Bagels were a staple of my life back home in the outskirts of New York City—the inaccessible status of bagels was the only demerit against Spain in an earlier draft of my “Should I Move to Spain” pros & cons list. I’ve craved them badly during my time abroad, to the point where I have even asked my closest friend from home, Jake, to allow me to witness his consumption of authentic bagels via Skype. Bagels are a foreign concept here—whenever I’m describing them to Spanish folks, they can’t visualize the distinction from a donut or roscon de reyes.
However, due to Madrid’s growing American expat population, I held out hope that opportunist business owners would step up and fill the circular void. The ensuing investigation had me scouring the city, running down every lead and pressing on every underworld connection. These are my findings: I strongly advise purists to manage their expectations when sampling imitations of such an esteemed snack from the old country.
So here, my friends, is a list of Madrid’s bagel joints. In true form, I’ve saved the best bite for last…
1) Restaurante Olsen — Calle del Prado 15 (CLOSED DOWN)
The pursuit began with a rocky start for me and my friend Julie. Although the servers at Restaurante Olsen, a Scandanavian restaurant near the Prado, were kind enough to give us their leftover “bagels” for free, they weren’t at all what we were hoping for–in fact I would go as far as to call these circular bread sticks an abomination of nature. This restaurant, which has since closed down, established the precedent low standard to which the ensuing specimens were held.
2) La Bicicleta Cafe — Plaza San Ildefonso, 9
This popular hipster cafe in Malasaña has a few bagel sandwiches under the display case by the bar. They’re a bit too dry (and expensive) for my liking. Served with arugula and jamon, this sandwich might as well be served on any other type of bread.
3) La Libre — Calle de Argumosa, 39
This cafe/bookshop in Lavapies offers a broad variety of tostadas, one of which is called “El Larson.” The bagels are imported from England and kept frozen, served to diners with cream cheese and lox and little bits of avocado. Due to its status as the bagel most accessible to me within my barrio, this is my default when the craving overwhelms me. Although not as crisp as I would like, it does the job adequately. The added sesame seeds are indeed a pleasant touch.
4) Mür — Plaza Cristino Martos, 2
A large and comfortable brunch spot, Mür offers an 8.50€ euro “American” breakfast entailing a toasted bagel sandwich with cream cheese & lox, steak fries, and a cup of coffee. This location earns points for its product’s toasty crispness and presentation but loses points for its small size. The first bite is accompanied by the familiar crunch sound.
5) J&Js Books and Coffee — Calle del Espíritu Santo, 47
This popular expat bar/English language bookstore swiftly cornered the market with their vast selection of homemade bagels. The only known establishment that manufactures bagels from scratch, it is apparent that they have a concise understanding of both the product and the expectations held by the consumer. Their offerings are flavorful, especially when served fresh during their weekend brunch. The pictures below document the process in which their bagels are produced.
Have I missed anything in my investigation? Feel free to share the details of any other Bagel providers in the comments section!