The baker and owner of Meshuggah Bagels in Kansas City, Mo., Pete Linde, grew up Woodcliff Lake, N.J., where he savored the simple pleasures of snacking on a New York-style bagel every day after school. 

A bright student, he went on to earn an engineering degree from Columbia in New York City and pursue a career in automobile engineering. Years ago, Linde transferred to the Claycomo plant in Kansas City, and that is when it hit him. 

“To move to a place without New York bagels is a like a tiny little hole in your life,” he said.

His wife, Janna, who runs the four retail stores at Meshuggah Bagels, recalls how often they took an empty 27-inch suitcase on their trips to New York to bring back as many bagels as would fit. She’s from Kansas City and met Pete more than a decade ago. He would often comment that Kansas City is a “bagel desert” and how he wanted to make his own. So, Pete started researching how to make the best bagels. He consulted with a bakery equipment dealer and a family friend who ran a bagel store in Maryland. Because of his childhood memories, he knew the taste he wanted. He would take his time and do it the right way.

“We are doing it the old-fashioned way,” he said, “only we’re burning natural gas and they were burning wood 150 years ago.”

One notable thing is different, though. Like a growing number of bagel makers, Meshuggah Bagels is now producing chocolate chip bagels along with the traditional garlic, onion, salt, rye, and, of course, bialys. Bialys are different than bagels in three distinct ways: they have a depression in the middle, not a hole; they are only baked, not boiled and baked; and they typically are not found outside of New York City.

National chains have gotten sweet on bagels and bagel-like products, such as Einstein Bros. did a year ago with the introduction of the Chocolate Birthday Cake Party Bagel and the Churro Party Bagel. The new Churro starts with a donut, sliced and shmeared in the middle with sweet cream cheese buttercream frosting, and coated on top with cinnamon sugar. The Chocolate Birthday Cake starts with a donut, sliced and shmeared in the middle with chocolate buttercream frosting, glazed with chocolate frosting and topped with confetti sprinkles.

“We wanted to bring a bit of fun to the breakfast table,” said Chad Thompson, head of culinary innovation at Einstein Bros. Bagels. “Party Bagels are a sweet treat, done the Einstein Bros. Bagels way. I like to say, if bagels are having a family reunion, the fun cousin just showed up.”

True to bakery roots

Nearly 100 years ago, three brothers took out a $300 mortgage on their mother’s house to open a bakery inside a Southern Illinois cabin. The breads of Amos, Armold and Jack Lewis were delivered daily by Ford Model T trucks to nearby homes. By the 1950s, the family operation had grown into a major regional bakery, thanks in part to the creation of a brand now synonymous with freshly baked bread in Midwestern households, Bunny Bread.

Available at Martin’s Super Markets and other instore bakeries, the Lewis Bake Shop family creates real opportunity to bring variety and great taste to the table. From soft, chewy bagels to wholesome English muffins, these specialties are sure to please.

There are five bakery locations: Evansville, Ind.; LaPort, Ind.; Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Vincennes, Ind.; and Murfreesboro, Tenn. Now headquartered in Evansville, Lewis Bakeries is the largest wholesale bakery in the state and one of the few remaining independent bakeries in the Midwest.

Customers can go online at to order Martin’s private label six packs of bagels in a variety of options, including blueberry and cinnamon raisin. Other bagel choices include Bantam Bagels and Lewis Bake Shop.

Stuffed bagels

More than 500 Starbucks locations in the Northeast offer cream cheese-stuffed bagel balls, according to several published reports. Priced at $1.75 each or $2.95 for two, the bagel balls come in plain stuffed with regular cream cheese or French toast with maple cream cheese. According to the bakery that produces the bagel balls, New York City-based Bantam Bagels, the product is available in most stores in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and New York City.

Bantam Bagels’ co-owners Nick and Elyse Oleksak, graduates of Columbia University who spent years in their fast-paced jobs on Wall Street, originally did not think that a bagel company would be their next step. In fact, the idea for mini stuffed bagel balls actually came to Nick in a dream. After making hundreds of test batches in their Brooklyn apartment, the couple found the perfect recipe and the mini stuffed bagel ball was born.

Excited to start their own business, Elyse and Nick traded their small apartment kitchen for their very own shop on Bleecker Street. The bagel critics of New York City not only accepted their new twist on the bagel, but after being open for less than a year, Bantam Bagels was named one of the top three bagels by the New York Daily News, according to the company.

With demand for their mini stuffed bagel balls growing outside of New York City, Elyse and Nick started making plans to share their mini stuffed bagel balls with everyone from coast to coast. Not stopping there, Bantam Bagels went on to win the stamp of approval from Oprah Winfrey, who included Bantam Bagels as part of her list of “Favorite Things” in 2014. Bantam Bagels can now be shipped nationwide from its website, Nick and Elyse landed a successful deal after an appearance on ABC’s hit television show “Shark Tank,” where big investors agree to fund promising ideas.

Sprouted grains

Bakeries love throwing around terms that make their bread seem healthy. “Stone ground” or “multigrain” breads, for instance, might be a cut above your average loaf – or they might not, since those terms are often loosely defined, if they’re defined at all. 

But at Alvarado Street Bakery, the company does not just throw around fancy words; they want customers to know what’s really in the breads and what makes them special. For Alvarado Street, the heart of creating healthy bagels, breads and buns revolves around using sprouted grains. 

Sprouted grains are whole-grain seeds that have begun to sprout. So, while all sprouted grains are also whole grains, not all whole grain products are sprouted. To induce sprouting, Alvarado Street Bakery soaks the seeds at just the right temperature and humidity levels. Then, once the sprouts emerge from the germ of the grain, they take the sprouts and mash them into a dough and bake them up in a variety of amazing breads and bagels.

According to the company, sprouted grains have lots of health benefits. The germinating process breaks down starch in the grain, which increases the relative amounts of vitamins and nutrients it contains. Folate, fiber, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and B vitamin levels are all higher in sprouted grains than they are in traditional grains. Sprouted grains also have essential amino acids like lysine that you won’t often find in run-of-the-mill breads. And sprouting breaks down phytate, a form of phytic acid that decreases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. Finally, the sprouting process makes the grain easier to digest.

On the go

Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels are proud to announce the formation of Panera Brands, a new powerhouse platform in fast casual, the fastest growing segment of the industry. Panera Brands brings together three iconic brands in fast casual: Panera Bread, the pioneer and market leader in fast casual, Caribou Coffee, a beloved regional coffeehouse, and Einstein Bros. Bagels, the industry leader in bagels and bagel sandwiches. 

With nearly 4,000 locations and 110,000 employees across 10 countries, Panera Brands is one of the largest and most vibrant fast casual companies in the world. 

Anchored in Panera Bread’s distinctive competencies including its broad omnichannel retail network, strong digital infrastructure, industry leading loyalty program, robust food innovation pipeline, world class supply chain and access to extremely well capitalized franchise owners, Panera Brands will be in a unique position to turbocharge the growth in Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels alongside Panera Bread. 

Panera Bread, with more than 2,100 bakery-cafes is a pioneer and market leader in fast casual with leadership in the quality of its clean, transparent, sustainable ingredients, and in omnichannel access, digital convenience (45% of sales are e-commerce) and engagement.

A market leader in bagels and bagel sandwiches, Einstein Bros. Bagels operates 1,005 stores consisting of Einstein Bros. Bagels, Bruegger's Bagels, Noah's New York Bagels and Manhattan Bagel.