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January 15

New Carbs on the Block

Five big bagel questions with Andrew Rubinstein.

It takes some mettle to open up brick-and-mortar location of your business during a global pandemic. Andrew Rubinstein has lots of it to go along with what many say are the tastiest bagels in the city. You can find his crusty, flavorful, sourdough-starter based creations at the new Rubinstein Bagels spot in the Via 6 building across the street from The Spheres.

We chatted with Rubinstein about the new SLU location, what makes a good bagel, his favorite flavor combinations, and more.

Discover South Lake Union: What’s the new space like?

Andrew Rubinstein: It’s an open-kitchen concept. We designed the bakery so folks can come in and watch us roll and bake. Rolling usually takes place around 7 to 10 a.m., depending how many bagels we’re rolling. We have a beautiful front of house designed by Graham Baba architects.

All of our sandwiches and soups are made to order. We made the decision to not have premade sandwiches because bagels really aren’t going to survive a cooler.

We’re still working out some kinks, we’ve had some growing pains, but the holidays have given us great momentum.

Store interior of a bagel counter with staff and baskets of bagels.
Half a sesame bagel with cream cheese, avocado, radish and pickled onion on a plate.

DSLU: Why bagels?

AR: At the time this germinated, there weren’t many good bagels around Seattle. But funnily enough, there was a collective consciousness, a bagel zeitgeist — it wasn’t just me saying “you’ve got to make a good bagel.”

I was craving it, and there was a memory of a bagel I had years ago in New York, plus some nostalgia of bagels I ate when I was a kid growing up in the Midwest. I just felt like I needed to do something with my hands. I loved the idea of being a restaurateur, but I knew at the time I couldn’t manage a full-service restaurant.

I wanted to make something that people would talk about, something they would feel rewarded by for ordering. And I didn’t want to believe the New York lore — the baloney about the water having to be good in order for you to make a good bagel.

DSLU: What makes a good bagel to you?

AR: It should have a crust, and there should be an actual flavor to the dough. I get disappointed when I’m tasting something that’s just round bread — when there’s no flavor to the wheat in the dough.

I chose to use a sourdough starter because I felt it would be a way to give a little more depth to what had been lacking in the flavors I’d been experiencing in the bagel world.

DSLU: What’s been your biggest surprise so far on this bagel journey?

AR: How many people are getting into the bagel game. It’s a Depression-era type of food. There are lots of hats being thrown in the ring.

Also, I am surprised at my ability to get up so early in the morning and keep pushing the ball forward. It’s helped buoy me in this tough time. Having that as a lodestar to keep focusing on has been so positive. The mental gymnastics of this has been really pleasing. I don’t know that I see an end to refining this process.

DSLU: How do you bagel?

AR: One of my favorite ways lately is a black truffle cream cheese with shallot on a toasted sesame bagel. Add a slice of tomato, two slices of cucumber, some red onion, all topped with capers and some Maldon salt. That’s one of my go-tos.

We also have a delicious pastrami. It’s extraordinary—smoky, fatty, and yield-y. That on one of our bagels with horseradish coleslaw and mustard is so good.

The salted rosemary is one of our biggest sellers and our caraway salt bagel is a nice surprising and aromatic mouthful.

Rubinstein Bagels is open seven days a week from 7am to 3pm. And yes, contactless delivery is still available.

Story by Ethan Chung and photographs courtesy of Rubinstein Bagels.


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