel.”

“Oh, I forgot to mention.  We’re out of bagels.”

I acted more shocked than I probably was.  “Out of bagels?  Isn’t this place called The Bagel?  How can you run out of bagels at The Bagel?”

“We didn’t run out,” she explained.  “It’s another thing the boss no longer orders.”

Are we surprised The Bagel went out of business?  I’m not…but I still kinda miss the place, anyway.

33 Responses to The Bagel

  • aron kay says:

    my parents, my brother and sister and i would take an excursion to the bagel on a sunday evening…..we lived on crescent heights and whitworth which was 5 blocks from the bagel….we would jump into the car and drive the short distance to the bagel…the place had class and it had a heimish vibe…..now i miss the place…it was so long ago

  • Mike says:

    The Bagel was owned by Al Langer, yes that Langer. During the 60’s I was there all the time.

  • MICHAEL WIGGINS says:

    GREAT PLACE TO EAT.

  • MICHAEL WIGGINS says:

    WHAT GREAT MEMORIES WERE MADE THERE. ATE THERE WITH MY LOUSEY LIAR UNCLES AL AND DAN WIGGINS ALL THE TIME. GLAD THEIR DEAD BUT WISH THE BAGEL WAS ALIVE.

  • Mike Harvey says:

    Joey Helman & I were friends in High School @ University High. I never had a bad meal at the Begal Corn Beef on Kaiser, Pastrami on Rye everything was the best. John named a sandwich in honor of my father Ray Harvey. I will always miss not being able to go there and see I Joey working the Cash Register.

  • John Hindsill says:

    The bagel baker was in a quandary because the cost of materials and labor were
    rising [pun not necessarily intended]. He asked his assistant how he could save money on their product. Make the hole larger was the suggestion. But no. it would take more dough to go around the hole. Well, then, make the hole smaller. Again no, it would require more dough to fill the hole. Some problems are insoluble.

  • Stacy says:

    I worked at the bagel for a few years when they opened another location on Sepulveda and National next to the Vons. I was there when the 2 brothers had it but my mom and dad worked there prior to that.
    We were NEVER out of food.

  • aron pieman kay says:

    we used to go eat there as a family on sunday evenings…the vibes were heimish..to say the least…
    one thing about the Bagel…it was for real…there existed none of the phoniness that prevailed in Hollywood…
    Therefore it was so down to earth….i miss it for sure

  • PAUL FOREL says:

    This is a restaurant that should never have closed. I ate there several times in the early and middle seventies.

    I would drive up from Signal Hill (Long Beach for those of you who don’t know from Signal Hill) for dinner and have the same thing every time- the knish/kishke plate, rye bread and butter and of course, Cream Soda, probably Dr. Brown’s.

    The ladies were always nice, the food was perfect and I will always miss that place. I like Izzy’s in Santa Monica but nothing can take the place of The Bagel.

  • Christina says:

    I loved the Bagel and still miss it. Much better food than Langer’s or Canter’s. The cabbage soup was heaven. The customers were as interesting as the waitresses. It was the first time I saw a concentration camp tattoo on an old gentleman’s wrist. The parking situation was insignificant because it was the best deli in town.

  • C. Stulberg says:

    Mr. Langer is incorrect! The Bagel was NOT owned by Al Langer in 1960. My father, John Helman and my two cousins, Sam and Oscar Pakin bought the Bagel in 1958. They were three equal partners and my father ran the kitchen and bought all the meat and cold cuts for the Deli. He was a butcher by trade and was a great cook. My Aunt Laja, Oscar and Sam’s mother, worked in the kitchen alongside my Dad and the other cooks. They were from Poland and were all Holocaust Survivors. The restaurant was sold in 1982. It was never the same after my family sold it. By the way, the recipe for the p’tcha and sweet and sour cabbage soup, were my Dad’s, not my aunt’s. Sadly, my Dad, Sam and Oscar are all gone.

  • Gary Fradkin says:

    In the sixties we at the Bagel at least once a week. My dad would be there every morning for breakfast before going to work. The Bagel was THE deli back then. Occasionally we eat at the Stage a few doors north, but it just reminded us how great the Bagel was. It’s sad how things have changed.

  • Mike Shawn says:

    The Bagel was so much better than Canter’s. Like fred, my dad was a tin man too and there were always guys meeting for brunch. After eating, a few would break out a deck of cards and play a few rounds of Clobyoch. They were all such characters. Any portrayal in the movies is a pale imitation of what these guys were like.

  • Glenn Steinberg says:

    Sam…the owner of THE BAGEL was our neighbor on High Point, I think it was.
    He was a very sweet man and my parents were so proud to know him. Sam worked very hard everyday.
    We ate there often…and the Jewish food was great.
    It was like Canter’s only you didn’t have to drive so far north!

  • Murray says:

    I loved the Bagel. Lived right behind it for about fifteen years. Ate their almost every day. What a joint. Loved Delores, the sweet and sour old waitress who served the best sweet and sour cabbage soup in the world. Just other day I was eating at Nick’s coffee shop on Pico west of La C. Our waiter was a guy who used to be a cook at the bagel. We talked about the co-owner Tony and the whole gang of misfits. And right there, he gave me the recipe for the sweet and sour cabbage soup. All I remember is beef short ribs. I want to make it today so I’m going to drive over there and ask him for it again. BTW, loved the story about Niel Diamond and his nose job at Midway, now called Olympia hospital.

