South Florida is a natural destination for those seeking success on a larger stage. It’s also an ideal place to offer familiar food to compatriots and introduce new tastes to the uninitiated. Here are two local chains that bring their local, out-of-town specialties to a larger audience in South Florida and beyond.
The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.
Where: Hollywood, Coral Springs, West Boca, Jupiter, Tallahassee, Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles.
Founded: 2009 in Delray Beach.
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Essentials: Bagels, coffee, wraps, water.
More info: brooklynwaterbagels.com.
Today, Brooklyn is the hipster capital of the world, but as one of New York City’s five boroughs, it was often a punchline. The scrappy “dese, dem and doze” platoon sergeant in 1940s war movies was invariably nicknamed “Brooklyn” or “Flatbush,” after the colorful center of the fabled “Borough of Homes and Churches.” Among the lore of that mystical place is that the water possesses alchemical qualities that metamorphose everything cooked with it — notably, dough — into something wonderful.
Leveraging this notion is The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., whose founder, Steve Fassberg, devised a process to replicate the unique attributes of the wondrous water that flows from the borough’s faucets. The bagels — boiled then baked, as proper bagels must be — are the centerpiece of BWB restaurants.
Brooklyn Water Bagels serves bagel sandwiches in a pleasant and casual setting; you get on line (as they say in New York), file past a window revealing the spotless bagel-making area, order, pay and get one of those buzzer things that lights up when your food is ready to retrieve and devour.
Chief operating officer Mike Welch may hail from Wichita, Kansas, but his Delray Beach-based chain’s authenticity is evidenced in its chewy, tasty offerings. The menu, which includes omelets and bite-size bagels, remains tightly focused.
“We offer something unique, not found at Jimmy John’s or Panera,” Welch said.
Each stuffed bagel is big enough to be a meal unto itself. They also offer unadorned bagels with just cream cheese or even butter, if that’s your thing, and an array of salads: egg, chicken, whitefish and tuna, plus sliced ham, turkey and Swiss cheese, all of which can be served on a bagel or wrapped in a flour tortilla.
Soft drinks are also on tap, along with chocolate egg creams (which contain neither eggs nor cream, of course), made with Fox’s U-Bet, the chocolate syrup of choice for such things.
Of special note is the coffee: rich and deeply flavorful, without a hint of bitterness even when served black, made with Brooklyn water.
“It’s artisan coffee,” Welch said. “We purchase green Arabica coffee beans then roast and grind them in small batches.”
It’s not a delicatessen — no corned beef, pastrami, knishes or chopped liver — but as an abbreviated anytime-breakfast or nosh spot, Brooklyn Water Bagels is a winner. (And yes, you can get bottles of that legendary Brooklyn Water to go.)
Graziano’s Restaurants and Markets
Where: Coral Gables, Hialeah, Miami (Brickell), Weston.
Founded: 1990 in Miami.
Essentials: Empanadas, fresh beef, pasta, pastries, wine.
More info: grazianosgroup.com.
It’s a market! It’s a bakery! It’s a wine and beer bar! It’s a restaurant! It’s a butcher shop! It’s all of this and more. After 25 years in business, Graziano’s continues to achieve excellence through its many specialties.
Founder Mario Graziano ran a butcher shop in Buenos Aires. After about 30 years in the business, he moved his family to Miami and opened their first market on Coral Way in 1990. On weekends, by popular demand, they set up an outdoor grill, and now they own and operate a mix of restaurants and markets in Miami-Dade, and one Broward County market, in Weston.
True to the family’s Argentine roots, Graziano’s presents a full array of grilled beef, sausages, chicken and more, plus salads, cold appetizers and one more very successful thing.
“We sold a million empanadas last year,” said Graziano’s COO Leo Graziano, Mario’s son. “It’s a very popular item, with about 20 different varieties.”
Like many of the fresh items, empanadas are made in a central commissary that supplies each location. But “whenever possible, we make what we can in-house,” Graziano said.
Since Argentina boasts a large population from Italian descent, it’s no surprise to see some terrific pasta dishes at Graziano’s, including several tasty varieties of lasagna and ravioli with red, pink or Alfredo sauce.
In the markets, colorful and imaginatively decorated cookies, cakes and other baked goods of every size and shape tempt through polished glass cases as busy bakers scurry about. Nearby, walls are jammed with row after row of wine bottles, many of Argentine origin. A freezer case is packed with packaged pastas and pastries, also from Argentina.
Graziano’s carnicerias (butcher shops) are full-service, with the usual American varieties of beef, pork, veal and chicken as well as Argentine cuts that would likely satisfy the most demanding gaucho.
The restaurants and markets also serve wine (Argentine, of course) and beer, with packed and very lively happy hours.
“We’re seeing an increased popularity in local brews compared to national brands,” Graziano said. “We always make an effort to locally source as much as possible, and with all the great local breweries popping up in South Florida, we’ll do the same with beer.”
With its lone Broward outpost in Weston, will Graziano’s continue its northward expansion? Graziano said that there were no plans for that, but they’re currently planning to open a Doral location in June and are also exploring the Aventura area.