Take a bite out of one of the signature products of the Bagelarium, and you are getting a taste of history.
“We use a sourdough starter that we got from Switzerland,” said Mike Bausch. “The claim is that it goes back 500 years, although there comes a point when time has done all it can for a starter. But we’re confident what we’re using is at least 100 years old.”
But it takes more than an antiquated Alpine lump of sourdough to make a great bagel, which is what Bausch and his brother and business partner Jim Bausch set out to do when they created the Bagelarium.
“It’s about the quality of the flour, about it being hand-rolled, how it’s kettle-boiled, all the nuances of the process that you have to go through to make bagels,” Mike Bausch said. “And when all those things are in place, and you break open a bagel that’s still warm from the oven, get that aroma, take that first bite — there’s nothing better.”
The Bagelarium is the latest endeavor of the Bausch brothers, who started out with the first Andolini’s pizzeria in Owasso, and have since expanded their offerings to include a number of Andolini’s locations throughout the Tulsa region along with the fine dining establishment Prossimo Italian Risstorante, the STG Gelaterias, and Metropolitan, a street-food emporium inside the Mother Road Market.
“Jim and I are always experimenting with different things,” Bausch said. “For example, we make really great spring rolls. We’ve done them for some catering jobs, but most people don’t know about it because we can’t quite come up with a way to work spring rolls into Italian cuisine.
“Jim and I have always loved bagels, and we have been messing around with recipes for some time,” he said. “We finally came up with a recipe that had all the things we wanted. We liked the dense crust and chew that you get with a New York style bagel, but we also like the light and airy texture that’s associated with the Montreal style.
“Everything we do through Andolini’s has something of a twist,” he said. “The exception is our STG offerings — that designation means we are making food according to very strict guidelines, exactly as it is done in Italy.”
The Bagelarium opened a few months ago with little, if any, fanfare in the Cherry Street location that is already home to the Bausch’s STG Gelateria.
“We thought it was a good fit — sell bagels in the morning, and serve gelato in the afternoon,” Bausch said. “We started out selling mainly through Doordash, because we wanted to slowly build up interest. And, more importantly, we wanted the product to speak for itself.”
That is one reason why flavor choices at the Bagelarium seem quite limited in comparison with other places with the word “bagel” in the name. Five options are currently available: plain, sesame, flaked salt, “everything” and cinnamon raisin ($1.50 each; $7.50 for a half dozen). Other flavors may be available as daily specials.
All the baking is done in-house at the Bagelarium, which also supplies bagels for the Bagelarium site in the Mother Road Market as well as to the STG Gelateria in downtown Broken Arrow.
Because Bagelarium bagels are freshly made with no preservatives, one of the clerks cautioned, it’s best to eat them as soon as possible, or stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator to keep them viable.
Over the course of a few days, we worked our way through each of the flavors, topping the savory ones with schmears of the house-made scallion cream cheese. All delivered what was promised: a dense exterior that crisps up nicely when toasted, and an interior crumb that is light yet firm, so that it provides a nice chewy texture without devolving in something akin to chewing gum.
Normally, we are not huge fans of cinnamon raisin bagels, but the Bagelarium version might change that attitude. For one thing, the raisins in the samples we tried are more incorporated into the bagel, rather than sticking out like scarabs emerging from centuries of rest. The sweetness and spice were moderate, so that they accented the flavor of the bagel instead of obscuring it.
The bagels also serve as the foundation for a variety of sandwiches, with fillings ranging from traditional breakfast items of eggs, cheese and choice of bacon, sausage or ham ($5.50 each), to chicken, tuna and egg salads, along with deli favorites including ham and cheese, and BLT ($6.50 each).
And, given the Bausches’ other businesses, it should come as no surprise that pizza bagels with mozzarella and pepperoni are also available ($6.50).
The most expensive item on the menu is the Nova Lox sandwich ($8.50), which comes with a generous serving of cured salmon, sliced tomato, red onion, capers and a sprinkling of fresh dill with the scallion cream cheese.
We had ours on a flaked salt bagel, which probably upped the salinity of the sandwich more than some might appreciate. But otherwise it was an agreeably messy and tasty combination. The tiny capers were little herbaceous bursts of flavor against the fresh tomato and crisp onion, and the salmon had a buttery texture and well-balanced flavor.
As for Mike Bausch’s preference, his description of enjoying one fresh from the oven sums up his perfect bagel experience.
“A bagel like that doesn’t need anything, in my opinion,” he said. “However, if it’s not a great bagel right out of the oven, then I want it double-toasted with double butter.”