  • Dan Wingate says:

    Just interviewed Bill Macy about his days working on the TV series “Maude” – one of the stories he told us was on taping day, he always stopped and got Bea Arthur a pastrami sandwich from The Bagel.

  • Scarla says:

    i loved the Bagel and have such great memories of it. When I was in elementary school in the ’60s, my best friend’s mom worked in the bakery there, and every Friday she’d bring home treats for us, including their fabulous strawberry whipped cream cake that I can still see and taste! I really miss it.

  • Leslie O says:

    ….. @ Fred, they were from Poland, not Hungary. Nice memories written though :)

  • Leslie O says:

    My cousins (Pakin) and my grandfather John owned The Bagel (cstulberg above is my Aunt) it closed because of the poor ownership of the people who bought it after Sam, Oscar, and my grandfather John. My dad and aunt worked there, and it was great!

  • aron pieman kay says:

    we lived on crescent heights and olympic….however our family would always make it a point of going to the bagel on sunday evenings…i enjoyed the service and the food was great…parking was a hassle due to the shortage of space….however we made the best of it…..well the bagel lives in our hearts…

  • fred says:

    also don’t know about lil ethiopia we called fairfax kosher canyon. also whoever sold bagel to oscar and sam thought he pulled the wool over their eyes because parking was always a major issue. We had to park sometimes 1/2 mile away in the 60’s. The food was that good. Remember the bakery next door

  • fred says:

    they have to be talking about after oscar and sam sold to tony an employee in like 1981 . The bagel was one of the best deli’s in U.S.A. as good as best in NYC, chicago and miami. Cabbage soup sat. only. BTW hungarian concentrate camp survivors. Their mom cooked there for years all her recipes. yes the waitress’s where there for 30 yrs but their service was good. My pops was an original tin man (see movie)and the bagel was their hangout (big booth facing Fairfax). Dad first took me when i was 3 yrs old in 58. Last ate there with ex wife in 79 Oscar and Sammy nicknamed me “the pastrami Kid” because thats all I ordered till i was 10 years old

  • Norm Langer says:

    From 1956 to 1960 The Bagel was owned by Al Langer, Joe Berlatsky and Ted Caress. Most of what is writeen above was not the case then. The full menu was always available. It was sold to the Pakin Brothers, who ran it somewhat the same for several years.

  • NORM Z says:

    Back in the early 70’s I worked the switchboard at Midway Hospital on Olympic near Fairfax. One evening we admitted Neil Diamond for a nose-job. He hadn’t eaten and I volunteered to run to The Bagel and get him a corned beef on rye. One of the things about L.A., is that you do run into celebs on occasion.

    NZ

  • Murray ARONSON says:

    The Bagel had p’tcha – jellied calf’s foot. My Mother used to make it, but I never touched the stuff. I had p’tcha only one time and that was at The Bagel sometime in the 80’s. My taste buds had grown up and I loved the p’tcha. Can’t find p’tcha anywhere in Los Angeles and likely elsewhere, except for maybe Israel or perhaps a Hasidic area in Brooklyn.

  • Shel Willens says:

    My pop took me there the night my daughter was born. As a deli, the place was okay, but I’ll never forget how special it was on that single occasion 42 years ago. Thanks for the memory.

  • judy devore says:

    I lived a couple blocks from The Bagel when i was a little girl. I used to go in there when i’d walk to the toystore a couple doors south. I remember my grandpa getting wonderful kaiser rolls from there and bringing them over on Sunday s..’m they were warm and delicious….just like the memory.
    Thanks for reminding of a wonderful bit of my childhood.

  • Leo Bunnin says:

    Cstulberg and Mark Wolf were correct.The Bagel was the best.The food was amazing,Sam and Oscar…a delight.A “hamisha” place.My father and uncle and myself would drive a half hour to go and “fress”.Can taste that culinary delight right now….ah just one more time would be so great!

  • Nicole Klauzar says:

    So happy I found this site! I have been thinking about The Bagel and have tried my best to find old photos of the place. So far, not a one. I remember going there with my grandparents every weekend as a kid. Good memories. Anyone have old photos of The Bagel to post? Would love to see them!

  • Matt Steiner says:

    The Bagel had the best corned beef hash on the planet. Corned beef hash and eggs there was so good and the restaurant was such a straight-ahead, unaffected place, not overflowing with self-promotion about how great it was. I can’t drive by its old place on Fairfax without thinking about the corned beef hash every time.

  • Mark Wolf says:

    The Bagel was the best. Far better than the more famous deli on N Fairfax. My dad borught us there every Sunday for breakfast and sometimes during the week for dinner. I never had a bad meal, and the take from the counter was excellent. And Sam and Oscar were a hoot. Loved all of Oscar’s race horse pictures on the wall and was totally fascinated by the old fashioned phone booth in the spill over dining room.

  • Cstulberg says:

    These comments are BS!! My father and two cousins owned the Bagel Restaurant from 1958 to 1982. I worked there as a teen, as the cashier…we NEVER ran out of Bagels, or any of the hot dishes on the menu. Also, we never served sourdough bread! The Bagel went out of business after my family sold it to two brothers…who may have been the ones who ran out of food and bagels and finally went out of business because they were not Deli Men! But, I can assure you when my family owned it, people came from far and wide to eat the sweet and sour cabbage soup, chicken soup, chicken in the pot, brisket, chopped liver and many other dishes.

  • Yvette says:

    Too funny. My experience exactly. :) Now I want a pastrami on a nice kaiser roll with old pickles.

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