What could be better than stopping at your local corner store for a coffee and bagel before work every morning? If you're from the tri-state area—New York, New Jersey and Connecticut—you might say nothing is.
When New Jersey native and owner of Jersey Girl Bagels Kim Fishman moved to the Sarasota area with her husband and kids five years ago, she missed that aspect of Jersey. She would visit her beloved bagel shop every morning on her way to her corporate pharmaceutical job.
Now living in Lakewood Ranch, her family also missed the distinct taste of Northern bagels. "Up north, we water-boil the bagels," says Fishman. "It just makes for a softer, fluffier bagel. That's the old-school way of making them, and not every part of the country does it like that."
To satisfy her family's cravings, Fishman learned how to boil bagels herself. She made the dough from scratch, let it rise and boiled and bake them in her own kitchen. Soon, neighbors and friends caught on to her skill and began ordering small batches from her.
"We started a Facebook page for our friends to order them, but the demand soon became so high that I figured, we either stop or open a shop," Fishman says.
Fortunately for us, Fishman chose the latter. She toyed with the idea of opening a ghost kitchen—a popular pandemic phenomenon in which chefs work out of a rented commercial space and offer only delivery to their customers. But, Fishman explains, that option would lack the communal aspect she wanted for her business.
So, she found a vacant storefront in the University Town Center plaza next to Kohl's. It was previously a spa, but with the help of contractors, she gutted the place and rebuilt it with a kitchen, custom kettle and stone oven, and case display for the front.
"We built a window looking into the kitchen so customers could see how the bagels are made," says Fishman. "Since opening about a month ago, we've gotten regular customers who have a favorite menu item. That's the best part."
Currently, Fishman bakes about 2,000 bagels daily with the help of one recent hire pastry chef. On days where she preps dough, she arrives at the shop at 3:30 a.m. and goes through the hour-long process of making the dough. It then takes 24 to 48 hours to proof, or rise, properly.
Then the authentic water boiling process begins.
"This is the New York, New Jersey way," says Fishman. "The water temperature and softness have to be just right, so we use a water filtration system to mimic that soft, cold city tap water that comes straight from the Catskills. Then, after boiling for the right amount time, we bake them until they're light golden on the outside."
Beside the traditional flavors like plain, sesame, poppy, everything, cinnamon-raisin and onion-garlic, Fishman makes fun flavors like French toast, Asiago and cheddar cheese and Instagram-friendly rainbow bagels, (which admittedly, are plain dough dyed with various colors, says Fishman).
Jersey Girl Bagels also makes homemade spreads like classic cream cheese, veggie and scallion cream cheese, sweet maple walnut cream cheese and lox cream cheese. Fishman also occasionally serves crumb cake by the slice and black-and-white cookies—made with her mom's recipe.
"I only trust my mom to make them," says Fishman. "I have the recipe, but only sell them when she's in town and can make them with me."
You can also order a bagel sandwich. The shop serves up bacon, egg and cheese, sausage and cheese and the quintessential pork roll, egg and cheese, made with New Jersey Taylor ham. Or get roast beef, turkey or egg or chicken salad sandwiches. Order a cup of coffee or tea on the side and you're ready to start the day. And while the store doesn't currently take pre-orders or catering orders, Fishman is hoping to expand soon and offer more specialty items.
Jersey Girl Bagels is located at 5275 University Parkway, Unit #103, Bradenton. Store hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The store is closed Monday and Tuesday. For the menu, click here or call (941) 388-8910.