Cafe Society

Joshua Pollack Is on a Roll With Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen

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That proved to be challenging: He contacted well-known industrial water-system builders, and no one knew how to do it. Then he found local water-system engineer Chuck Waterman; after thirty minutes of conversation, Waterman got excited and said, "Let's go."

The process wasn't cheap. Pollack won't reveal the exact cost of the system, but he says it took tens of thousands of dollars and six months to create the system, then another few months to build it. That explains why his prices are a bit steeper than those at the average bagel place. But he learned that people in Denver will pay for quality food when he started selling those bagels from a space at Gather, the cafe in Galvanize in the Golden Triangle. Armed with that knowledge, he started looking for a spot he could call his own. After two years and a lot of determined calling, he leased a storefront on Welton Street from the daughter of Charles Cousins, the late Five Points pioneer who owned many of the buildings in the area.

Pollack gave the deli his mother's maiden name. "It's an homage to her and her side of the family," explains Pollack, who lost his mother when he was seventeen. And here he's re-created not just the bagels he remembers from his childhood, but also great, gluten-y, classic deli food.

His meats don't just taste like New York; they are from New York. When Pollack was still at Gather, he was contacted by the Denver-dwelling grandson of the owners of Old World Provision, which supplies corned beef and other meats to mainstay New York delis. Today Rosenberg's beef and ham are the same as what's served in the heart of New York, while Pollack sources his turkey, pork and chicken locally. He also offers Taylor Ham, a hot-dog-like slab that is as much about nostalgia as taste for anyone who grew up with it.

All of the fish at Rosenberg's is smoked in-house (except the gravlax, which isn't smoked at all). The deli regularly stocks four types of salmon, plus black cod, chub, herring and whitefish, all of which Pollack gets from the Seattle Fish Company. His smoking process takes about three days. The fish are cured when they get to the restaurant, sit for a day to form an oily fat layer, and are then smoked. That fatty layer holds in the smoky flavor, and the fish are set to rest overnight so that flavor can spread through the flesh.

During its soft launch before the July 26 grand opening, Rosenberg's went through what Pollack had thought would be a month's supply of fish in three days. Given its popularity, he'll soon add a rotation of seafood from the technologically savvy Sea 2 Table, a company that collects texts from fishermen listing their latest catches, then sends the information to restaurants that then claim the fish. A shipping truck meets the fishermen at the wharf and delivers the catch to its correct destination. "It's conceivable that we'll get a fish the same day that it's caught," Pollack says.

In addition to bagels and all their toppings and spreads (including caviar), Rosenberg's also serves breakfast sandwiches; housemade chicken, tuna, whitefish, egg and chopped-liver salads; kosher pickles; and classic Jewish pastries. Pollack brought in pastry chef Jay Thomas, formerly of the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center and Brown Palace Hotel; Thomas researched Jewish desserts to get their history as well as recipes, and talked with Pollack to glean taste tips from his memories.

Rosenberg's will soon add catering, and Pollack is hoping to introduce late-night fare and hours next year. But while pizza won't be on that menu, he's interested in sharing his authentic New York water with a pizza place that meets his East Coast expectations.

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Kristin Pazulski has been a renaissance faire wench, a reporter, an espresso-shot slinger, an editor of a newspaper for the homeless and a grant writer. She's now a freelance writer covering Denver's restaurant scene.
Contact: Kristin Pazulski