Brief bites in anticipation of National Bagel Day on Jan. 15
BY DONNA BOEN ’83 MTSC ’96, MIAMIAN EDITOR, AND JESUS F. JIMENEZ, assistant director of content
Crunch and Munch.
If the mere mention of that name conjures up images of turkey, smoked cheddar and Doritos, you’ve more than likely visited Oxford’s Bagel & Deli Shop, where the food is steamed, not toasted.
With National Bagel Day this Friday, we want to whet your appetite and whip up warm memories through a Q&A with the shop’s co-owner Gary Franks ’92 MAT ’93.
Gary, who grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio, and graduated with a bachelor’s in botany and a master’s in secondary science education, started working at B&D his junior year and continued though graduate school. He left Oxford for a couple years and then returned in 1996 to become a partner with Ned Stephenson, who founded the place in 1975 on High Street, a half block from Miami’s Oxford campus.
It’s a tiny space with posters advertising its sandwiches plastered on every wall. The mood can be rambunctious at times, especially as the evening progresses.
At least 800 Miami students have worked at B&D over the years.
“We keep in touch with a lot of them through a private Facebook group called ‘I Used to Work at Bagel and Deli.’ Former employees are always stopping in when they pass through town,” Gary says. “Ned’s family and my family both like to travel and often get together with former employees around the country. We had a big reunion for our 40-year anniversary and had people from the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s back in town from coast to coast.
“A lot of close friendships develop at the shop and we’ve had a number of marriages between employees over the years.”
Now that we’ve teased your tastebuds, let’s get to the meat of this Q&A.
Q: What are your top three bagels? I assume Crunch and Munch is still No. 1?
Gary: Crunch and Munch (turkey, smoked cheddar, lettuce, honey mustard, parmesan peppercorn and nacho Doritos on everything) is the top seller and is followed by the Messy Katie (turkey, Colby, cream cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, spinach and honey mustard on bialy) and the Tonya Harding Club (turkey, ham, bacon, ½ Colby and ½ Swiss on plain).
The Crunch and Munch really started to catch on about 15 years ago and has dominated ever since.
It’s not by any means the first sandwich we have tried that featured chips on it, but there is something about the combination of honey mustard, parmesan peppercorn ranch dressing and Doritos that people love, plus getting the rest of the bag of chips is a nice bonus.
Q: What’s the worst bagel that ever made the list or the one that you thought would be great but failed?
Gary: I think everything on the menu is pretty good otherwise it wouldn’t still be there. There are a few I don’t care for, but that’s more a matter of my personal taste. We have certainly had a lot of good combinations that haven’t caught on though. One year the competition winner was called “The Spice is Right.” It was a bialy with ham, bacon, pepper jack, smoked cheddar, green peppers and spicy mustard. It had a nice sign, was not too similar to anything else and tasted great but never took hold.
Q: What’s the one you thought wouldn’t sell and is now one of your best-sellers?
Gary: The Burt Reynolds bagel. It’s an egg bagel with scrambled egg, smoked cheddar, American cheese, bacon, cayenne pepper and strawberry jelly. It’s a bagel that I love but didn’t think it would have a widespread appeal. I started making it for a few morning regulars (They worked at the Phi Delt headquarters and the name is a subtle reference to the fraternity as actor Burt Reynolds was a member at Florida State). They made the name and sign, and it has become a popular bagel.
Q: The various names reflect the different decades, don’t they? Tonya Harding wouldn’t be known these days except for the recent movie. Any comment or reflections on the popular names through the decades?
Gary: Some of the bagel names are definitely dated, and there are plenty of names that the current student body probably has no idea of the history behind them.
We have a Doyle Rules bagel named after the student body president from 2001-2002 (David Doyle) that was just a campaign promotion with a play on an Adam Sandler movie but stuck around and plenty of names with references to house names that no longer exist (Random Bagel, La Dolce Vita) and students (Get Swanked, Kim’s Veggie Pizza) who graduated long ago.
Q: How hard is it to get a new bagel accepted? How does a person go about it?
Gary: It’s definitely harder than it used to be. Bagel naming really took off in the late ’80s, and we have reached a point where we are running out of wall space. People are still welcome to bring in creative ideas, but we have so many of the good combinations already covered it is a lot tougher to make the cut. We have also worked with MAP (Miami Activities & Programming) for the last four years to host a bagel creating contest at Armstrong. We make all the submitted suggestions and then judge them. The winning team gets their creation displayed for a year.
