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New York-based Lots O Bagels opens in Seoul

Bagel expert brings 23 years of tradition to Korea

Bagels are hand-rolled, boiled and baked in-house.(Photo credit: New York Lots O Bagels)
Bagels are hand-rolled, boiled and baked in-house.(Photo credit: New York Lots O Bagels)
One bite of Lots O Bagels‘ sinfully chewy everything bagel swaddled around a thick schmear of feather-light cream cheese, smoked salmon, iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion and capers will confirm this spot knows how to make bagels.

What started as a stand-alone bagel nook in New York’s Astoria in 1997 has branched out into a second location, right here in Korea.

“My husband loves bagels so much and wanted to enjoy the bagels from our New York store in Korea,” said Lots O Bagels CEO Sarah Lee, 41, explaining why she decided to bring her bagels to Seoul in an email interview.

Lee entered the world of bagels in 2010 with the purchase of Lots O Bagels in New York.

Only after amassing a decade’s worth of experience in the realm of bagels did she decide to expand and open a second location in Seoul’s Sinsa-dong on Oct. 30.

Sequestered away in a nook in Sinsa-dong, one has to look for the verdant lane with a beaming yellow Lots O Bagels sign and trek their way in to discover the two-story, approximately 85-seat shop.

“I am trying to keep things as similar to the New York store’s menu as possible,” said Lee, detailing there are some differences, including the size and variety of bagels and variety of cream cheese sold in Korea.

“In America there are 30 varieties and in Korea there are about 14. I am trying to increase the variety to be like the one in the states,” Lee said of the bagels. 

Around 350 to 400 bagels are made daily. (Photo credit: New York Lots O Bagels)
Around 350 to 400 bagels are made daily. (Photo credit: New York Lots O Bagels)
Lee’s New York store carries 24 varieties of cream cheese while the Seoul store has 14, and plans are to increase the cream cheese options in Korea as well.

As for the size of the bagels, Lee explained the bagels made at the Seoul store are smaller than ones in New York.

“We use organic flour to make the dough and make the bagels by hand, proof them and put them in boiling water and then bake them,” Lee said, describing how the bagels are made in-house in Seoul.

Indeed, one will find videos and snapshots of the bagels being hand-rolled and baked on the Lots O Bagels’ Seoul store’s official Instagram feed.

Based on Lee’s description, Lots O Bagels clearly leans toward the New York-style bagel as opposed to the East Coast or Montreal style.

Substantial in size -- about 5 centimeters thick and 13 centimeters in diameter -- Lots O Bagels’ take on this popular Jewish food is incredibly chewy yet soft. 

Lots O Bagels’ egg sandwich features egg, bacon and melted cheese. (Photo credit: New York Lots O Bagels)
Lots O Bagels’ egg sandwich features egg, bacon and melted cheese. (Photo credit: New York Lots O Bagels)
Both the basic everything bagel and the whole wheat everything bagel boast a crust that is neither too crackly nor too slippery, and a density that does not compromise the bagel’s slightly creamy crumb or pleasant chew.

Add to that a thick, luscious swab of cream cheese and that should be more than enough for anyone looking for a quick bagel fix.

“Our cream cheese is housemade and no preservatives are used so it has a quick expiration date,” Lee said. “It is best to eat right after you buy it or if you are going to store it in the fridge, it is recommended you eat it within a week.” 

Lots O Bagels’ variation of the classic lox and schmear features smoked salmon in lieu of lox, in-house cream cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion and capers. (Photo credit: New York Lots O Bagels)
Lots O Bagels’ variation of the classic lox and schmear features smoked salmon in lieu of lox, in-house cream cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion and capers. (Photo credit: New York Lots O Bagels)
While Lots O Bagels offers a dizzying array of cream cheese, all on display at the store, the plain is a great option, boasting an impossibly fluffy, cloud-like texture and a perfect hint of salinity to offset the sweetness of the bagels.

Lee says some 350 to 400 bagels are made daily in Seoul, and while there is a plan to introduce a delivery service, bagels sell out by late afternoon, making delivery service difficult at the moment.

Bagels and cream cheese can be ordered to go as well as bagel sandwiches, which include their take on the classic bagel with lox and schmear -- where in lieu of lox, which is cured but not smoked, smoked salmon is used -- and a breakfast-friendly bagel sandwich filled with bacon, egg and melted cheese.

“There are plans to expand the menu a bit,” Lee said. 


New York-based Lots O Bagels opened in Seoul’s Sinsa-dong on Oct. 30. (Photo credit: Jean Oh/The Korea Herald)
New York-based Lots O Bagels opened in Seoul’s Sinsa-dong on Oct. 30. (Photo credit: Jean Oh/The Korea Herald)

New York Lots O Bagels

642-6 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

(02) 3448-7777; @newyorklotsobagels

Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, closed Sundays

Bagels cost 3,800 won to 4,200 won each, bagel sandwiches cost 6,800 won to 12,800 won, plain cream cheese to-go costs 3,500 won for small, 7,500 won for medium and 14,000 won for large. Menu items except for the salad and sandwich salad sets are available for takeout

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)   
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