Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Bagel Nosh Deli unlox their new restaurant in Chicago's Rush Street area. (1978-1984)

The Bagel Nosh began in New York City in 1976.

Al Marcus and Sanford Adams co-owned the franchise rights for Illinois and opened the company's 41st restaurant in 1978 at 1135 North State Street in Chicago. They hoped to woo the Rush Street drinking crowd and affluent people living in Chicago's wealthy Gold Coast neighborhood.
1135 North State Street, in the Gold Coast neighborhood of the Near North Side community of Chicago.

The interior was chic-rustic with large circular windows (replaced), lots of thick, rough-cut wood walls, bentwood chairs, industrial steel light fixtures, butcher block tables, and plenty of live hanging plants. A very calming environment with the whole 2nd floor for additional seating for about 60 people. 

They did a bang-up take-out business. The line never stopped, or so it seemed. Customers would line up northbound on State Street, then the line would turn east on Elm Street. Once inside, customers waited in a cafeteria line, finally being confronted with a ceiling-high wall menu that would turn old-time deli owners pickle-green with envy.

The "water" bagels were made behind a glass wall next to a deli counter that customers passed while in line, making the entire area viewable. The bagels were made with high gluten flour. The dough was formed into its doughnut shape by machine, refrigerated until needed, boiled for 30 seconds, and then baked in batches of 35 for 17 minutes at 500° F. The result was a larger, chewier Bagel with a crunchy outside.

Bagels (plain, salt, onion, poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, and rye) at 15¢; lox or Nova, and smoked sturgeon sandwich at $3.25; corned beef, roast beef, hot pastrami, tongue, brisket, and turkey sandwiches on your choice of bagel at $2.45; cream cheese, chive cream cheese, vegetable cream cheese, lox cream cheese, whitefish salad, shrimp salad, baked salmon salad, chopped liver, gefilte fish, herring in wine sauce with onions, potato knishes, cheese blintzes, and 'homemade chicken soup' (Yiddish: khoummeyd hindl zup) ...

I was interested in finding out how much a 15¢ bagel in 1978 would cost now. The Inflation Calculator says 15¢ in 1978 is worth 67¢ today. So I called three popular Delis for the cost of one bagel:
    • New York Bagel & Bialy in Lincolnwood charges $1.10 per bagel.
    • Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen in Chicago charges $1.50 per bagel.
    • The Bagel Restaurant and Deli in Chicago charges $1.50 per bagel.
The average between the three Delis I called is $1.37.

The lox, Nova lox, and Belly lox (about 1/4 to 1 lb. of belly lox per salmon, depending upon the size and the salmon species) were premium quality flown in weekly from an old fish house in Philadelphia. The same fish house provided smoked fish, including sturgeon, sable, chubs, and whitefish.

The food was cooked in view of the customers on one 6-foot, 6-burner flat top and one 4-foot, 4-burner flat top. One person could handle about 15 egg orders on the 6-foot grill at a time, and on the smaller grill were big piles of onions grilling and fresh-cut and seasoned hash browns. It was like a fast-paced cooking show with people watching you cook over your shoulder. 

Al Marcus told me why they placed the grills in the front of the restaurant, as the Bagel Nosh does in New York. The grill would be the last point before the customer pays, guaranteeing the customer the hottest food before finding a table or taking the food to go. He also quoted Steak' n Shake, whose famous slogan is "In Sight, It Must Be Right," from the 1930s.

In the first week, thousands of noshers consumed or bought 200 pounds of lox and 150 pounds of hand-sliced lox. 
Most deli countermen never got the hang of slicing lox this thin. Since lox is sold by weight, slicing it paper-thin would nearly guarantee a customer's return.

Also sold the first week was 300 pounds of corned beef, 130 pounds of pastrami and hot pastrami, 90 pounds of roast beef, 100 pounds of chopped liver, 500 pounds of coleslaw, 600 pounds of cream cheeses, 1,500 pickles, and 16,000 bagels, which were made in the traditional method of boiling first, then baking them.
Lox, Egg, and Onion Omelet.
The best breakfast seller was a 3-egg Lox and Onion omelet or scramble with a bagel and cream cheese, or a lox and cream cheese bagel sandwich during the weekend late-night hours.

A second Bagel Nosh opened at Plaza Del Prado at Willow and Pfingsten roads in Glenview, Illinois.

When the Bagel Nosh opened, I was working at Wally's Deli in the Milk Pail in Lincolnwood, Illinois, part-time evenings in High School. Al Marcus knew Wally and called him to see if he knew someone who wanted a part-time, 16-hour, weekend job. Wally asked me if I'd like a Saturday and Sunday breakfast and lunch job at the Bagel Nosh, and I would get paid under the table and get free meals while working. 

The hours changed shortly after the Bagel Nosh opened. They opened at 5 am Friday and didn't close until Sunday at 10 pm due to the crowds on Rush Street during the weekends.

After a couple of weekends, I was taught grill cooking and order management. It took me about 150 eggs, but I learned to break four eggs at once with two hands, cracking them straight on the grill.

One day one of the countermen handed me a raw cinnamon raisin bagel. "Neil, drop this into the deep-fryer for about 4 minutes until medium-deep brown. Flip and cook the other side for the same amount of time, then remove and let drain and cool for a minute." I buttered mine... 
WOW... It's Phenomenal. 
deep-fried cinnamon raisin bagel.
I asked Marcus why the deep-fried cinnamon raisin bagel wasn't on the menu. It was on the menu the very next weekend. In my Illinois history group, a few people mentioned just how awesome those deep-fried cinnamon raisin bagels were! 

Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 
#Jewish #JewishThemed #JewishLife


  1. That deep-fried cinnamon raisin bagel was called a Fragel and it had powdered sugar on it. Unforgettable!

  2. I remember Rio worked there, he was great and he lived across at the Cedar motel.


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