In a nutshell: Philly’s bagel scene is shaping up nicely with the latest chef-driven addition (think black sesame and pastrami-spiced holey wonders) to Washington Square West.
Philly is experiencing a bagel revolution. From High Street on Market whipping up an impressive bread program including bagels and bialies to Schmear It trucking along with unique bagel-and-schmear combos, eateries throughout the city are filling the holes in Philadelphians’ bagel-loving hearts.
Enter Adam and Cheri Willner. These Matyson alumni (back-of-house and front-of-house, respectively) bring that same creative inspiration to their newest brainchild Knead Bagels. Adam–who honed his skills at Jones, Continental, and Matyson prior to Knead–started making bagels for Matyson’s brunch service and learned the tricks of the trade before launching into this latest venture.
Adam and his crew experimented with over 100 flavor combinations before settling on the current menu. In addition to offering the stars of the show and their sidekick cream cheese spreads, Knead sells breakfast/lunch sandwiches, soups, salads, and coffee from local roaster Elixr. Nearly everything is made in house; perhaps the only thing outsourced is the base (Philadelphia Cream Cheese) for their innovative spreads.
We went all in on a baker’s dozen and ordered every flavor still available (meaning we’ll have to return for a Moroccan-spiced apricot bagel soon!).
The simplest option is the best way to taste a bagel in its truest form. Knead achieves the crisp crust and chewy interior that good bagels require. I’d love to come here early in the morning to try a bagel hot from the oven, so toasty warm that steam emits from where you tear into it.
In addition to plain, approximately half of Knead’s lineup are classic choices:
The other half of the menu features more ingenious flavors:
Togarashi is Japanese for the genus Capsicum: chili peppers. Shichimi togarashi–a popular Japanese spice mixture composed of coarsely ground red chili pepper, ground sanshō (another type of pepper), roasted orange peel, black/white sesame seeds, hemp seeds, ground ginger, and seaweed–is often used in soups, noodles, and rice crackers, so the crossover to bagels was bound to happen. A touch of brightness from the lime lightens the standard scallion cream cheese, and it’s almost inevitable that you’ll want to layer on some strips of silky lox.
Cheri’s recommendation was solid: kimchi cream cheese was an excellent partner-in-crime for the black sesame bagel. (Don’t worry, the often-pungent fermented flavor isn’t overpowering, adding a welcome savory kick.)
Flax and chia seed turn the humble bagel into a superfood champion.
The hint of black pepper is a nice touch in this delicately-flavored torus. They recommend pairing it with smoked chopped liver for a Jewish deli shoutout, but I could also see this with one of the current sandwich options: housemade Angus roast beef with asiago, pickled kale, and cherry pepper aioli. (As I thoughtfully chewed this bagel, I realized how fantastic Hershel’s East Side Deli pastrami would be in between these two halves.)
My exposure to fennel during childhood was limited, simply tucked into the occasional Italian sausage. Metropolitan Bakery’s fennel sourdough pretzel was the first treat to turn me onto the fennel/dough combo, so suffice it to say, I was pretty excited about this bagel. The herby, licorice-hinted scent is intoxicating.
Forget basic strawberry cream cheese from the refrigerated aisle: a fragrant balsamic cherry cream cheese is all you need. This slightly earthier bagel provides an excellent base to balance the sweetness and tartness.
Yes, Knead, you got what I need.
725 Walnut Street