The NY Style Bagels Are a Hit in Grand Rapids

By Jane Whitttington on May 11th, 2015 / Comments

Calvin Trillin, a New York City based food-writer, once took his young daughter, born and raised in Greenwich Village, to his home state of Missouri. Upon ordering a bagel in Kansas City, the daughter said, “Daddy, this isn’t a bagel; it’s round bread.”

We in the Midwest have long had to settle for “round bread”, not real bagels. Now our long wait for authenticity is over. GR Bagel has brought true bagels to an appreciative West Michigan community. GR Bagel makes the traditional  hand-rolled and boiled version, first made in Poland where they were a originally conceived in the Jewish community. They were brought to this country by Jewish immigrants who migrated to large urban areas like New York City. Soon, native born Americans learned to love the bagel. As bagels migrated west, an easier, quicker and less authentic version was born, but true bagel aficionados in West Michigan have long hoped for the real thing.

Thanks to René Kalter and his partner Lisa Barhydt, the left side of the mitten has authentic bagels right in our backyard.

Kalter says, “It wasn’t planned. We never intended to start a business. We had moved from North Carolina to Michigan to be close to Lisa’s mom who lives in Ann Arbor. We wanted to be near Lake Michigan, and we settled on Grand Rapids. I had lived in Chicago and was used to real bagels. In Grand Rapids, we just couldn’t find a good bagel. Now, I’m the cook in the family, and Lisa suggested that I try making my own.  I experimented with different recipes and came up with a version that suited me. We got space in an incubator kitchen and went to work. Eventually, we were able to purchase the kitchen for our own use. “

He continues, “We started out using regular ingredients but soon realized that organic and farm fresh was the way to go.  Everything that goes into our products is locally sourced, fresh and organic.”

GR Bagels are available at their own storefront at 423 Norwood in the Eastown area of Grand Rapids and are also sold at Cakabakery; Kava House; Kingma’s Market; Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge; Rowster Coffee; Nourish Organic Market & Deli; The Sparrows Coffee, Tea & Newsstand; and the Fulton Street Farmers’ Market.

Besides plain bagels, they also sell 7-grain honey wheat, cinnamon raisin (which they call their “gateway bagel”), pumpernickel, sesame, salt, poppy seed, everything and their new rosemary/olive oil variety. Although there isn’t seating in their store, they also sell coffee, soft-drinks, milk, juices, homemade cream cheese, scones, cheddar-chive biscuits and a few other baked goods. Bowing to demand, they have started selling breakfast sandwiches including the very popular Super Mario which consists of a cinnamon raisin bagel with bacon, egg, cheese and maple syrup. According to Kalter, they are planning to offer lunches in the very near future. They offer limited delivery and catering as well.

Going full-out authentic, GR Bagel offers bagels and lox on weekends. These come with cream cheese, tomato and red onion.

Kalter says, “We are anti-mediocre. We won’t sell anything that isn’t exceptional. We’ve been welcomed by the community, and the website EatGR has spread the word about our business. “

He goes on, “We’ve just met the best people here in West Michigan, and we feel so lucky to have moved here and become part of Grand Rapids.”

Calvin Trillin’s daughter would be happy.

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.