Chewy and sweet, the bialy comes to St. Louis


By Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Bialy lovers, your wait is over. St. Louis has a legitimate South Florida-style version of the oniony roll, available from Breadsmith at 10031 Manchester Road in Warson Woods.

The bialy is similar to a bagel only in that it is round and chewy. However, it doesn’t have a hole in the middle. Instead, there’s a depression, which is filled. Bagels are boiled, then baked; bialys are just baked. 

Breadsmith owner Duane Johnson says they’ve been a popular item so far.

“It’s not a special, we plan on continuing to make them,” Johnson said. “It’s a great recipe. And I think the secret is that the onions are freshly sauteed here in the bakery with a little bit of seasoning and a little bit of pepper, and so that really makes it. And then the bialy itself, the dough is really a great flavor.”

Johnson said he and his wife, co-owner Kay Johnson, have been fans for years of the bialy at the Flakowitz deli in Boca Raton, Fla. The Breadsmith bialy is very similar to that version, chewy and a little sweet.

The bialy was brought to the United States by Polish Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s and became a breakfast staple in New York. It’s named for the town of Bialystok, Poland. Bialystock is the surname of Zero Mostel’s greedy Broadway producer character in Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” The bialy also got some attention in pop culture as one of Tony Soprano’s favorite treats on “The Sopranos.”

Until recently, real deal New York-style bialys were tough to find in the Midwest. That’s because the bialy has a very short shelf life. Shipping them around the country doesn’t really work. They’re best eaten the same day they’re baked.

Johnson said Breadsmith sources yellow onions, which rest in the center indentation.

“We just add some pepper and saute them in olive oil,” he said. “That brings out the natural sweetness in onions. And I’ve been putting poppy seeds on top before I put the onion on. It just gives it a little contrast, which is traditional for a bialy, as well. There is yeast and salt and olive oil and just a little pinch of sugar. And it does differ quite a bit from a from a bagel.”

Breadsmith is a kosher bakery, certified by the Vaad Hoeir. Bialys are available every Friday and Saturday while supplies last.