Judging from the stream of passersby pressing their noses against the glass, people are pretty excited about the relaunch of Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys. After a four month renovation project, the 80-year-old Lower East Side institution is all set to fling open its doors at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning.
We got the grand tour last night and spoke with co-owner Evan Giniger about the revamped store. The $500,000 project is part of a larger plan to turn the company into a global brand.
In some ways, Kossar’s is no different than it’s ever been. The bialys should taste exactly like the ones you enjoyed before Giniger and partner Dave Zoblocki temporarily closed the shop at 367 Grand St. last September. But the place looks a whole lot different.
The new space features white subway tile, bright lighting and marble countertops. There’s a big window between the retail operation and the kitchen, so you can watch the bialy bakers at work. Most important for customers, the menu has been vastly expanded.
As you’ve probably heard. Kossar’s is now offering a schmear to go along with your bialy and bagels. House made cream cheese in a variety of flavors are available, as well as peanut and almond butter and hummus. You can order a sandwich with smoked salmon, smoked trout, sable or white fish salad. In addition to traditional Jewish deli-style offerings, there are some modern takes. One sandwich that caught our eye features sliced nova, parsley and dill cream cheese, pickled beets and salmon roe on a pumpernickel bagel. There are even egg sandwiches from the grill, pletzel pizzas and babka french toast.
Many of the changes you won’t notice at all. They involved a complete revamp of the electrical and plumbing infrastructure. Pretty much everything had to be replaced in both the bialy kitchen on the main floor and the bagel manufacturing space in the basement.
As for the new look, Giniger said every effort was made to pay tribute to the bakery’s past, but in all truthfulness, there wasn’t much to save. “Some people might have considered (the old storefront charming), but it probably crossed the line into run-down 20 years ago.” Old-style lighting fixtures and other design elements, he said, are meant to give the space “a feel as it might have existed 50 years ago.”
Since purchasing the business in 2013, Giniger said he’s been amazed at the love that exists for the bialy. “I’ve been getting calls and texts from all over the world,” he noted. But the less popular cousin of the bagel has never gone mainstream outside of New York. Through a revamped website and a robust marketing campaign, the Kossar’s team plans to change that. Mentioning the resurgence of the Jewish deli, Giniger said, “It feels like the time is right” for the bialy to take its rightful place in the larger culinary world.
A lot of people have asked whether menu prices will be increasing. Most items are staying the same, while the cost of a bialy will rise 10 cents to $1/each. Giniger said the shop will remain kosher, although the kosher certification will probably not be restored on the first day back in business.
It’s been a long and painstaking project. But overall, Giniger said, “I’m really excited about the rebirth of this iconic institution. We really worked hard to get it right for our customers.”
You can see the full menu below.