It’s been nearly two years since chef Bradford Kent signed the lease to open Bagel+Slice in Highland Park — but given the unpredictable nature of the ongoing pandemic, on top of the usual permitting and construction delays, the restaurant is only nearing completion now. When Bagel+Slice opens on York Boulevard this October, expect to find bagels served all day, New York-style pizzas in the afternoons and evenings, and an ambitious ethos that encompasses social, environmental, and financial sustainability.
Kent devoted the past year to refining his recipes for the restaurant’s two headlining items. “I designed a pizza-slash-bagel oven from the ground up at my house for R&D,” he says. “I knew that I had to nail it when I opened; there’s way too many great bagels in LA. And now there’s great pizza in LA. I have to be able to open really, really strong.”
Bagel+Slice will indeed face stiff competition in and around its neighborhood, as Northeast Los Angeles is home to many beloved pizzerias including Town Pizza, Triple Beam, Folliero’s, and Casa Bianca. While Belle’s Bagels is the most formidable bagel competitor in Highland Park, the greater Eastside boasts plenty more competition from Maury’s, Courage Bagels, and Brooklyn Bagel Bakery.
But Bagel+Slice is ready to enter the scene: Kent’s hand-rolled, kettle-boiled, and plank-baked organic bagels will be available throughout the day beginning at 7 a.m. Each one is made from 10 percent regenerative wheat using the exacting criteria set by the New York City bagel bakers union (Local 338) in the early 1900s— down to the burlap-wrapped baking planks. The bagels come in the usual array of flavors like poppy seed, sesame seed, and everything. Kent’s favorite one is made with rosemary, cracked pepper, and sea salt. The bagels come plain or served with traditional accoutrements like cream cheese and Nova salmon. They can also be made into breakfast sandwiches (with eggs, bacon, and such) or turned into pizza bagels. Bagel+Slice will offer dairy-free spreads and gluten-free bagels for those with dietary restrictions or allergies.
Kent will begin firing 16-inch, New York-style pizzas around lunchtime and refresh the selection until the restaurant closes at 10 p.m.; pizzas will be sold by the slice or as an entire pie. Kent promises that the pizza crusts will crack when folded but never break altogether — just like in the Big Apple. Toppings include house-made sausage and meatballs, pepperoni, and more.
Rounding out the menu are salads, including a Caesar with bagel croutons and a plant-based Cobb with a vegan goddess dressing, Counter Culture coffee, and a few rotating Jewish baked goods like bialys, babka, rugelach, and mandelbrot.
Bagel+Slice is one of two restaurant tenants occupying the commercial building at 4751 York Boulevard, a public space owned by Occidental College dedicated to bringing together local and regional artists within the college and neighboring communities. The extensive application process to rent the 1,300-square-foot Oxy Arts space, which included written reflections, menu tastings, and presentations to faculty, students, and members of the community, was an eye-opening and mindset-shifting experience for Kent. “[Occidental] looked at us as being a piece of the community, as a representative and an extension of the [college]. It wasn’t just about a transaction, finding someone to pay the rent,” he said. “I realized that they’re looking at a tenant being something different than I ever envisioned it to be.”
Kent, who owns Neapolitan pizzeria Olio inside Downtown’s Grand Central Market and is the co-founder and chief culinary officer of national pizza chain Blaze, is committed to social, environmental, and financial sustainability at Bagel+Slice — a triple-bottom-line approach that was influenced in part by Occidental College’s mission and its dedication to public good.
To that end, Kent is prioritizing the well-being of his staff, community, customers, and the environment over the restaurant’s profits, which he’s capped at 15 percent. The industry standard for profits typically ranges from 20 to 25 percent depending on the restaurant’s price point and volume, says Kent. From ingredient sourcing to environmental impact and staff compensation and benefits, Kent will continually examine every facet of the business to ensure its alignment with his values. “I’m fortunate enough to have had some success in my life that I can exercise this experiment and see if it works. And I think it will.”
Though Occidental College is not subsidizing the business in any way, Kent is leaning on a number of the college’s green initiatives, including ensuring the energy efficiency of the entire operation, composting the kitchen’s food waste, and validating claims like fair-trade and organic for all of the restaurant’s ingredients and suppliers.
Bagel+Slice is still a month away from opening, but is popping up periodically to preview its menu and to raise funds for charity. Follow Bagel+Slice on Instagram for the latest on all upcoming events.