How to build a bigger, better bagel

Baltimore Glimpses

July 06, 1993|By GILBERT SANDLER

THE bagel, lox and cream cheese sandwich is part of the classic Sunday morning breakfast or brunch offered by Jewish delicatessens. They go together. You can't talk about one without the other.

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The Bagel: These days there are dozens of different kinds of bagels -- cinnamon, salt, poppy seed -- even blueberry. Purists decry all but the plain. Most of the bagels you get in the delis are baked elsewhere and delivered fresh daily; only a few delis bake their own.

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In The Beginning, there were the famous delis of Lombard Street (between Central Avenue and the Fallsway), and around the corner on Baltimore Street, Sussman and Lev. One deli from that old gang still survives into the third generation -- Attman's. Jack's, the ultimate deli at 1150 East Lombard St., is now Lenny's, which is not, Lenny's owners will tell you gladly, Denny's.

(What's a Jewish deli, anyway? There are various definitions. Glimpses': a restaurant that's heavy on delicatessen fare -- corned beef, salami, hot dogs, with plenty of mustard and pickles around -- though its menu may include items that make it a full-scale restaurant. Barbara Blue, owner and operator of the highly successful Manny's on Smith Avenue, says the delis today have had to expand their menus to stay competitive.)

Are there any old-fashioned pickle-barrel delis left? Irving Lansman, whose work representing A & L Foods has taken him into most every deli in town for more than 30 years, says, "Nothing is the same, but if you're talking about the old delis where it took 10 days to pickle a corned beef through soaking, as opposed to 10 hours today through chemistry, forget it. But what you got today in Baltimore's delis is still pretty good."

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The Cream Cheese: Try to use at least a quarter-inch slab. Avoid those little cups or ice cream dips of cream cheese -- no character. A great variety is cream cheese and chives.

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In the 1930s the mother of all delis was Nates and Leon's on North Avenue, near Linden. Nates, as it was known, was open 24 hours. It boasted bagels still warm from the baker's oven. Nates' bagel and lox sandwiches were monstrous, awesome!

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The Lox: Sliced salmon by another name. "There are two kinds," Mr. Lansman explains, "the traditional lox which is heavily salted, and Nova, short for Nova Scotia salmon, which is smoked and less salted." The stuff costs a fortune, but it's worth it. Usually it comes thinly sliced; you put one or two slices on half of your sliced bagel.

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For much of mid-century, delis were all over town. Belman's, Ballow's, and Bridges in West Baltimore; Awrach and Perl, Malin's, and Mandell's downtown; Shaw's in South Baltimore, Lapides, Cooper's and Kesler's in Northwest Baltimore.

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The Condiments and Side Dishes: At this point in the construction you have a choice -- onion (real or Bermuda) or capers. Some use both. You might order a side dish of whitefish salad (or put the whitefish on the bagel). Or cottage cheese. Smoked whitefish? Herring and cream? A green pickle so early in the day might be a bit much, but go for it anyway!

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Flourishing delis today include (but are certainly not limited to) Caplan's, Homewood, Suburban House, Miller's -- and Glimpses' favorite, Manny's.

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Piece de resistance: A slice of rich, red, ripe tomato!

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Now you've got it! Enjoy!

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