By Gabrielle Reagan
Inside new downtown gem Water Street Bagel Co., a hometown couple is taking Syracuse’s breakfast game to the next level, one hand-rolled bagel at a time. Employing an increasing trend towards scratch kitchens boasting both small-batch and locally sourced, this not-your-average bagel shop offers an array of hand-crafted breakfast and lunch sandwiches, housed on a homemade wood fired bagel of choice. Yes, please.
“To be honest, I knew Syracuse loved bagels and knew we were missing it but I never thought this many people would be coming in,” co -owner Meg Dellas said.
A Manlius native, Meg left Syracuse with no real intention of coming back. She attended the University of Pittsburgh before spending a year as a ski bum in Lake Placid, where she wet her feet in hospitality at the Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa. A year in Manhattan, six months in Southeast Asia and trips to New Zealand and Australia introduced Meg to a plethora of different foods and cultures. When Meg returned home, she began working at her family-owned university staple Faegan’s Pub where she met partner and Water Street Bagel Co. co-owner Luke Esposito.
“We started hanging out and just didn’t stop,” Meg joked, “We’ve been together for almost three years.”
Lovers of food and travel, Meg and Luke spent weekends away in cities including New York and Philly, experiencing the local food scene and dreaming of one day opening something of their own. But what? After happening upon a small but packed bagel shop in the heart of Philly, it clicked: that’s what Syracuse was missing — bagels. After a year and a half of hard work, including many botched bagel batches baked in their home kitchen, Meg and Luke opened Water Street Bagel Co. in late September 2017. Not even a year into business and Water Street Bagel Co. serves weekend lines packed to the door.
“A lot of people have never been in a wood-fired bagel shop, and there’s no one else around here that does this,” Luke said. “It’s been a serious challenge.”
Water Street Bagel Co. bagels are unique in that they are hand-rolled, boiled and
baked. Consisting of no dough conditions but instead five simple ingredients: yeast, water, malt syrup, sugar and salt. It’s classic old-school New York City style bagel with a Montreal inspired twist: the wood-fired oven. All bagel options are vegan, except for their egg bagel, and toppings range from butter to nut butters to seasonal jams to avocado to any range of house-made cream cheeses. They even offer vegan cream cheese! Daily bagel sandwich specials are available, but some of the hottest sellers are The Classic with double smoked bacon, two-fresh and local free-range eggs and American cheese. Another popular choice, and favorite of Luke’s, is the Nice’ n Spicy with local cottage bacon from The Piggery in Ithaca, fresh eggs, house-pickled jalapeño, siracha sauce and pepper jack cheese. Ingredients are sourced locally through Regional Access.
“It requires work and dedication to go out and say we are going to use four or
five local sources rather than making one big order online,” Luke said, “but it’s the philosophy we set out to have.”
Wander into Water Street Bagel Co. on a busy weekend morning and the ambience is as fresh and thoughtful as the menu. Meg and Luke wanted to keep the building as close original form as possible. The wood beams, exposed brick and floor are original and at the heart of the entire experience sits the wood-fired oven. In line guests can experience the show of each bagel going in the large oven located in plain sight, toasting to a golden crisp. Sandwiches pair well with tap drinks like Recess Cold Brew one of Kinfolk’s rotating flavors of local Kombucha. There may even be a breakfast stout in the near future.
Meg and Luke are working to incorporate catering and large-scale orders in the future, but for now they are happy enjoying the turnout and warmth received within just a few seasons of business. Come spring, Water Street Bagel Co. will open their accordion-style front windows, place tables and chairs along the sidewalk and likely set a bowl of water out for patron’s dogs, making Water Street a place to gather — a destination.
Water Street Bagel Co. is located at 239 East Water Street in downtown Syracuse. Open Tuesday thru Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 2p.m. and closed on Mondays. For information and menu check out www.waterstreetbagel.co.comor call 315.802.6925.