It was love at first bite when I tried a Detroit Institute of Bagels "everything" bagel from the Parker Street Market, one of the few places to find the gourmet bagels on a store shelf. So I pretty much couldn't wait to go to the source on Michigan Avenue, to delve further into their mystique.
Detroit Institute of Bagels turns out to be much more than a bagel factory. Happily, while bagels are the foundation, there's much more to be discovered.
The free-standing building houses an appealing deli in addition to being the source of arguably the best bagels in Detroit. It offers a list of made-to-order breakfast and lunch sandwiches as well as a soup of the day and a few sides, just about all of them as local and hand-crafted as the bagels themselves.
The handsomely renovated building on the edge of Corktown became the home of the Detroit Institute of Bagels in 2013 after it moved from its original kitchen in founder Ben Newman's apartment, explaining the line "Established in 2012" on the logo.
Made fresh every day, the lineup includes seven varieties — plain, salt, sesame, poppy seed, cinnamon raisin, jalapeño and "everything," the one that caught my attention in the first place, generously sprinkled with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt and fennel seeds, the secret ingredient. Small batch bagels include rosemary, sea salt and olive oil, bacon cheddar, and jalapeño cheddar, and they are slightly more expensive than the traditional bagels. Nothing here, however, is really expensive, especially given the quality.
Bagel purists may have theirs with just one of the "schmears" — housemade cream cheese mixtures as well as hummus, peanut butter and jam — but the sandwiches are tempting. If it's available, try the avocado, red onion, chicken sausage, egg and arugula on a jalapeño bagel, often a special. The sausage is from Corridor Sausage, one of the local firms spotlighted on the chalkboard menu along with McClure's Pickles and Great Lakes Potato Chips. The excellent coffee is courtesy of Corktown neighbor Anthology Coffee.
The process is simple: Step up to the counter and give your order to the bagelista, as the deli and prep people are known (bakers are bagelsmiths and bageltenders in the DIB vernacular). If it's not a carry-out, find a seat at one of the tables or the counter that overlooks the working bakery and wait to be called.
Sandwiches are served on small metal trays, wrapped in wax paper and neatly cut in two — and that's important, since the plastic utensils provide minimal help. Napkins are paper, and the coffee is served in disposable cups as well. Nothing fancy here except the quality of the fare, which includes a daily-changing soup that was a subtly-spiced curried pumpkin bisque on one visit. Soups are from the repertoire of bagelista Mary Elizabeth Kalinowski, who is one of the friendly people behind the counter along with co-proprietors Newman and Alex Howbert.
DIB originally took Tuesdays off, but starting next week, the doors will be open seven days a week.
1236 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Call: (313) 444-9342
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays,
8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Prices: Bagels $1.25, small-batch bagels $2.50, bagel sandwiches $3-$11, soup $5.50.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: No; soft drinks, coffee,
tea and hot cocoa
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Rear lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers