ABC7's Hungry Hound says each of them is doing their own, Chicago-style bagel rather than try to copy someone else's.
For years, it's been New York Bagel and Bialy in Lincolnwood. More recently, NYC Bagel Deli in the city but in just the past few weeks, two new options have cropped up, offering homemade bagels in Chicago. While they may have nods to other cities, in terms of technique or recipe, they are still at their core, Chicago bagels.
Bagels are one of those things we eat without much thought. They're dense, round, of course, and typically boiled then baked. But at Reno - a new Italian-focused cafe in the heart of Logan Square - the bagels are made fresh each day, the result of having a wood-fired pizza oven that wasn't getting much use early in the day.
"The whole process for a bagel takes quite a bit of time," said Katie Wyer, the Pastry Chef at Reno, who developed the bagel recipe.
Wyer has developed a dough, and a process, that really works. They start with flour and salt, but then add a few ingredients that may come as a surprise.
"We use an organic barley malt syrup, wildflower honey and fresh cake yeast along with salt, and then the saffron water adds a little bit of color and slight flavor to them," she said. "It really is about a balance between the honey, the malt and the yeast."
After a few minutes of mixing, the dough is portioned, weighed and kneaded into round balls, which are eventually poked and rolled into hollow spheres.
Then, rather than boil the bagels at this point, they're dunked for about a minute in a hot bath of water, honey and malt syrup, which helps seal the outside.
"We don't have a big steam kettle like a lot of the major production companies do, so it didn't make sense for us to do such a small batch and have it be a little bit violent in the boiling water," said Wyer.
Seasonings like poppyseed or sesame or a little bit of everything are sprinkled over each one and then they rest, overnight. The next day, the bagels are slid into the hot, wood-burning oven, and baked for about 10 minutes, giving that exterior its trademark crust, while baking off the dense, chewy inside. The honey water and the wood-burning oven are certainly nods to the Montreal-style bagel.. But don't come in expecting an exact replica of what you'd find there, or even in New York City.
"We're in Chicago, we don't have New York's water, we don't have Montreal's oven, we don't have their history. We're not known as a bagel city," said Wyer. "It's a Chicago bagel."
The restaurant keeps that wood-burning oven going all day long, especially for its pizzas and a few desserts, but in the morning, it's all about the bagels.
2607 N. Milwaukee Ave.