Q: Do we have a bagel for Miami President Greg Crawford? I saw The Greg-O on the menu.
Gary: The Greg-O bagel predates Dr. Crawford by a few decades, but we are always open to suggestions.
Q: I also saw former Miami President Paul Risser is still on the menu. Do you have to explain the names?
Gary: A lot of people ask about the history behind the names, and I’m always happy to give them the story behind them.
Q: Have you reached over 100 sandwiches yet?
Gary: We have 91 sandwiches on the official menu. If you throw in ones that have signs or are breakfast menu specific, we currently have 106.
Q: You’ve never considered moving into a bigger space?
Gary: Though there are times we could use a lot more space, I think part of our appeal is being a small, busy place packed full of character rather than a larger one that would seem cavernous when things slow down.
Q: Why steamed and not toasted?
Gary: It makes for a unique, soft, super tasty sandwich. Ned grew up in Oxford and went to school at the University of Tennessee, and there was a sandwich place there that featured steamed sandwiches. He brought the idea back to Oxford, added bagels to the idea, and we’ve been doing it that way ever since.
Bagel Timeline from Nationaltoday.com, except for the 1975 entry
In 1300 – First Bagel Appears
The beginnings of the modern bagel can be traced to the Polish obwarzanek, a thin, boiled, then baked ring of dough.
In 1610 – New Baby, New Bagel
The first known written record about bagels appears in Krakow, Poland, which dictated that bagels should be gifted to women soon after childbirth.
Early 1900s – New York Icon
The popularity of bagels spreads through the growing Eastern European and Jewish immigrant communities in New York City.
In 1950s – Bagels Become An American Staple
Bagels are sold in supermarkets across the nation and surpass the donut as an essential breakfast item.
1975 – Bagel & Deli Opens
Ned Stephenson starts sandwich and bagel shop, “the home of delicious foods and awesome moods,” in Oxford at 119 E. High St.
According to Oxford Bagel & Deli’s website, over the years, various independently owned and operated incarnations of B&D have sprung up around the country. Some were opened with B&D’s blessing. Others just kind of appeared and pretended to be new and original. The following shops are B&D inspired and run by Miami alums:
Chicago Bagel Authority (Chicago, Illinois)
Miami connection: Greg Gibbs ’94 is owner
THREE MOST POPULAR SANDWICHES
Dank ’N’ Eggs
Scrambled egg, bacon, roast beef, smoked cheddar cheese, American cheese, honey mustard, salt and pepper on an everything bagel
Turkey, cream cheese, bacon, Colby, smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and mayo on an onion bagel
Cream cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and mustard on bialy
Moscow Bagel and Deli (Moscow, Idaho)
Miami connection: Jeff “Smitty” Smith
THREE MOST POPULAR BAGELS
Turkey, cream cheese, bacon, Colby cheese, smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and mayo
Turkey, bacon, smoked cheddar and mayo
Turkey, muenster, sprouts, tomato, avocado and honey mustard
Ripple Bagel and Deli (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Miami connection: Maret Richman Cline ’93 is the daughter of owners Ken and Susan Richman. She is part of a Miami Merger with Doug Cline ’93, and they are parents of Emma Cline ’20.
THREE MOST POPULAR BAGELS
Chipotle cream cheese, bacon, egg and three melted cheeses on an everything bagel
The Big N
Turkey, cream cheese, Colby cheese, tomato, avocado, lettuce, sprouts and honey mustard on bialy
Turkey, chipotle cream cheese, extra bacon, provolone, avocado, honey mustard on an everything bagel
Cocky’s Bagel Sandwiches and More (North Olmsted, Ohio)
Miami connection: Natalie Bata ’17 is co-owner, marketing director and event coordinator
THREE MOST POPULAR BAGELS
Grilled turkey, salami, fried egg, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion and Cocky’s Sauce
Grilled salami, pepperoni, fried egg, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion and Italian dressing
Wake ’N Bacon
Bacon, fried egg, garlic herb cream cheese and American cheese
Split Open and Melt (Fernandina Beach, Florida)
Miami connection: Just last week, Dave Ferch ’98 opened Split Open and Melt
Dave is starting with 50 sandwiches, mirroring Oxford Bagel & Deli’s menu, thanks to Gary Franks, co-owner of B&D. For the sandwich names, he is using favorite song titles. For example, his roast beef bagel is Help is on the Way. In his shop, he’s posting the album covers on the walls, which leads into fun conversations with his customers, who like to reminisce about their old album collections while he makes their bagels.