Ode to circular food
Bagels—doughy and delicious—have a long, interesting history in Chico that continues at Brooklyn Bridge
Chico, CA 95928
Perhaps the strangest thing you might learn about bagelmeister Scott Schulman, who’s been serving up the round doughy concoctions for a good three decades in Chico, is that he does not, in fact, like bagels.
For him, the best thing on the menu at his Brooklyn Bridge Bagel Works is the Bagel Dog—because “I love hot dogs!”
He sure knows how to make a good bagel, though.
“It’s all about good ingredients,” he said recently inside his downtown eatery following the high school lunch rush. He uses the highest-quality flour, fresh, unprocessed meats for the sandwiches, and grade-A equipment. “Plus, 30 years of experience helps too,” he added.
Schulman’s story is that of a hippie who jumped in a van and headed out west from the Big Apple. He ended up living in the woods outside Santa Cruz and decided to apply to graduate schools, hoping to study rehab psychology. He applied to Chico State and San Diego State, ended up in Chico and quickly “found out I was at the wrong school.” Chico didn’t even offer rehab psychology. But Schulman, like so many others, fell in love with the community and stuck around anyway, even becoming the director of volunteerism group CAVE.
With his graduate studies completed, he searched for direction—“I didn’t want to be a psychologist”—and a friend offered to teach him to make bagels. He studied the art for a week in New York, came back to Chico, and opened Oy Vey Bagels. The year was 1979. Peter Straus was his very first employee. Now 30 years later, they’re still working together, equal partners in the Brooklyn Bridge business. You’ve probably seen them together in their wacky commercials, and though Schulman can’t go anywhere without someone quipping about the spot with the whip, he’s never even seen the ad, since he doesn’t have cable.
“I get comments about five times a day,” he joked.
With the success of Oy Vey, Schulman took his business worldwide, making bagels and sending them to 35 states and three countries. But his heart was in retail and after years of bouncing around in different business ventures, he returned to bagels, opening up Brooklyn Bridge about 13 years ago.
I’d eaten at the downtown eatery many times before, but had not yet tried the Bagel Dog ($2.95). I decided it must be done and ordered one. It came out promptly, as the food there always does, and truth be told, there’s something to be said for replacing a hot dog bun with bagel dough, especially since I like my dogs plain (though Brooklyn Bridge does offer condiments).
My favorite lunch option, though, is the roasted turkey sandwich, with cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce, mustard and mayo ($5.35). Apparently I’m not alone, either: Schulman says that’s by far the most popular sandwich on the menu. Perhaps it’s due to the freshness of the turkey—they roast their own—and Schulman’s promise that “I will not serve anything I would not serve my mother.”
The breakfast options are just as scrumptious. I’ve long enjoyed the asiago cheese bagel topped with either veggie or sun-dried tomato schmear. The bagels here truly are top-notch—the perfect consistency, not too chewy or crumbly. For the hungrier or more hung-over crowd, they offer bagels topped with eggs, cheese, bacon—you name it, they’ll probably serve it on a bagel.
I am not, however, a fan of the coffee, in the self-serve containers, or the specialty mochas—too sweet and not rich enough for my taste. The fresh-squeezed orange juice is a much better drink option.
There’s also something to be said for the service at Brooklyn Bridge. The staff is consistently friendly and helpful—some of the employees have worked there for almost a decade—and the service is lightning fast. That’s probably why people are rarely dissuaded by the long lines on Saturday mornings.
“We have lots of regulars,” Schulman said. “So by the time they get to the front of the line, we have their order ready.”