If you live in Seattle or ever plan to visit and love bagels as I do, I wanted to recommend a new bagel shop/café that’s opened in Capitol Hill (12th & Pine in the Packard Building), Eltana. The owner, Stephen Brown, is a Montreal native and grew up noshing on the city’s European style wood-fired bagels. Now, he’s brought the tradition to Seattle. If you grew up in a city with great bagels like New York, L.A. or other places, you’ll want to check it out. These bagels, baked rather than boiled as most are–are quite different than the standard fare.
They are crusty on the outside, airy and light on the inside. And they’re made with much less salt than bagels commonly are. They’re not cakey or heavy like that execrable thing called a Noah’s bagel. And God help us, no, you won’t find a blueberry bagel here.
When you eat them at the shop they’re right out of the oven like pizza baked fresh emerging from a brick oven. The sesame bagels in particular are out of this world, since the baking toasts the seeds and brings out that wonderful taste of toasted sesame. Currently, you’ll only find five varieties, but I’m sure that will change after the cafe has been open longer.
A word of warning is advisable: these are wood-fired bagels. They are to conventional bagels as an heirloom apple is to a Red Delicious. Some of the bagels are darker-crusted than others and they aren’t perfectly round since they’re shaped by hand rather than machine. This is hand-work, not assembly line. So you have to be prepared for what some might see as visual imperfections. Just revise that traditional saying to: tasting is believing.
Eltana also offers unusual condiments for that bagel shmear. Not just your average cream cheese spread. There’s date walnut cream cheese and almond honey and pomegranate, along with savory spreads like feta scallions and parsley. It also serves unique vegetarian salad accompaniments including spiced sweet potato and squash-chickpea. There are also soups and dessert.
Another departure from your average bagel shop is that Eltana serves all the standard espresso coffee drinks. This is the most elegant, hip and cool bagel shop you may ever eat in.
Another very cool aspect of the Eltana is that Stephen has commissioned monthly crossword puzzles (he must be a crossword maven) which are blown up poster-size and featured on one wall of the café. The first one is on a Jewish theme. The puzzle is also on paper, so you can do it there instead of reading your Sunday paper or take it home to do there. This isn’t kid’s stuff. It’s really serious adult puzzles. So bring along your Yiddishe kop and maybe a copy of Pirkey Avot!
Disclosure: I am a friend of the Browns, but this recommendation is much more about the food than the friendship.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.