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Witness the Greatness of LA’s Oldest Bagel Factory

Western Bagel in Van Nuys still keeps it old school

Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

It may not seem so to outsiders, but in-the-know Angelenos have for decades harbored a delicious secret: this is a bagel city. Though Los Angeles carries none of the bagel prowess of New York City or the stigma of Montreal, there is no shortage of bagels here on the sunnier side. And to prove the point, all one needs to do is look to Western Bagel.

If you grew up a Valley kid, you know Western Bagel. With nearly a dozen locations largely spread throughout the San Fernando Valley, a stop at Western Bagel was practically a right of passage. That's particularly true of their Van Nuys location, which has been in ceaseless operation — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — since 1958. According to lore, the only time the Sepulveda Boulevard address has ever gone offline was during the Northridge earthquake.

It may seem like the bagel craze is just heating up around Los Angeles, what with all the new entrants to the scene lately. But in truth this city already has a rich and golden circular story to tell, and it starts with 70-year-old Western Bagel. Check out the photos below for a peek behind the oldest bagel curtain in Los Angeles.

And then there is the nonstop bagel production facility to which Western Bagel's most iconic location is attached. The non-stop production line carries some five million bagels on a good week, adding up to almost a quarter of a billion bagels annually. The workhorse bakery provides bagels in quantities both large and small, to everyone from Publix supermarkets to the LAUSD, the second largest public school system in the United States. They sell internationally in countries from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore to France, Canada, Central America, and Mexico. There are local accounts as well, including nearby favorite Brent's Deli in Northridge.

Western Bagel has the capacity to make over 5,000 dozen bagels per hour, thanks to the massive machinery inside their two 25,000 square foot facilities. In a given week, the bakery goes through some 600,000 pounds of flour alone.

There is also a sort of R&D side to Western Bagel’s Van Nuys facility, with an old deck oven and traditional boiler for the bagels. There, a single man makes test runs of new flavors (remember, these are the folks who invented the pizza bagel) and make one-off batches for the attached store. Each Western Bagel facility has their own deck oven, and cooks off bagels daily.

Despite the expansion into overseas markets, the million-dollar private label agreements with some of the nation’s biggest retailers, and the local enthusiasm found at some of LA’s best delis, the best final resting place for one of those locally-made bagels is right in their retail store. Guests can grab bagels by the dozen to take elsewhere, or stand around with an egg and sausage breakfast bagel sandwich if they’d like. And, who knows, you might even catch the company mascot, Bagel Brad, wandering around in the heat.

After 70 years in business — and with many more on the horizon — it’s safe to say that Western Bagel has more than earned their success. And with bagels on the forefront of many diners’ minds these days, it’s important to also remember the family-run businesses that keep this city fed.

Wonho Frank Lee
Wonho Frank Lee
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