Bullfrog Bagels’ managing partner and master bagel maker Jeremiah Cohen and general manager and business partner Abby Sexton have been friends for years, since their days at DC institution the Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle. Sexton, who is Jewish and Irish, worked for Cohen for years when he was the general manager at the inn, which is owned by his family. When Cohen parted ways with the family business, the friendship he and Sexton had forged over the years became a partnership that resulted in the new bagel venture.
I didn’t make it to the much-hyped Bullfrog Bagels pop-up at Cork Market back in the spring, but I was curious about the new hand-rolled New York-style bagels that have invaded town, so naturally when I heard that Bullfrog had found a permanent on hip H Street, I headed over on a recent Friday to check it out.
Star and Shamrock, which opened in 2010, is owned by three partners: Mark Menard, a self-proclaimed Southie, salt-of-the-earth Irish American from Boston; Mike Schuster, who is also a partner at Compass Rose and Jason Feldman. The Star and Shamrock concept is Feldman’s brainchild. His childhood as the only Jewish kid in an Irish neighborhood in New Jersey served as the inspiration behind the tavern-deli.
Bullfrog has carved out an airy space to the left of Star and Shamrock’s dark wooden bar. As you enter, you see the black and white 50s-inspired hexagon mosaic floor and the bagel counter. Stroller-pushing moms, young families and folks in their 20s and 30s stand in line for late breakfast or early lunch. On the weekends, the line stretches out the front door and down H Street, says Cohen.
The relationship between Bullfrog Bagels and Star and Shamrock is not so much a collision of Irish and Jewish, but rather a natural symbiosis of the two cultures through food. They even “feed” off each other’s menus. Bullfrog serves Star and Shamrock’s house-cured meats, and Star and Shamrock, in turn, serves Bullfrog’s bagels, bialys and house-cured Scottish-style and pastrami-crusted smoked salmon. You can accompany them with small-batch Single Cask Nation Jewish whisky from Star and Shamrock’s bar.
Bullfrog’s New York-style bagels are dense, but not too dense, and airy, but not too fluffy, with a great crumb. The bagel dough may or may not have malt in the dough itself—Bullfrog’s recipe and technique are well-guarded trade secrets. Cohen likes to talk about how each region develops its unique signature bagel based on its tap water and the natural yeast in the air that feeds the dough starter. The bialy dough is moister and more like pizza dough, in some ways a nod to Cohen’s days at the famed 2 Amys in northwest DC.
The onion bagel with double-whipped chive and scallion cream cheese, Bullfrog’s signature smoked salmon, tomato, red onion and briny capers (top photo) was a delightful harmony of contrasting, yet balanced, flavors and textures.
Stay tuned as discussions of additional Bullfrog locations near Cohen’s NW Chevy Chase home and in the DC suburbs are in the works. In the meantime, explore H Street by streetcar or on foot, and taste a delicious avocado and sprouts bialy, an egg and cheddar breakfast bagel, white fish on sesame or “The Baltimore Brisket,” the newest addition to the ever-evolving Bullfrog menu, which features Cohen’s Baltimore aunts’ brisket recipe.
Bullfrog Bagels, 202-494-2609, 1341 H Street, NE, Washington, DC; Tuesday–Friday 7 am–1 pm, Saturday and Sunday 7 am–12 pm. Not kosher.
Star and Shamrock Tavern and Deli, 202-388-3833, 1341 H Street, NE, Washington, DC; Everyday 11 am–close. Not kosher.