Tom and Tiffany Levy always wanted to open a bagel spot that they would want to visit. Though both grew up in the San Fernando Valley and spent years in New York City, the two realized that the South Bay lacked a destination-worthy bagel spot that locals from El Segundo on down to Torrance could frequent. On November 2, the husband-and-wife duo opened Uncle Stevey’s Bagel Shop in downtown El Segundo, inspired by the name their two children gave to Tom’s beloved brother who passed away a few years ago.
Uncle Stevey’s says it serves “East Coast-style bagels perfected on the West Coast,” sporting bubbly, crackly exteriors and toppings tightly packed on both sides. The light-filled shop has a dual refrigerated display that can’t keep its bagels on the shelf long enough, with customers coming in right at its 7 a.m. opening and buying up most of the shop’s 300-some bagels produced by 11 a.m.
Tom hopes to increase production to many times that in the coming weeks, but Tiffany, the day-to-day operator of the shop, seems to be keen on growing sustainably with the support of the neighborhood. The decade-long Manhattan Beach residents recognized the popularity of Courage Bagels, Belle’s, and Pop’s in Los Angeles, as well as the newer Layla in Santa Monica and Hank’s in Burbank. Even The New York Times has recognized LA’s bagel scene of late. The Levys also found inspiration in the excellent bagels being made in Maine, especially in Portland.
The bagels at Uncle Stevey’s are steamed and baked in the same oven, saving them the step of having to boil in batches and giving them a nice, sturdy exterior and a plush inside that’s not too tough. Asked why other shops didn’t use this equipment, Tom Levy said he purchased the special oven from a company in Canada, and surmised that it wasn’t widely known or used in other shops. Tom also said he got a lot of pointers from a friend who owns a successful bagel shop in Colorado to help refine his recipes and better utilize the equipment.
The results are artisanal and small batch but also familiar for bagel fans who might find some of the newer shops a bit too crunchy on the outside. Tom also wants to have fun with some of the flavors, like an eye-catching black-and-white bagel with black and untoasted sesame seeds, or a cheddar hot honey bagel that recalls a more typical cheddar jalapeno, but with the chile. Rosemary olive oil feels peak Cal-Italian while the everything bagel boasts poppy, fennel, and sesame seeds. (Tom says the “everything” doesn’t include garlic and onion because the Levys find the taste too burnt.) At the moment there are about six or seven bagel flavors, and the shop will eventually add on some experimental one-offs, like a cinnamon churro-inspired bagel.
The sandwich menu, with just lox and pickled onions; bacon, egg, and cheese; and avocado spread with chopped hard-boiled egg, will eventually round out to more lunch-friendly options like turkey with cheddar and bacon or a BLT with the option of avocado. At the moment, Uncle Stevey’s will be open Tuesday to Sunday until sold out and closed on Mondays, but will eventually go seven days when it can staff up properly. Delivery and pre-ordering will be available. Tom Levy says, “We just want to be considered one of the best in Southern California — at least in that conversation.” Given its early popularity and the quality of its bagels, the Levys certainly seem to be headed in the right direction.
Uncle Stevey’s is located at 213 Richmond Street, El Segundo, CA, 90245, and is open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. or whenever sold out, Tuesday to Sunday.