New York native Eden Myles has spent years in the bagel biz in Denver, so when Josh Pollack opened Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen and started touting his authentic "New York" bagel, he got a rise out of Myles.
Pollack has been attracting large crowds -- and much media attention -- since he opened Rosenberg's in a Welton Street storefront in July, after spending years studying bagels. He wanted to perfect a New York-style bagel here in Denver, and determined that New York's water is truly different from Denver's water. So he spent tens of thousands of dollars to have a local engineer design a system that recreates New York's water. Pollack says that's one of the secrets to his success -- but Myles doesn't buy it.
"It's very important for me to address the water issue because that kind of claim makes Denver a second fiddle to New York and there's no reason to, whether it's about water or baseball or anything else," says Myles, who rents space for his bakery, Black Sheep Bagel and Bialy, at Crema. "Denver is just as valid."
And Pollack isn't the only one making good bagels in Denver, he insists. "It should be acknowledged that there are other places in Denver that have been making bagels for nearly half a century," Myles points out. "Instead of isolating himself and singling himself out, [Pollack] could have taken the position of incorporating himself into the bagel culture that already exists in Denver."
Among those places, he says, are Moe's Broadway Bagel and The Bagel Store on Monaco, which supplies bagels to shops around metro Denver. Myles worked there when he first moved here in 2012. "Those are real bagel makers," he says. "There's a lot of New York in that place because of where they started, but it's decidedly Denver."
Myles grew up on Long Island, and worked at several New York bagel shops as a kid. He's made bagels in cities across the country, and he recognizes that making bagels in each locale is very different. But unlike Pollack, he's embraced that difference.
"I realized very quickly I could not recreate a New York bagel," he says of his time in California. "So I started working with things available to me to make a bagel that's appropriate to that part of the country."
He's done that in every place he's lived, and says he's disappointed that Pollack felt the need to spend so much money recreating a bagel that's acclaimed 2,000 miles away. "I respect his entrepreneurship, I respect his willingness to make bagels, because it's a hard life. It's a grind. So whatever Josh is able to do with the bagel store, he deserves the credibility and success because being a baker is very hard," Myles says. "At the same time, he's making claims that undermine the quality of bagels that are already here in Denver."
And on top of that, Myles doesn't think Pollack's "New York" bagels are all that authentic, saying the ones he's tried are "under proofed" and too airy to be a true New York bagel. "They aren't finished," Myles claims. "Part of his production process hasn't been handled yet. It's easy for him to say this is what I'm going for instead of admitting he's missing a part of the process."
Meanwhile, Myles focuses on making the best Denver bagel he can. Black Sheep's style integrates the flavor into the dough, so that an everything bagel, for instance, has the garlic, salt, onion and sesame seeds baked into it, rather than just sprinkled on top. And he doesn't boil his bagels at all: He bakes them with a egg-wash coating. "There's definitely a taste to my bagels," he says. "There's a soul, almost, because I address the dough individually."
His bagels are available at a number of small craft coffee shops, including Novo Coffee, Corvus Coffee Co. on South Broadway and Downpours Coffee on Tennyson. But even though Myles bakes six days a week, he says Black Sheep is no longer his main focus -- he's concentrating on his pizza business, a smoker that pops up at breweries and events.
Myles's partner in that business is looking for a storefront on Welton where they could open a pizza spot -- which means Myles might become a neighbor of Pollack's. And he's actually looking forward to that. "We're probably two peas in a pod," Myles says. "We could be friends because we both care about what we do and want to make something special. There's just that one thing."
So it sounds like he won't be asking Pollack for his famous molecularly New York water to make that perfect New York pizza crust.