In the beloved lexicon The Joys of Yiddish, author Leo Rosten writes that the first time anybody printed the word bagel, it was back in the early 15th century, when a document outlining community rules for Krakow, Poland, explained that bagels were a gift commonly bestowed to women in childbirth.
I get it. Because when you're in labor, the sudden urge to bite something can be a pretty natural part of the process. Could be a piece of ice, a pillow, maybe a finger. As food goes, I can't think of anything better to clamp down on mid-contraction than a bagel. And if said bagel is going to make it through intact, it better be chewy enough to hold up.
I'm not talking about a goy, over-fattened piece of bread baked in a circle, but a hearty, crispy, disc. And if I had to guess, I'd say Eltana's bagels would be a damn good contender for longest-lasting and best-tasting in labor and delivery.Between big windows, wood piles, and a gargantuan crossword mounted on the main wall, there's enough eye candy in Eltana's Capitol Hill store to distract kids after they're out in the world. Bagels are hand-rolled, boiled in honeyed water, and wood-fired. The roll call is simple, which is pretty refreshing. Plain, poppy, salt, wheat, and a few combos from the preceding list.
Mediterranean-inspired sweet spreads are hard not to like, especially the extra thick honey almond cream cheese. Savory spreads pair straightforward flavors, like red pepper and walnut. If you're eating here with kids, there are a lot of chances for picky eaters to actually eat usually skipped over ingredients. Since they're served on the familiar, innocuous bagel, tentative palates might actually nosh on mint and fava bean puree and, if you're lucky, lox.
On Tuesdays, each toasted bagel and spread bought in-store earns a take-home bagel on the house. If you wait to eat a freebie until the next day you'll have to chew a little harder, but it passes the morning after test.
And only on Fridays, za'atar, the holy trinity of the middle eastern spice world: sesame seeds, sumac, dried herbs (and sometimes a little salt) are blended and sprinkled on hot bagels.
Eltana'a formula works. Good bagels, in a city where they're hard to find. Relatively cheap bagels. In a concept that's destined to multiply. This summer, a second Eltana location moves into Wallingford at 40th and Stone Way, a few blocks up from the soon-to-be-relocated Joule. There are also rumors of Eltana joining Pie and Skillet at the Graham Baba-designed Seattle Center House, where a bagel kiosk is in the works.