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CHS Schemata: Capitol Hill’s Eltana Bagels — Because it’s a long way to Montreal

John Feit is an architect on Capitol Hill, and works at Schemata Workshop. He blogs frequently on design and urbanism, with a focus on how they relate to and effect the Capitol Hill community.

There is something quintessentially urban about the bagel, at least that’s my own romantic musing. Perhaps its Eastern European, Jewish origins make it somewhat exotic, or maybe it brings up memories of the East Coast and its larger metropolises. Better yet, it is probably because it is only in a city that one can hope to find a decent one! Sold in super markets and bakeries alike, most bagels (in both cities and suburbs) are based on the misconception that if you use bread dough, form it into a circle, and put a hole in it — you have a bagel. City dwellers have generally experienced better, except for those of us living on Capitol Hill, where, much to my chagrin, we had not a decent bagel joint. That has changed, thanks to Eltana ( I will not purport to be culinary critic, but do encourage you to pay them a visit, and give them a try. I suspect you will be pleased.

The bagels are hand made on the premises, and baked in a wood fired oven, making them the so-called Montreal Bagel and the favorite of Eltana proprietor Stephen Brown.

The Wood Fired Oven

The shop is located in the newly opened Packard Building, in a space designed by friends and colleagues Graham Baba Architects (, whose office is just down the street. Built with a lean budget indeed, the space none-the-less has a couple of noteworthy touches that revealed the ingenuity of their designers: a blackened steel wood storage bin as well as a clever way of displaying the aesthetically pleasing bagels.

Blackened Steel Wood Storage Bins

Just Look at Those Beauties. Cool Rack, Too.

Back of house there is the wood fired oven, while up front are some bar seats with views to 12th Avenue and a large,  centrally located , rustic family-style dining table.

The Dining Area

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17 thoughts on “CHS Schemata: Capitol Hill’s Eltana Bagels — Because it’s a long way to Montreal

  1. …who thinks Bagel Deli (15th) bagels are to dry and crumbly? Like when a red delicious apple gets “mealy?” Great service there – but i’m looking forward to trying this new spot.

  2. Hurray for Eltana. There bagels are the best Montréal-style bagels I’ve had outside of Montréal (including Siegel’s in the “real” Vancouver). And Montréal style beats NYC-style every and any day. This said by an ex-NYer.

    Eltana’s baking-hands down- the best bagel in town, in my opinion.

    Bagel Deli? A dirty, overpriced, rude experience with mediocre (at best) bagels. So, patronize Eltana. Love it and appreciate it. As for Bagel Deli, one could only hope this will be the ass-kick they need to keep themselves from going out of business by performing a massive overhaul ;-)

  3. I’ve lived in Seattle since 1996, but I am from Montreal, having bought my bagels from St. Viateur and Fairmount bagels shops in Montreal for years, and I can vouch that Eltana’s bagels are pretty darn close to the real thing. The poppy seed are the real deal, and I am thrilled to get some decent bagels here in Seattle!!!

  4. I tried Eltana, it’s already waaayyyy over rated. I’ll stay with the supposed lousy, dry, rudely served bagels from The Bagel Deli.

  5. You’re so right on bagels having an ingrained urban feel to them. Growing up in Bellingham we would always hit The Bagelry for Sunday lunch. It’s one of the few places that makes Bellingham feel like a real city and not just a college town.

    Really enjoying the posts John, keep up the musings.

  6. i like eltana. i like the atmosphere. friendly service. the owners are there all the time.

    and i think the bagels are getting better. i had one the other day – and every time i’ve gone back i think they’re working to refine their process so it works a bit better.

    i do have a question – why no breakfast bagels? i want to get some ham & eggs on the bagel. why not? do they not do that in montreal?

  7. Well, I don’t know if Eltana is formally kosher, but traditionally ham would not be served, and in general, many restaurants were dairy (no meat), to follow Jewish dietary laws, which require separation of dairy and meat.

  8. “Like”, as Abbasolomon mentioned the kosher angle might be a big part of why no b’fast sandwiches. Another might be that the biggest, most-respected bagelries in Montréal are super-duper low-frills. No sit-down area, no café foods. Just bagels. And, they mightoffer a commercial fridge full of groceries needed to make your bagel experience better: spreads, butters, beverages. That’s how it’s done on/St Viateur.

    Also, Montréal is much more European-style in its approach. The French in French-Canadian makes itself apparent at breakfast time. So, excepting Tim Horton’s and a few Anglo-Canadian and United Statesian chains that dot the city, most breakfast spots are either full-on breakfast or just coffee/cappuccino spots serving croissants and pastry. Even crêpes are seldom served up like fast food is here (though there’s one very popular spot on Rue St Catherine that makes a killing selling Québec’s fantastic soft serve ice cream, quick-order/quickly-made crépes and coffee beverages).

    So between the kosher angle (Jewish culture and influence is VERY strong in Montréal) and the French-Canadian/Québécois joi de vivre, there’s not as much of an inclination toward the breakfast sandwich as we know it. And, most bagelries just stick to bagels pretty much.

    Still, the Montréal bagel sandwiches I make on my own and the couple that I got in Jewish cafés on St Viateur are delicious. Maybe your question will result in the introduction of egg sandwiches at Eltana! My guess is they’d be vegetarian like the other stuff on their small menu is.

  9. no decent bagels? Eltana are decent bagels? Noah’s are real bagels! Maybe not the best, but the real thing! (Steamed) Wood fired oven = bagels? Hipster crap! I went to high school & college on the east coast & I grew up in a real city (considerably larger then than Seattle now) and I do know real, good bagels. Pah on hipsterizing bagels! And Jewish feed exotic? I call it homey.

  10. I worked at Noah’s bagels for YEARS in high school / college – they use frozen pre-formed bagels and bake them in the morning before they open. not only that, but their bagels are full of some “interesting” ingredients (those aren’t real blueberries in your blueberry bagel!). It’s cool for people to love/hate Eltana all they want, but I just want to highlight that you can’t really compare the two products on a one-to-one level. Eltana bagels and Noah’s bagels are totally different in style/execution.

  11. I am from Montreal and this is a Montreal Style Bagel. Very good ones, in fact. It is a far cry from your description of “hipster”.

  12. Sorry Cathy but you’re TOTALLY clued out on this one. MONTRÉAL style bagels, not hipster. You’re showing that typical United Statesian arrogance based on ignorance.

    And, sorry, Noah’s, with their HFCS are not “real”. Tasty perhaps, but authentic? No way.

    Eltana is doing it right, if differently than what you bought back East in Hartford, Newark or Philly pr wherever. Newsflash: bagels come inat least two different “traditional” styles.

    Trust me, I roll my eyes at lots of hipster behavior. I laugh my arse off at the show “Portlandia”. Cathy, this has nothing to do with “hipster”. You’re talking nonsense.

  13. The Wife and I picked up a few yesterday. These are some of the best bagels I’ve ever had, hands down.
    The interior of the shop is very well done. MMMMMM aaaaaaaaahhhhh the slight smell of burning wood when you walk in? Nice!
    Just tried the salt one. delicious!

    It would be nice if they had cinnamon raisin…

  14. Get a bagel with the apricot fig spread. It’s got cinnamon in it, so it’s similar to having a cinnamon raisin bagel with extra pop from the fig seeds.