I Waited An Hour To Try LA's Best Bagel... And I Hate To Say It Was Worth It

Driven by follower counts, internet virality, and unsolicited name drops, the "hype eats" culture that categorizes the Los Angeles food scene is not much different than other social aspects of the city. It's enough for most people, whether they're Los Angeles natives or West Coast converts, to roll their eyes. Even I, a relatively neutral Chicagoan, can admit I've made my own judgments — and this was certainly true for a certain bagel shop I came across on Instagram called Courage Bagels.

Known for some of the best bagels in Los Angeles, Courage Bagels looks good on the 'gram. The perfectly charred bagels topped with colorful, California produce and lox photograph like a dream, but the line that wraps around the block and down Virgil Ave to the shop's small corner window every Thursday-Monday is just another example of how otherworldly the LA food scene is. Apparently, unless you know somebody, you'll even have to wait in line for a bagel in this city. For a long time, I told myself that no bagel could be worth standing around for, but on my recent trip to the city of Angels, I decided to do it anyway. 

To my surprise, Courage Bagels was the antithesis to all my preconceived notions — and as soon as I bit into my fresh, chewy, crunchy, everything bagel loaded with bright red, local tomatoes and house-made cashew cream cheese, the hour I spent waiting in line felt obsolete. In fact, I was ready to do it all over again the next weekend.

My time in the line

That early February, Saturday afternoon was my first time seeing all the fanfare around Courage Bagels with my own eyes. Fortunately, being from Chicago, if it's 60 degrees and partly sunny, I'll take just about any excuse to be outside — why else would I travel to California in mid-January if not to escape the cold and enjoy some fresh, farmers market-centric cuisine? While I can admit that, after about 20 minutes and not making much movement, I had my doubts, the worry of waiting never lingered in my mind too long. It didn't seem to be of concern to anyone else, either. We had all willingly chosen our fate that day, and we knew what we signed up for.

Maybe it was something in the California air, but aside from a couple of barking dogs, no one in the line for Courage Bagels seemed rushed, nor was there any sign of impatience. As a first-timer, I took it as a good sign — and, before I knew it, another 45 minutes had passed and it was my turn to place my order. Not to be fooled by the humble handwritten paper menus that were taped to the windows, a whole bagel will run you anywhere between $13 to $24. Unwilling to risk wasting my time and money, I decided on the most economical option: an everything bagel with cream cheese and tomato. In all of its simplicity, I figured the freshly baked bagel along with deep and juicy California tomatoes would be able to shine bolder and brighter — and they did. 

Bliss from the first bite

While you might be spending more on a bagel than you're used to, I will credit Courage Bagels for providing options. One thing that stood out to me was that you could opt for half of a bagel for a fraction of the full price, or even mix and match with another half of any of the other bagels on the menu. If you're indecisive like me, this option will come in handy. On my second visit to Courage Bagels, I was craving my original choice, but also wanted to try something new. I went for half of the tomato and cream cheese and another half of the "run it thru the garden" bagel, both with vegan cream cheese. The added cucumbers, onions, capers, and fresh dill sprigs added color and texture to my plate and my palate. Paired with locally sourced blood orange juice, I left ready to take on the rest of my Saturday. 

Self-identified as a Montreal-style bagel with California influence, Courage Bagels proves that New York City isn't the only place to get your hands on a good bagel. But rather than competing, it's created a category all of its own. Each one is handmade, naturally fermented, and takes nearly a week to make. Your choices include sea salt sesame, onion, plain, poppy, the ever-so-classic everything bagel, and their signature, the burnt everything bagel.

Slightly charred, each bite into a Courage Bagel is met with a satisfying crunch that's only complimented by the ultra-fresh Cali-grown toppings. Some of the options include bright orange wild Alaskan roe, smoked salmon that's been hand-sliced so thin that you can see through it, and wild-caught sardines. Showered in a bounty of California produce, the bagels themselves could easily become side characters, but they don't. 

Courage Bagels and Californian cuisine

Not only does Courage Bagels set itself apart from other bagels, it also sets itself apart from the other internet-hyped, LA-based fooderies that fill social media. Courage Bagels isn't just another Meta-engineered, algorithm-induced, internet-celebrity hangout — it's quite the contrary. Courage Bagels is a unique California food that encapsulates and represents all of the best parts of Californian cuisine. The shop's success story is one that's equally owed to owners, Skye and Moss, as it is to the city itself, which provided the innovative food culture they needed to break the bagel mold, and set the stage for a new wave of bagel shops to show the world exactly what a SoCal bagel experience entails. 

Relaxed, friendly, and unrushed, I'd argue that Courage Bagels couldn't exist anywhere outside of the slow-paced, easy-going culture that is unique to sunny California. Nor could the colorful, garden-fresh produce and the bright green matcha lattes, or the ethically sourced coffee beans and house-made almond milk, or the cashew cream cheese and the organic, locally sourced cow's milk. Maybe bits and pieces, but not all in one place, on one menu. Never mind the freshly boiled and baked Montreal-style, California-inspired bagels. The small, Silverlake corner bagel shop that is Courage Bagels offers an experience that is completely unique to LA — and in the best way possible.