Bagel Express: Interview With An Old School Bagelmeister

Categories: Interview
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Lee Klein
Bagel, CC & Nova at Bagel Express
Henry and Maria Herzbrun debuted Bagel Express in Palmetto Bay on September 15, 1992. "Right after Hurricane Andrew," recalls Henry. "For the first two years we used to hand roll our own bagels."

He had a partner back then, and they were trained in the disappearing craft of hand-rolling bagels by "an old-timer from New York." A machine now performs the task of rolling at the Herzbrun bagel shop and deli, but everything else about the bagel is prepared the old-fashioned way. The flavors include salt, sesame, plain, pumpernickel, poppy, sesame, garlic, onion, egg, everything, cinnamon-raisin, and plain (if you're thinking more along the lines of blueberry or chocolate chip, you've got the wrong place). The small strip mall store also proffers hand-sliced Nova, cream cheese in various flavors, buttery rugelah, bagel sandwiches culled from Boar's Head cold cuts ("I used them before Publix"), and Dr. Brown sodas, natch.

I visited Bagel Express yesterday, shared a Nova platter with my wife, and took home some of the great bagels. Afterwards I spoke with Henry about the differences between his bagels and those at the chains, how the business has changed, and whether or not, after all of these years, he still eats bagels.

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Lee Klein
Small Nova platter ($8.95).
New Times: How much did you charge for a bagel when you first opened?
Henry Herzbrun: I think it was 49 cents.

And currently...
They're $1.35. I made more margins at $4.99 a dozen than I'm making now at $11.95.

How come?
The cost of food, the cost of insurance, the cost of running a business, everything involved -- fees, permits, licensing, the different requirements...

Why did you make the decision to switch to machine-rolled bagels?
The old type of machinery, a Scale-O-Matic, had a piston drive that would push air out of the bagels. Then, about 18 or 20 years ago, they came up with machines that were belt-driven...so you could produce a fluffy bagel. The other way, the next day you would have bagels so hard they were like jawbreakers.

But unlike most bagel chains, you do everything else the way it used to be done.
With the newer places like Einstein's and Panera they stick an entire rack (of bagels) into the oven and it steams. And they make them ahead of time. We do a New York-style bagel. We let them rise, we boil them, we put them on bagel boards, seed them and everything else. It makes a big difference. The quality is much better.

The way we do it is labor intensive, and a lot more expensive to make. The materials are more expensive than before, but making a bagel is still labor cost more than anything. You can almost go with a one-man operation once you've prepared the bagels.


Location Info

The Bagel Express

11616 N. Kendall Drive, Miami, FL

Category: Restaurant

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5 comments
AMJ
AMJ

I've been eating Henry and Maria's bagels since I was born. They're the best you'll find in Miami!

anon_e_m00se
anon_e_m00se

I believe the article is incorrect that this is in Palmetto Bay. Kendall & 117th Ave is Kendall, right? Not trying to be a pain but it through me for a loop for a second trying to figure out where this place is and wanted to avoid other confusion. 

jen
jen

The correct address is 11616 N. Kendall Dr. Miami, FL 33176. The best bagels in town!

Lee
Lee

I'll take your word for it moose -- I'm no expert on this area -- but a whole lot of places list it as being in Palmetto Bay.

anon_e_m00se
anon_e_m00se

I plan on checking it out [most of the bagels around are meh] and think I'll be able to track it down... no matter what city the place is located in.

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