Deli … cious! Island Bagel & Deli: New York Style in the Lowcountry
Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai
Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich on a toasted everything bagel.
A selection of fresh cheese and berry danishes
Real bagels are labor intensive,” said Mark Stone, owner of Island Bagel & Deli. When made right, they are so worth the wait: slightly crispy crust, that distinctive “pull” when separating a piece from the whole, chewy inside, and a light waft of yeast. This Lowcountry deli knows how to do it right—New York style, and not just for breakfast any more.
Polish immigrants were the first to bring the bajgiel, or bagel to the United States, and nearly two centuries ago, New York City bakers adopted the circle of doughy goodness as their own. Today’s aficionados say that any bagel not made New York-style, isn’t really a bagel, no matter what you put inside or on top.
“We make a traditional New York-style boiled bagel,” Stone said. “The basic dough is flour, a little yeast, and then whatever goes into it to make the flavor we are looking for. There’s malt in it to give it that bagel flavor, so it’s more than just a white bread.” Also unlike typical bread dough, it is never “punched down” during the process, and the boiling stage sets it apart from all other dough-based products.
Antonia Avila has been baking New York-style bagels for the deli for 18 years, Stone said. Where others inject moisture into the oven in an attempt to replicate the characteristics and taste of a boiled bagel, Island Bagel & Deli does it the right way. “The dough is rolled out into a tube-shape, and then that tube is rolled around a mandrel and interwoven with itself so that it comes out as a round bagel. Then it’s allowed a warm rise for a short period, and then a slow rise overnight.” Stone said Avila has been doing it for so long that he doesn’t need a timer; he can just tell when it’s time to move the dough the next phase of the process.
Next, during a 24-hour cooling off period, known as retarding the dough, a slow rise occurs, developing the bagel’s flavor. “That’s why you have the complex flavors in a bagel that you don’t get in breads,” Stone said.
“Then they’re boiled, which creates the tough outer skin of the bagel. It changes the texture of the outside of the bagel.” After boiling, the bagels are laid on slats covered with soaking wet canvas sleeves, placed in a revolving oven, rotated through different oven temperatures, flipped onto pizza oven-like stones where the bottom crust is developed, and then through the oven cycle one more time. And there it is: the labor intensive, New York-style boiled bagel recipe for success that brings fans through the doors at Island Bagel & Deli. Those who know them will never willingly eat anything else.
Cinnamon Rolls are always available for the sweet tooth in the morning or afternoon.
Stone’s team also puts out a delicious selection of freshly baked treats, including croissants, cinnamon rolls, Danish, scones, muffins, cookies, hoagie rolls, and bagel chips. Beginning with breakfast, the toppings for their fourteen bagel flavors span the traditional, including house-made cream cheese in as many as 16 flavors (depending on the season), eggs, bacon, sausage, and cheese, to the specialties, like veggies, Nova Scotia smoked salmon, roast beef, and Taylor Ham, a.k.a pork roll. Taylor Ham?
“If you’re from New Jersey or Philadelphia, you’ll know what Taylor Ham is,” Stone said. “If you’re not from there, you will have no idea what it is.” Island Bagel & Deli is changing that. With the texture of bologna and the flavor of Canadian bacon, Stone said Taylor Ham has developed quite a following here in the Lowcountry. “I make what I call a Jersey breakfast; that’s an egg and cheese with pork roll [Taylor Ham] on your choice of bagel.” In addition to folks finding a taste of home, some of Stone’s customers are such fans of his New York-style boiled bagels, they make it their last stop on their way home. “Saturdays are spent filling bags with bagels. They literally say, we just checked out, we’re on our way out, and we had to get a bag of bagels before we left.”
Made fresh daily, Island Bagel has a wide variety of bagels and cream cheese for you to choose from.
If breakfast is the starting gate for the day, lunch is where Island Bagel hits their stride. The fresh hoagie rolls are the canvas on which their most creative sandwich-building abilities are on display. Of course, everything is available on a delicious, chewy bagel. However, most signature and deli sandwiches are more hoagie-friendly. From private label meats and cheeses, to house-made chicken, tuna, and egg salads, and pimento cheese, to the Italian, the Kitchen Sink, the Mega Veggie, Our Favorite, and so many more, the ingredients are all natural. The star of the sandwich show is Island Bagel & Deli’s roasted turkey. “One of our specialties is the turkey that we roast ourselves,” Stone said. “We shred it rather than slice it, so it has a texture more like pulled pork, which really brings out the turkey flavor.” All sandwiches come with choice of chips or house-made pasta salad; add a drink, and the bill comes in at under $10.
Stone purchased Island Bagel & Deli five years ago, after retiring from a career with CNN in Atlanta, with the desire to walk the beach. Owning a delicious part of the local food scene, he has found a way to have his bagels and his beach too. Stone enjoys being involved in the community by contributing to local charities, schools, and the arts community, and sharing his extra bagels with Second Helpings. This Lowcountry deli, and its owner know how to do it right.
Island Bagel & Deli has two locations: South Island Square, 841 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island (843) 686-3353, and Sheridan Park (near the DMV), 17 Sherington Drive, Bluffton (843) 815-5300. Hours: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information, please visit islandbagelanddeli.com.