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  • Writer's pictureMax McCrory

The Bagels Are Hot

It was a rainy Thursday afternoon, when I walked up to Call Your Mother Deli, the hippest bagel joint in D.C.’s Park View neighborhood. The front was painted with a bright pink and mint bagel mural, which is every Instagram-lovers dream. Inside, the walls were covered with paint splatters and pictures of Drake, as he’s half-Jewish. Along the window counter were multicolored rocking chairs and a robin’s-egg blue tiled countertop. On the front wall was a huge sign that read: “Call Your Mother”.

Since opening a brick and mortar storefront in October 2018, Call Your Mother Deli has only risen in popularity. They’ve had features in the Washington Post and Bon Appétit, as well as many other local D.C. news outlets that praise them for their artisan bagels and unique cream cheese flavors. I’d seen their bagels all over Instagram too, so I knew it was finally time to give them a try.

Daniela Moreira, partner and chef of Call Your Mother Deli, first started experimenting with bagels at Timber Pizza Company, where she is the executive chef. Jeff Zients, a D.C. native, approached Moreira and Andrew Dana, co-owner of Timber and founder of Call Your Mother Deli, about opening a Jewish deli.

“Dani and I love wood-fired baking and bagels, so it was this logical next step,” said Dana.

Call Your Mother’s bagels first starting gaining notoriety when they began testing them out at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. At 8 on Sunday mornings, half an hour before they opened, there would already be people lining up to get a taste. By the time they opened at 8:30, there was a long line winding past the other stands. Often times, they sold out of bagels by mid-morning.

“This city was ready for a good bagel,” said Dana.

Their menu is filled with seasonal bagel sandwiches, like The Rashida with bacon peanut butter, apple, and honey on a sesame bagel, and The Rhianna Flex with plain cream cheese, smoked salmon, cucumber, tomato, onion, and caper on an everything bagel. Dana said his favorite bagel is The Craig D with apple cream cheese, apple, bacon, jalapeño, and chips on a plain bagel. Some of the bagel sandwiches change, as Dana and Moreira get inspired by the seasons.

Dana believes the rise of the artisan bagel in D.C. is due to the quality of ingredients shops like his are using.

“There’s a lot of places putting their twist on bagel making with good ingredients… Doing this is flipping the game on its head,” he said.

Dana notes another part of the appeal of bagels is their versatility.

“Bagels are this blank canvas, where you can have a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel, you can have a salmon bagel, or you can have a sweet bagel. There’s just so many things you can do with it,” said Dana.

I opted to build my own bagel with the assortment of bagels and spreads the deli offers. The restaurant has plain, sesame, za’atr, and everything bagels every day along with plain, apple, candied salmon, and garlic herb cream cheese, as well as peanut butter, bacon peanut butter, seasonal jam, and butter. It’s a lot to choose from, but I went for a plain bagel with apple cream cheese, as I’ve never seen a cream cheese flavor like that before. The bagel was delightfully chewy with a slightly sweet flavor to it, thanks to the honey incorporated into the dough before cooking. It tasted far from plain. The apple cream cheese was the perfect compliment to the plain bagel. It was sweet, but not overly so with chunks of apple in each bite. The delicate flavors in the cream cheese worked well with the smokey notes found in the bagel from the wood-fired oven.

As this is a Jew-ish deli, I knew I also had to order the latkes and see if they lived up to the ones my grandma makes. I can assure you they do. The outside was just the right level of crispiness and the inside was hot and full of aromatic onions. The sour cream and applesauce both contrasted the salty latkes exquisitely. Every bite was a burst of flavor in my mouth. You can truly never go wrong with fried foods.

Call Your Mother definitely lives up to all of the hype it's gotten in the last few months. After one visit, I can see why people are flocking here. Dana and Moreira have found a way to make a classic dish even better.

“We always wanted to be a timeless brand, like Levi’s or Vans… I think bagels are the epitome of that. Maybe they’ll be a little hotter one year than the next, but bagels will always be around, because people love bagels.” said Dana.

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