Hangover cures, breakfast-on-the-go, a sick day solution—no matter what the occasion, bagels have got you covered. As any NJG (nice jewish girl) knows, a good bagel can turn a bad morning around in one bite. Enter El Bagel: Miami’s newest morning mood boost.
Ask almost any classmate where to get a good bagel in Miami and odds are they’ll have some strong opinions. Especially if they’re from the tri-state area. The general consensus for those students is probably nowhere—fly to the East Coast. But those people have clearly never visited El Bagel, the hipster bagel shop near Miami’s Design District that sells out daily before 11 a.m.
“Bagels are a love language,” said Simon Caicedo, El Bagel’s general manager. El Bagel started as a pop-up shop after owner Matteson Koche, a self-described “bagel head,” got the idea to bring quality, authentic bagels to the city of Miami. Koche said he grew up eating bagels in Broward County, but as he got older, he realized Miami bagels just weren’t cutting it. After trying “real bagels with no bullshit, no preservatives” in Los Angeles, he realized Miami was missing out.
What began as a delivery service out of Koche’s car turned into a food truck behind Boxelder Craft Beer Market in Wynwood. Word spread fast, according to Koche, and pretty soon there were massive lines for his bagels. “We were slammed every weekend and it got to the point where we were constantly looking for a new bakery, constantly maxing out production on that end,” he said. “We figured it was time to either move up or call it quits.” They signed a lease in February of 2019 and opened the Biscayne Boulevard shop on March 1, 2020. Then, the pandemic hit. The inside of the store was closed just 13 days after opening. El Bagel adapted by moving their orders online. To this day, they continue to sell out regularly and sometimes queue two-hour wait times.
“It’s a weird fucking industry where everyone wants it at the same time,” Koche said. Their peak business hours tend to be Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. “It’s why you see all bagel shops have a line.” Each day of the weekend, El Bagel has over 200 orders. “It’s really fast paced! We run, run, run ‘till we’re done,” Koche said.
So, what makes a good bagel? Many ‘Canes from the Northeast swear it has to do with the good old-fashioned New York water. Koche and Caicedo laughed that off. To them, a good bagel is one that’s “hand rolled, made in-house and doesn’t have anything in it.” Koche expressed that although other bagels contain different types of preservatives and conditioners, their bagels contain all-natural ingredients, are hand rolled and made fresh each morning. “They’re nice and soft,” Koche said. “They have a nice chew on them. They’re not going to just taste like white bread. Some people are like ‘What? It’s chewy?’ and I’m like, ‘That’s a bagel, man.’”
According to Caicedo, “There hasn’t been a bagel culture in Miami. It’s rare to find a bagel shop where they put the emphasis on the bagel.” He said while other shops tend to offer a wide assortment of schmears, they remained focused on the bagel itself. That’s the El Bagel difference—and the fans keep coming back to enjoy the scrumptious bagels.
“I think it’s a very nostalgic, soulful food for a lot of people,” Koche said. “It’s also a whimsical, fun thing to do with your friends. You go out partying and are trying to get your Saturday morning started or you’re on your way to work and you get a bagel because you know it’ll take care of you and it’s not going to cost $50.”
Their quick blow up has set expectations for first-timers high. “Some people come in with fighting words, they’re like ‘this better be fucking good’ and we’re used to it,” said Koche. “Nine times out of ten they’re like ‘that was fucking amazing,’ but we come prepared with a thick skin.”
Class of 2020
Steven said he loves the Avo Spesh. “I may be basic and love avocado toast, but the Avo Spesh is too good! Add the sprouts and the roasted jalapeños and *chefs kiss*.”
Weiss said she opted for the Lido sandwhich. “It’s great because it’s spicy, which you usually don’t get with a cream cheese bagel,” she said.
UM Med Student
Connor Shatz got the Lox Supreme. “It was incredible. The salmon was smoked perfectly, the capers and onions were strong in flavor but not overpowering and the cream cheese was soft.”
words_scarlett diaz. photo_gianna sanchez. design_olivia ginsberg.
This article was published in Distraction’s winter 2020 print issue.