Philly food and drink scene

Kismet Bagels is about to open their first cafe, serving bagels, schmears, sandwiches, and coffee to Fishtown

The self-taught husband-and-wife bagel duo grew their business thanks to partnerships and community.

Kismet Bagels' soon-to-open shop at 113 E. Girard Ave. in Fishtown

Kismet Bagels' soon-to-open shop at 113 E. Girard Ave. in Fishtown

Jacob Cohen
Philadelphia, PA - January 4, 2022: Portraits of Alisha Miranda, food and travel writer in the dining room at Messina Social Club in South Philly.


Photo by Clay Williams.


© Clay Williams / http://claywilliamsphoto.com

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The partners behind Kismet Bagels are planning an April launch for their first storefront, adding to Philly’s increasingly delicious bagel landscape with a shop in Fishtown.

Co-owners Alex and Jacob Cohen, a husband-and-wife team who describe themselves as avid bagel eaters and self-taught makers, started their venture during the early pandemic lockdowns, selling homemade bagels to friends and neighbors.

Pop-ups with other independent chefs helped grow the brand’s cred, including one with Freelance Pizza that sold “after-school special” pizza bagels, and another with Hoagie Dom offering everything bagel hoagies.

The quality of their product caught the attention of DiBruno Bros and GoPuff, kickstarting Kismet’s wholesale business, which has since expanded to more than 50 retail locations. As demand grew, the Cohens went official. They started baking out of Liberty Kitchen, and became a seven-day business with regular stands at farmer’s markets around the city.

In November 2020, Kismet moved into a commercial space in Kensington’s MaKen Studios North. They originally shared it with Milk Jawn, but have since taken over the space entirely, onboarding nearly 20 staffers that now pump out roughly 17,000 bagels and 500 pounds of cream cheese every week.

Soon, you’ll be able to pick up the goods at their very own cafe, a tiny spot at 113 E. Girard Ave., just a few doors down from Johnny Brenda’s.

To design the interior, the Cohens worked with Ian Chapin, who built out Middle Child Clubhouse and did the latest renovations at Rally in Bella Vista. Kismet’s 540-sq.-ft. space will feature takeout ordering and some indoor seating. Grab-and-go items will include individual bagels and bialys, half and baker’s dozens, and schmears and spices.

“We’re so excited to expand our business and allow more people who have been with us during the pandemic to come on full-time,” Jacob said. “This is a big step for us, but we know it’s the perfect time for us to have our own front doors. We are ready.”

Alex and Jacob Cohen in their commercial bakery at MaKen Studios in Kensington

Alex and Jacob Cohen in their commercial bakery at MaKen Studios in Kensington

Mike Prince

A venture born of the community

A running principle for these first-time business owners is generosity and leadership. The couple isn’t afraid to hire those without traditional industry experience to grow with them.

“About 90% of our staff had never baked before, so they all learned from scratch,” Jacob noted. “That’s been really cool to take the confidence of us saying, ‘Wow, look what we did, we had no experience doing this’ and then be able to cultivate an environment for other people to learn.”

Kismet employee No. 2, Erica Pais, started by shaping bagels during the night shift at Liberty Kitchen but also took the initiative to help with R&D and hosting events. She’ll now be the one running the Fishtown shop, and will hire and oversee a larger team.

Dough production manager Sam McNamara moved up from working on the line to become a “dedicated student of bread,” baking sourdough loaves the Cohens plan to sell at the forthcoming shop. Lissy Rodriguez, a professional pastry chef who was recently promoted to manage kitchen operations remains the rare staffer with a culinary degree.

It’s been a two-way street when it comes to mentorship. Fellow makers like Philip Korshak of Korshak Bagels, Danny DiGiampietro from Angelo’s Pizza, Merzbacher’s of Germantown, Bart’s Bagels, and even Mike Solomonov — who serves Jerusalem bagels at K’Far — have all been open to sharing advice.

“Everybody in the city opened their doors to us, and we’re looking forward to doing the same,” said Alex. “We plan to resume pop-ups again in the future as well, and we’re excited to help other small businesses.”

There will be a large charitable aspect to their upcoming storefront too, with proceeds from sales, pop-ups, and other events being donated to charities of Jacob and Alex’s choice.

Assorted Kismet Bagels, fresh out of the oven

Assorted Kismet Bagels, fresh out of the oven

Alisha Miranda for Billy Penn

Bagels that live up to the hype

Kismet’s bagels are chewy but not dense, with a small hole in the middle and a slight crisp that’s perfect for toasting.

Their standard recipe calls for King Arthur flour, Pennsylvania-milled wheat, yeast, sugar, kosher salt, and of course, water. The bagels are smothered with toppings on all sides before being baked in an oven. The result is what Alex calls “Montreal on the outside, New York on the inside.”

There are topping options aplenty: black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, everything, rosemary sea salt, jalapeño flakes, and roasted sweet onions. You can also taste custom schmears like the “Spring Fling,” a riff on Yemenite hot sauce zhug with parsley, cumin, coriander, olive oil, and crushed red pepper, and one with Fishtown Pickle Project’s housemade pickle spice and fresh dill.

The Fishtown shop will feature core flavors that people know and love — but in true Kismet Bagels fashion, there are also new ideas in the works. A bigger production bakery will allow for those sourdough loaves from McNamara, plus other pastries. Also expect the return of limited special flavors like the “Cacio e Pepe” and “White Poppy Sumac” bagels.

On the menu at the store will be open-faced bagel sandwiches and breakfast sandwiches, with add-ons like thick bacon or housemade potato latkes. Drip coffee from Kensington neighbors Moonraker Coffee Roasters will also be available, alongside orange juice and iced tea.

The best part? Jacob and Alex are committed to keeping their doors open past the morning rush — which means you’ll be able to grab a bacon, egg, and cheese even at 2 p.m if you feel like it.

Future plans may involve later hours or even late-night menus for people getting out of the nearby bars. And with neighbors like Fishtown Social and Pizza Shackamaxon, look out for many other potential collaborations.

The Cohens haven’t yet set a launch date, but they’re getting close. Follow along on Instagram to stay updated.

Kismet's housemade schmear

Kismet's housemade schmear

Alisha Miranda for Billy Penn

Details

Address: 113 E. Girard Ave., between Shackamaxon Street and Frankford Ave
Phone: 267-639-4687
Instagram: @kismetbagels
Starting hours: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Sweet and savory bialys being made

Sweet and savory bialys being made

Alisha Miranda for Billy Penn

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