In March of 2014, Vancouver institution Solly’s Bagelry celebrated its 20th year of serving its signature Brooklyn-style bagels. In honor of the anniversary, we spoke with the founder and current owner Leah Markovitch about how she kept true to her grandmother's traditional recipes over the course of two decades.
Solly’s Bagelry exudes a homespun charm. Markovitch describes the delis as places where people could feel comfortable kicking off their shoes and relaxing. The antique furniture, mismatched sets of chairs, and soundtracks of old jazz and Jewish songs exemplify Solly’s Bagelry's laid-back and nostalgic spirit.
What's Not To Like?
Markovitch grew up baking and cooking alongside her grandmother, who taught her to create traditional Old-Country meals with simple but flavorful ingredients. When faced with an unfamiliar dish, Markovitch would ask her grandmother, "Will I like this?", and she invariably received the same response: "What's not to like?"
Solly’s Bagelry continues to use many of Markovitch's grandmother's generations-old recipes today, making everything from challah to knishes from scratch. None of the dishes can be considered haute cuisine or upscale street foods, but they emphatically aren't meant to. Instead, Markovitch says that her grandmother's family recipes showcase the sort of flavors that can only come from rustic, traditional home cooking.
"What's not to like?" now serves as a slogan at Solly’s Bagelry.
Taking inspiration from the Jewish delis of Brooklyn, Solly’s Bagelry boils and hand-rolls more than a dozen styles of bagels, which move straight from the deck ovens to the display cases. This style of bagel is famous for its texture, which is noticeably chewier than many deli or café bagels. Although they might seem different at first, Markovitch recommends trying one of these signature creations "if you want to taste tradition."
Markovitch recognizes how fortunate she is to have access to butter, chocolate, and other ingredients that would have been considered luxurious delicacies for past generations of Eastern Europeans. She uses these ingredients to add richer and heartier flavors to certain creations, and she even takes a bit of artistic license by creating inventive items, such as samosa knishes and chocolate matzah. However, she is quick to point out that, even when experimenting, Solly’s Bagelry never strays too far from the original recipes, and tradition is still the baseline. Some of the items' flavors may have changed a bit, but Markovitch says, "there's not too much that my grandmother would be surprised at."