When Brett Frankel couldn’t find a bagel he liked in town, he made his own. That four-year journey took him from experimenting in his home kitchen to establishing Bart’s Bagels in West Philadelphia. The new eatery at 3945 Lancaster Ave. opened for business on Jan. 8 and operates from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
Frankel’s goal is to bring a classic Brooklyn-style bagel back to the City of Brotherly Love. He said there is a void in Philly at the moment — and he’s looking to fill it. Frankel’s menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches are crafted with ingredients made from scratch. From roasting the turkey to pickling the cucumbers, it’s all done in-house. All fish are sourced from Samaki Smoked Fish in Hudson Valley, New York. As for the bagels, Frankel said his secret is letting them sit for a full 24 hours.
“They’re seasoned on both sides. They have a nice golden brown to them,” Frankel said. “Perfectly crunchy, but also there’s a chew to it. A bagel should have a nice little chew to it. It shouldn’t just fall apart.”
Frankel, 28, grew up in Bala Cynwyd and is a member of Congregation Rodeph Shalom. Prior to starting the restaurant, Frankel worked as a business analyst for a software company, but bagels have always played a key role in his life. When they were kids, he and his brother Kyle, 35, would visit their uncle in New York and grab a snack at places like Zabar’s and H&H Bagels.
A few years ago, Frankel was driven to try his hand at the art of bagel making. After teaching himself all that he could, he set off to learn from the masters. He visited bagel experts across the country to do grunt work in their kitchens in exchange for guidance. This included visits to New York Bagel in Detroit and Rosenberg’s Bagels in Denver. In 2018, Frankel approached the owners of CookNSolo Restaurants to host a pop-up bagel shop, cooking in Zahav’s tabun oven.
Afterward, Frankel set out to build a restaurant of his own. He teamed up with his brother, who has a background in ad sales, to launch Bart’s Bagels. The name “Bart” comes from a nickname of Frankel’s.
Running the kitchen is Chef Ron Silverberg, who has worked at establishments including The Silverspoon, a.kitchen, Ela and Hawthornes.
Frankel said the first day exceeded expectations. They came close to selling out the day’s allotted inventory after 90 minutes and had to break out dozens in reserve. In addition to the restaurant, Bart’s is selling bagels wholesale to numerous area establishments. And next month, Frankel plans to begin a catering service.
Frankel developed his plan at the now-shuttered Wharton Small Business Development Center. His retail space is owned by the People’s Emergency Center, a nonprofit that has worked to revitalize Lancaster Avenue with new business ventures since 2000. The organization bought the property from another nonprofit, and the storefront where Bart’s Bagels resides had been empty for nearly eight years.
James Wright, one of the nonprofit’s directors, said it took three years to develop the space. He’s happy with the results.
“This one is really special because it’s more in the way of what we like to do, attract high-quality food businesses that can attract good-paying jobs to local residents. It took a lot to get there,” Wright said. “It’s a really wonderful thing. To have a new commercial food business to open in that block is just a wonderful thing.”