Chicago may not be known for great bagels, but with the opening of Brobagel, there’s another fairly solid spot to find them in city limits. Located in a tiny space next to Piece Brewery & Pizzeria, Brobagel is a new venture from Piece owner Bill Jacobs, who ran a local chain of bagel shops, Jacobs Bros. Bagels, with his brothers in Chicago in the ‘80s and ‘90s, before selling it.
Now he’s back with Brobagel, which offers about a dozen kinds of bagels, 10 spreads, and a menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches. The space is miniscule, with zero seats, but you can hover along the wall, where there’s enough counter space to spread out your bagels and coffee, which uses Metropolis beans. Brobagel immediately gets one thing right—they don’t automatically toast bagels, and when I asked which they’d recommend, our server said untoasted, which is how they’re traditionally eaten in New York. And that’s good, because these bagels don’t need toasting. I liked the sriracha spread quite a bit, since the hot sauce is tempered with cream cheese and there’s a faint sweetness that comes through. Try it on the garlic bagel, which is studded with bits of garlic, and has a pleasantly chewy texture, though I’d love a little more crispness on the edge.
I also zeroed on the lox sandwich—draping a bagel with lox, onions and cream cheese is my preferred way to eat bagels. Here, it’s turned into a sandwich with a double layer of Nova lox, thinly sliced tomato and onion, plus a smear of plain cream cheese. You can also add capers, which I’d recommend, since it adds a hit of salt and balances the sandwich. If you’re there over lunch, the turkey special layers turkey with bacon, fennel, manchego and caramelized onion spread, and it's also a solid bet. There’s just enough filling to feel substantial, but not so much that it falls apart, (a common problem with bagel sandwiches), and there’s a nice mix of textures and balance of savory and sweet.
The biggest thing working against Brobagel is the name, it seems, and if I were wandering along North Avenue, it would not entice me to stop in. But there are no bros here, just good bagels.