Every couple has an origin story. Ours involves an Oscar party, a walk home and a conversation about bagels at Ess-a-Bagel in NYC.
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We met at an Oscars party in Philadelphia in March of 2006. Neither of us was expecting anything out of the party other than a pleasant evening. However, Mindi won the $60 pool, buoyed by her selection of Crash to win best picture. And Daryl won Mindi’s heart when he walked her home after the party.
That walk was filled with typical get-to-know-you conversation, including the best food in NYC and our favorit New York pizzerias and bagel shops. Mindi shared fond memories of the Pick a Bagel near her former upper east side apartment, while Daryl raved about the original Ess-a-Bagel on First Avenue as his favorite. He had frequented the shop when his brother Lou lived around the corner in a basement apartment at the Gramercy Row building on 22nd Street and continued to eat there whenever he was in the city for business or pleasure.
Daryl ended the walk with a kiss that was intended for the cheek but somehow ended up on the mouth. We had our first date five nights later at a cozy BYOB called Little Fish and were engaged in Central Park that November after a memorable dinner at (now closed) Veritas.
Fast Forward to the Future
The 2foodtrippers are going strong, both as a couple and as a writing/traveling/eating team. However, a lot has changed around us.
The couple who hosted the infamous Oscars party is no longer married. Little Fish, where we had our first date, has relocated to a different location. Veritas, where we had our engagement dinner, is closed.
And now, the original Ess-a Bagel shop closed after 39 years due to the landlord’s desire for higher rent.
End of an Era
Our love for bagels has continued since we met in 2006. We’ve eaten bagels in Philadelphia. We’ve eaten bagels in Montreal. We’ve eaten bagels at different shops in New York. But our favorite bagels have been at the Ess-a-Bagel on First Avenue.
These bagels have everything that makes New York bagels great. Airy insides can be nice in a baguette, but in a bagel they’re deadly. Essa’s bagel insides are perfectly dense with a slightly crunchy, thick crust. You can taste all 39 years of bagel production in the big doughy morsels that provide a perfect platform for the shop’s house-made cream cheeses and varieties of smoked fish.
The news that the original Ess-a-Bagel location is closing made us feel sentimental and hungry for one last bagel. As luck would have it, we were headed up to New York City for the MLK holiday weekend. Of course, a visit to Ess-a-Bagel would be in order.
Last Meal at the Original Ess-a-Bagel
For our last meal at Ess-a-Bagel, we waited in an especially long line on the rainy Sunday after the impending closure was announced. The crowd was pragmatic about the situation, and the intricately spiraling line moved at a typical New York pace.
Although we discussed what to order while in line, we each ordered our tried and true favorites – an everything bagel with nova and cream cheese for Daryl and an everything bagel with house-made whitefish salad and a tomato slice for Mindi.
As we sat in the small, quirky shop with its stained ceiling tiles and out-of-place chandeliers, we reminisced about the past and how things around us continue to change. Change is inevitable in life, but it can be difficult to accept.
The closure of a bagel shop isn’t the end of the world. Ess-a-Bagel will likely reopen in a nearby location. There are other great bagel shops like Murray’s and Pick a Bagel where we can easily satisfy our bagel cravings.
Yet, still, we can’t help but be melancholy about changes around us that are out of our control.
Then again, there are lots of positive changes, and we couldn’t be happier as a couple. We’ll roll with the changes – plus a half-dozen bagels for the road.
Ess-a-Bagel relocated across the street. The new address is 324 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10010, United States.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.