Editor’s Note: This review was published in our April issue pre-quarantine, but Goldberg’s remains open for curbside pickup, catering, and delivery until stay-at-home orders are lifted.
On any given Sunday morning at Goldberg’s New York Bagels in Pikesville, you will see the trademark of a great bagel shop: The line.
At peak breakfast time, a baker’s dozen or more customers stand single file, just inside the store’s busy front door, waiting to place their order at a sturdy counter. Six everythings is my typical order.
“Two cinnamon raisins, two black Russians, and a small cream cheese, too,” the woman to my left says. We both shimmy down the line toward the cashier. The pace is hurried, so you better know what you want when it’s your turn, or risk getting the stink-eye from a rightfully impatient worker who wants to keep things moving.
He holds an open brown paper bag that’s asking be filled with what most everyone is here for: Bagels—boiled, baked O-shaped dough, firm on the outside, soft and chewy inside, and authentically New York in style, ready to be sliced and dressed to your liking.
I’ve lived in Baltimore for a decade, but as a native of Long Island—where bagels are in the blood—I feel qualified to judge. We won’t go as far as Goldberg’s straight-shooting, and sometimes brusque, owner Stanley Drebin, 65—an Orthodox Jew and certified public accountant who started the shop 22 years ago—when he proclaims, “My bagels are the best in the world.” But only because we haven’t tried all the others.
Even a guy from New York, where bagels first arrived in America with Jewish immigrants who came to the Big Apple in the late 19th century, will keep coming back to Reisterstown Road for the real thing.
It takes about 20 minutes for baker Robert Bagwandeen, from Jamaica (and not the one in New York), to make a round of bagels. The dough, shipped frozen from New Jersey, is laid out to rise. The baby bagels are then dropped in boiling water for one minute, then baked for another minute on a burlap-lined bagel board in the oven. Finally, they’re flipped to cook on the oven floor for 18 minutes more, until the right blend of crunch and chew is reached.
On first bite, you might notice a Goldberg’s bagel is particularly dense on the inside, maybe too much for some tastes. We don’t mind, and clearly we’re not alone. Drebin says he sells 1.5 million bagels in retail per year, even after a wild controversy—and a drop in business—a few years ago that included protests outside the store when it was revealed that Drebin, and at least one of his employees, supported Donald Trump.
Politics aside, we come for the food. And there are rich, hot soups (lentil is a good one), wraps, omelets, and whatever Kosher dish you could imagine. And any item is available anytime the store is open.
Just don’t expect to walk in during Shabbat—sundown Friday to sundown Saturday— and the Jewish high holidays. Goldberg’s is closed then, but in a beautiful acknowledgement of its customer base, it’s open from sundown to 1 a.m. on Saturdays. And the bagels, we can say, are just as good when it’s dark out.
GOLDBERG’S NEW YORK BAGELS 1500 Reisterstown Rd., Pikesville, 410-415-7001. Hours: Sun. 6 a.m.-4 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-3 p.m., Fri. 6 a.m.- 2 p.m., Sat. night (after sundown) until 1 a.m.