In the great Boston versus New York debate, the Big Apple has always had one trump card against our fair city: the quality of its bagels. Chewy, warm, and brimming with schmears, there’s just something indefinably delicious to New York bagels, a taste, texture and experience with which the oddly fluffy specimens found north of the tri-state area can’t possibly compare.
Until now. Bagelsaurus, the artisanal bagel shop recently opened in Cambridge’s Porter Square, is giving New York bagels a run for their money. “To me, a college town with no bagel shop is really sad,” says the store’s founder, Mary Ting Hyatt. Enter Bagelsaurus, with bagel flavors ranging from everything to pretzel, fresh coffee, and a sandwich called the “T-Rex” that features bananas, homemade almond butter and bacon.
Hyatt, the former kitchen manager of the Brookline sandwich shop Cutty’s, began selling her bagels through Cutty’s in 2013 before striking out across the river. Following a Kickstarter campaign, Bagelsaurus’ brick-and-mortar location opened in late October, and is just steps from the Red Line and Lesley University.
Though the shop is small, it comfortably fits a half-dozen tables and chairs. The warm wood of its interior, along with the shop’s logo — a miniature dinosaur with a bagel for a body — are the first clue that Bagelsaurus isn’t interested in simply recreating other cities’ bagel experiences. “We’re not going for New York or Montreal,” says Hyatt from her post behind the counter. “We’re going for a Cambridge bagel.”
To make a Cambridge bagel, Bagelsaurus first starts with an untraditional sourdough starter. This unusual base is meant to lend a different kind of tang and textual bubbling to the bagel, rendering even their plainest, no-frills bagel full of flavor. “Chewy, but not super dense.”
After fermenting this dough for twenty-four hours, Hyatt and her ten employees shape, boil, and bake the day’s bagels using only a large roasting pan set atop their oven’s burners. “I’ve worked in a shop that used a machine,” says Hyatt, “and I actually broke my arm using [it]…Those machines can churn out hundreds of bagels in like a minute. We can’t do a hundred bagels a minute; it takes us all day. But I like it that way! The bakers feel like bakers, not machine operators.”
This slower approach to bagel baking has invited some controversy amongst Bagelsaurus’ customers — Yelp reviews expressing outrage over long lines and bagel pricing abound — but the forty-minute-plus long waits that Bagelsaurus first experienced after opening are now a thing of the past. “We’ve learned to manage the lines better than we did at first, when we just didn’t expect it.”
So take your famed bagels, New York, and get in line: Bagelsaurus is bringing tangy, chewy and flavorful Cambridge bagels to the masses. And when it comes to another point of bagel debate — to toast or not to toast — Hyatt is open-minded.
“I’m not an anti-toast person, you know? If they’ve been out of the oven for an hour, I think toasting is nice.” She laughs. “But I think untoasted is better.”