Southern Brooklyn

Knapp Street Bagel Cafe: Bagel with Lox and Cream Cheese – The Bite


Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

I have a confession to make. I’m a smoker. Yes, I hear your gasps of disbelief and disapproval. “How can the man behind the greatest food column in Brooklyn be a smoker?” “Doesn’t smoking affect his taste buds?” “How can we ever trust his opinion about food again?”

Well, don’t jump to conclusions my friends. I am a smoker, but I don’t smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipes. I smoke food. I’ve been known to smoke just about anything and everything and most times it turns out pretty good. But the one thing I’ve never attempted to make is lox. I’ve left that for the experts.

While Knapp Street Bagel Cafe (2145 Knapp Street) doesn’t make its own lox, they do a great take on the classic cream cheese and lox on a bagel. And they do bake their own bagels.

A bagel with “fresh” lox, as most delis around here refer to it, is almost a cliche of Jewish cuisine. But oh, what a wonderful cliche it is. Give me a chewy bagel, topped sweet cream cheese, red onions and salty fish and I’m in heaven.

For the goyum out there, lox is brined salmon. It is usually brined, soaked and then cold smoked. Cold smoking, at temperatures under 70 degrees, helps produce the luxurious, almost silky texture of the fish. The salts and sugars in the brine heighten the beautiful pink color of the fish.

According to James McNair in his cookbook, James McNair’s Salmon Cookbook, the lox we get around here is “the most popular preserved salmon, that it is generally Pacific species that is cured in brine, soaked to remove the salt, then sometimes still lightly smoked after soaking it, as it always was in the past.”

There are a few other methods of preserving salmon and they are available in the better delis around here. There’s kippered salmon which is hot-smoked, Nova, which is cold-smoked using salmon from the waters off eastern Canada. There’s Scottish, Irish or Norwegian, which are all cold-smoked Atlantic salmon, but are not salty at all. And of course there is gravlax, which is a traditional Scandinavian method of curing salmon with salt, sugar,and dill. This fish is completely cooked by the brine and never sees any smoke at all.

So, if Knapp Street Bagel Cafe doesn’t make their own lox, what makes this dish so special? It’s the bagel and the ratio of fish vs. cream cheese vs. bread. The foundation for this dish is the bagel. It needs to light, but chewy and exceptionally fresh. The cream cheese needs to be cold and creamy, and the lox thinly-sliced with none of the skin present.

With each bite, all the flavors need to blend, but the lox needs to be the star. The bagel and the cream cheese have important parts to play, but they are the bit players, filling out the flavors and textures, but never dominating. Knapp Street Bagel Cafe has mastered this combination.

I’ve been checking out Knapp Street Bagels since we reported on the NY Times story naming Knapp Street Bagel Cafe’s egg and cheese sandwich best and I think they’re on to something here. The bagels here are some of the best I’ve ever had. They’re slightly sweeter than others in our neighborhood and stand up well on their own and make some excellent sandwiches. Be sure to check them out, and tell them Sheepshead Bites sent you!

Knapp Street Bagel Cafe, 2145 Knapp Street, (718) 943-1525

Knapp Street Bagel Cafe on Urbanspoon

Comment policy


  1. ZOMG!!!1! That looks so freakin’ good. Why the hell didn’t you call me and tell me you were going. Dammit.

    (I wonder if they deliver…)

  2. ZOMG!!!1! That looks so freakin’ good. Why the hell didn’t you call me and tell me you were going. Dammit.

    (I wonder if they deliver…)

  3. ZOMG!!!1! That looks so freakin’ good. Why the hell didn’t you call me and tell me you were going. Dammit.

    (I wonder if they deliver…)

  4. A BAGEL SONG – By Andrew Kent
    (Tune: “I Gave My Love a Cherry” – Traditional)

    I gave my love a bagel;
    It had no hole.
    She said, “This ain’t no bagel,
    It’s just a roll!”
    So I gave my love a doughnut,
    And she said, “Strike two!
    Get it right the next time
    Or I’m through with you.”
    So I bought a pack of Lender’s
    And said, “Here, try these.”
    She said “They taste like Styrofoam!”
    And took back her keys.
    Then she said, “To get a bagel
    You really oughta
    Buy one from New York City
    Made with New York City water.”
    So I went to New York City
    To buy the real thing,
    But met this foxy lady,
    And we really had a fling.
    Then I sent my love her bagel
    And wrote, “Darling, if you please,
    You’ll shove this bagel up your ass
    And keep your fucking keys!”

    I wrote the above ditty when I was the PR Director for
    a NYC bagel company. It was part of my “Schmear Campaign.”


  5. I enjoy your column and writing style, Rob, but honestly some of the things you’ve been reviewing lately are just lame. Lox and cream cheese, pancakes, bottled beer… Really? I love lox and cream cheese myself, and I do agree that common dishes and foods can be quite bad at certain places, but when I read a food column about a specific place I like to read about something unique that I can only get there. Not about a sandwich I can make myself at home in under 5 minutes from easily-obtainable ingredients.

    Personally, I think if you want to write about an ultra common food item like lox and cream cheese, you may want to consider compiling a list of maybe 5 places that make it, and rank them. That way it’s more informative then “hey, these guys know how to make a sandwich without screwing up.”

  6. Just bought my ticket to “A Taste of Sheepshead Bay” on October 27th, but that bagel picture is making me so hungry that I’m thinking of buying another one.

  7. Ariela, 

    You must be a child of Brooklyn. 

    Growing up way out on Long Island, in a non-Jewish neighborhood, Lox was something very exotic. I don’t think I even saw it until I was a teen. 

    As you’ve probably picked up from my last name, I’m not Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish, Chinese or Vietnamese. I come from a very Western European/American Yankee background and the foods that are common to me may be exotic to you or to some of our readers.

    Awhile back, I reviewed kutabs. I had never heard of kutabs, never saw them and certainly never tried them. To me, this was a truly exotic dish. But, in the comments section of the post, Faba commented, “childhood memories filled with kutabs.” I’ve since learned the kutabs are available in many restaurants in the area. 

    I also reviewed chicken Kiev, which my Irish/English mother used to make from scratch on a fairly regular basis. Same thing with the carne asada, my abuela used to make that often. Irish soda bread – my grandmother made it weekly. Chicken parmigiana is one of  my wife’s standard dishes. What about the reviews of John’s Meat Market and Bassett’s roast beef sandwiches? Should I not review these items, simply because they are common foods to me? Or because I can make them at home?

    One of the reasons I agreed to do The Bite in the first place was to force me into places I wouldn’t normally go. The stores on Gerritsen certainly fell into that category. I don’t have much reason to be in that part of town. But, now I know that I can get a good bagel at Knapp Street Bagel. 

    One of the things I wrestle with as I write The Bite, is which food to pick. 

    The whole point of The Bite, is not to find the unique, but the good. At Sheepshead Bites, we work hard to support the local businesses and to spread the word to the world.  We’re hoping that when I highlight a business on the bite, it will motivate our readers to check them out. 

    So, what I’m trying to say, is that I try to mix up the bite and cover all areas and all types of food establishments in the bay. Sometimes it’s going to be something unique, sometimes not. Just try to remember that something new and exotic to you, is old hat to someone else. 

    Stick with The Bite, exotic and unique will be back. Frankly, it’s never left. This week, it’s just old hat to you.


  8. Fair enough, except I wasn’t commenting on merely the fact that it was lox. It just seems silly to me to review any kind of quick sandwich, whether it’s exotic to other people or not.

  9. Never heard of a kutab, or, for that matter, an abuela.  Seems one can always learn something new reading Sheepshead Bites.  😉


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