Updated: Jul 13, 2019
Rough-and-tumble Brooklyn is thousands of miles away physically, and light years away psychologically, from the tony, sun-splashed streets of Beverly Hills, Calif. But the humble bagel is not constrained by geographic boundaries. Thanks to veteran TV talk show personality Larry King, hungry travelers in the Los Angeles area who have a taste for New York’s most famous and most iconic doughy treat don’t need to find a deli that delivers from the East Coast.
Instead, they can drop in on the Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. in a storefront on tree shaded South Beverly Drive, tucked in among the jewelry stores, spas and wig shops that cater to the rich and famous. And the hungry.
I chose Larry King's bagel for my first breakfast in Beverly Hills to get a New York experience in California.
As far as New York bagels go, this shop, a franchise operation owned by King since 2011, promotes itself as the real deal. The reason, say the operators, is the water that it uses in the baking process. It’s been “Brooklynized” on site in the shop. The specifics remain a secret, but insiders have described it as a 14-step process that involves stripping the local L.A. “hard” water of its mineral content and rendering it ‘soft” like the municipal water that flows from the taps all over Brooklyn. The soft water is then treated so that only sodium is left before the large orbs of fresh dough are boiled in it. The final product is a bagel that is crusty on the outside, but light, chewy and flavorful on the inside.
Opinionated New Yorkers, which is redundant, will volunteer that it’s their water that makes New York bagels so yummy and bagels made elsewhere taste like boiled cardboard. I am not going to argue with them. For all I know, the real difference may be a sprinkle of fairy dust.
But I do know from personal experience that King gives his customers the royal treatment. His “Manhattan” bagel –fresh lox on an everything bagel with onions, tomatoes, capers and cream cheese, was first rate, as was the whole wheat bagel my wife ordered.
A delicious surprise was the iced coffee I ordered, called a “Cubsta,” which features ice cubes made completely out of freshly roasted coffee. This is ingenious. If a coffee house in sweltering Savannah adopted this process, it would clean up financially during the summer months.
The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company was founded in 2009 in Delray Beach, Fla., and boasts of about 200 franchises nationwide. King, a Beverly Hills resident, is no absentee business owner. The 85-year-old Brooklyn native and former CNN talk show host is said to frequent his establishment and hold court in one of its many booths. I didn’t see him. And even if I did, I couldn’t have managed more than a quick hello. It’s not polite to talk with your mouth full.
Tommy Barton is a travel and food blogger at iamnotoldnews.com and the former editorial page editor at the Savannah Morning News.