A new bagel shop and cafe is headed to downtown Chamblee in early October, when the Bronx Bagel Buggy transforms its popular farmers market stand into a permanent establishment serving bagels and breakfast dishes, cream cheeses, Sicilian and grandma-style pizzas, and baked goods. Barring any delays in final inspections, the Bronx Bagel Buggy should open October 7.
It’s exciting news for fans of the fledgling bagel operation, often found at the Brookhaven and Alpharetta farmers markets on Saturday mornings. But for owners Julie Dragich and Steven Novotny, it’s an unexpected twist to a business that started as a hobby during the early days of the pandemic.
In March 2020, Dragich and Novotny found themselves in a precarious situation after both of their jobs were put on hold. Like many people in those first few weeks of the global health crisis, they found solace in baking. The couple bemoaned the lack of familiar New York-style bagels in Atlanta and tried their hands at a recipe shared by a family member.
“We started playing with this recipe, and they were terrible,” says Dragich. “So we took an online course with King Arthur Baking and they turned out better.”
They continued with the online classes, practicing and tweaking the bagels, and soon began hosting friends on Sundays for taste-testing sessions. A year later, Dragich and Novotny were selling their bagels on the weekends at the Brookhaven Farmers Market. Dragich has called Brookhaven home since the 1990s, so this particular market was a natural fit for the bagel business.
“We sold out in 20 minutes,” she says of their first time at the farmers market. New York transplants flocked to the bagel stand, Dragich recalls. The demand never slowed down.
With the revitalization taking place in Chamblee’s burgeoning downtown, which now includes an entertainment district with an open container policy and new businesses coming in like micro food hall Chamblee Tap and Market, it was time to take the Bronx Bagel Buggy to the next level.
Dragich and Novotny didn’t intend for their careers to take a turn toward baking bagels, but say they aren’t really surprised by the pivot, especially considering their families and connections to bagels and delis in New York. Dragich’s paternal grandfather immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island and worked as a baker in New York. Her grandmother, a Polish immigrant, was an enthusiastic home baker. Novtony grew up in the Bronx. His father was a butcher who supplied meat to delis throughout the region.
For the Chamblee location of the Bronx Bagel Buggy, Dragich and Novotny will offer a variety of traditional bagel flavors, including everything (a best seller), plain, and sesame, as well as other flavor options like cheddar-jalapeno with cheese baked into the dough and rosemary sea salt. The bagels have a crunchy exterior and a nice chew on the inside, Dragich says, which she believes will only improve once they begin using the rotating oven purchased for the new shop.
“The bagels will go in on the traditional burlap boards so that they dry on the bottom with one rotation, and then they’ll get flipped onto a stone,” she explains. The couple also put their spin on bialys — a traditional Polish onion roll-meets-bagel combination with toppings such as roasted tomatoes.
Then, there are the cream cheeses. Dragich says she obsesses over the cream cheeses, while Novotny obsesses over the bagels. To make the cream cheeses for the Bronx Bagel Buggy, she starts with a plain cream cheese base and adds mascarpone to the mixture, which boosts the flavor and creaminess, before whipping it into a light and airy spread.
“I love inventing flavors, like the raspberry jalapeno [cream cheese],” says Dragich. “The honey sriracha has really gotten popular.” The Bronx Bagel Buggy’s top seller, however, is the scallion garlic cream cheese. There’s also plain, honey fig, cinnamon pecan, and whatever combination Dragich might dream up next.
“We are trying to make it feel like an old-school, New York-style patisserie bagel place,” says Dragich. A 12-seat dining room will feature high-back red leather booths, cream cheeses on display in cold cases, and photographs throughout depicting original bagel vendors on the streets of New York. Expect coffee drinks made with Costa Coffee, along with thick-crust pizzas, bagel bombs, and sweet treats like mama’s stuffed cakes based on a century-old recipe from Dragich’s family when the Bronx Bagel Buggy opens.
For Dragich and Novotny, the Bronx Bagel Buggy opening permanently in Chamblee represents a return to their roots and hearkens back to the classic delis of yore and their youth.
“I think this bagel seed was always there,” says Novotny of opening in Chamblee. “It took Julie saying, ‘Hey, let’s try this.’ It was just a full circle kind of thing.”
5494 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. thebronxbagelbuggy.com.