Melissa Elsmo

“I feel like I’ve been saying we’ll be open in two weeks since last July,” laughs Amanda Daly as she scans her soon-to-be bagel shop, “there are still a lot of moving parts to this project, but we can finally see the finish line.”

After a thoughtful search for a brick and mortar location for her burgeoning east coast bagel business, Daly settled on remodeling the old Zephyr building located at t 130 Chicago Ave, Oak Park (corner of Lombard and Chicago Ave) in early 2019.

Construction delays and setbacks during the build out have plagued the young business, but The Daly Bagel is nearing completion and opening day is not far off. In fact, Daly has already hired 14 employees and they have completed their first staff training to ensure they will be prepared on opening day.

Daly anticipates opening in just a few weeks.

Today the shop is awaiting final power, gas and plumbing hook ups, but it is clear much progress being made in the retro space. Beneath a layer of construction dust, a light and airy color palate of black, white and “Daly Bagel blue” is starting to emerge.

Banquette seating and a custom-made bagel display are on-site and awaiting installation. A large viewing window, paid for by Daly Bagel Kickstarter supporters, has been installed and will give customers a chance to see the bagel making process firsthand. Branded coffee mugs, eco-focused refuse bins and reusable baskets for dine-in meals are being stored in the basement in anticipation of opening day.

Fans are encouraged to follow The Daly Bagel on social media (Facebook and Instagram) to stay updated about opening day specifics. While the specific date is still unclear, Daly is unwavering in her intention to have a soft opening in order to get the business up and running.

“We are aware there are high expectations for the shop, and we are committed to maintaining the quality people have come to expect from The Daly Bagel,” says Daly.

And that means taking things slowly.

During the soft opening, The Daly Bagel will be open from 6am-12pm and offer a limited menu of bagels, cream cheese, drip coffee and tea. In the afternoon Daly and her employees will assess their progress, restock bagels and practice making espresso drinks with help from the folks at Dark Matter Coffee.

As the team’s skills build, the shop will remain open longer while gradually increasing bagel production. As their confidence grows they will begin adding more menu items to mix and customers can expect to see espresso and lattes followed by desserts. Eventually an array of sandwiches will round out the menu.

In the meantime, Daly and her “bagel partners” Adrienne Guldin and Leah Garcia are especially eager to share the progress being made in the shop’s industrial kitchen.

“We’re in the big leagues now,” says Garcia as the trio enters the kitchen.

They show off an extra-large walk-in refrigerator with enough room to hold hundreds of bagels, a four-compartment sink and massive dough mixer. A large piece of equipment known as a bagel divider-former is stationed in front of the shop’s viewing window; its designed to help bakers increase production as it both separates and shapes bagels. 

 “This machine will help speed up production a lot,” says Daly, “but many of our products will still be made by hand.”

Daly indicates the divider-former will only be used for standard bagel doughs; all colored doughs used to make rainbow bagels and any product containing a high-allergen ingredient will be made by hand to ensure the machine is not contaminated with potentially hazardous ingredients.

A revolving tray oven, with nearby bagel kettle for boiling, anchors the bagel focused business. The industrial oven has the capacity to bake 500 bagels at a time. During their week-end pop-ups, Daly and her crew of bakery chefs would churn out just shy of 900 bagels in batches of 80– so the increased oven capacity will be an asset in the shop.

 “I literally screwed in 90% of these screws myself,” says Guldin of the bagel oven, “and we named it ‘Clay’ after the man who installed it for us.”

Few folks in the country have the skills to install an oven of this magnitude and the installer will have to fly in after the gas hook ups are completed just to calibrate the oven before the shop can open.

“This has been a little like playing dominos blindfolded,” says Daly matter-of-factly, “we are at a point in the process where there really isn’t much left to do, but the remaining things need to happen in a certain order.”

Fans of The Daly Bagel will need to remain patient for a while longer, but Daly, Guldin, and Garcia offer insight into the menu at The Daly Bagel.

The Daly Bagel will feature 12-15 bagels daily. Among others, the ever popular plain, onion, sesame, poppy, garlic, Asiago, everything, pumpernickel, cinnamon raisin and egg varieties will be included on the regular menu, while specialty bagels like lemon-lavender, chai, maple bacon, and pumpkin carrot will be available on a rotating or seasonal basis.

Daly Bagel fans will be happy to know an assortment of custom blended cream cheeses will be available in their popular garlic and herb, berry basil, sweet onion, veggie and goat cheese varieties on a regular basis. Specialty varieties, like a creative “Chicago” cream cheese will make appearances at the store as well.

 Inspired by a Chicago-style hot dog the cream cheese will feature all the garnishes included on the city’s signature dish. Daly envisions the cream cheese will play a key role in a specialty sandwich—a poppy seed bagel, spread with Chicago cream cheese and topped with Taylor ham, a New Jersey specialty also known as pork roll.

The “Vampire Killer” will feature a garlic cream cheese on a garlic and herb bagel and topped with wilted lemon-garlic spinach and red onion, while the “Sweet Tart” will feature your choice of bagel topped with a goat cheese spread, fresh apples and honey. The sandwich menu will also feature smoked salmon and a Whitefish spread from Soft Wave Fish Co. located in Lake in the Hills, IL.

Daly anticipates the regular shop hours will Monday-Friday: 6am-4pm, Saturday; 7am-3pm and Sunday: 8am-2pm.

“When we have an opening date we will announce it on social media;” says Daly enthusiastically, “the waiting has been hard for all of us, but we can see the finish line now!”

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