Voices of the Bay

Baked with Love

Rob Browne of Bristol Bagel Works shares what makes their shop so special

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For the last 25 years, the Browne family has been known for rolling out signature, day-fresh bagels and an intrinsic sense of community at Bristol Bagel Works. While Herb and Christine Browne are the front face of the shop, son Rob is responsible for the kitchen. A graduate of Vermont’s Green Mountain College, Rob works seven days a week and treasures nighttime solo fishing and sailing with his family. Now, he sits down to dish on family, food, favorites, and the unexpected six-week close in summer of 2018 thanks to a complicated oven installation.

 

OVEN WOES: The new oven manufactured by Baxter demanded very specific installation instructions, which led to so many problems. We were living a nightmare. We kept running into one problem after another.

 

DON’T GIVE UP: Had it not been for my dad [Herb], I don’t know if I would have had enough energy for it. It really took a couple of people to push this boulder up the hill. He has been through adversity and he knew to keep going. Everyone was trying to help us, from town hall to restaurant people to our customers who left messages on the door. We are a part of Bristol and we learned how many people missed us.

 

BAGEL MENTOR: Jim Hedin was the fourth leg when we opened. He was our baker and I studied under him for four years before taking over for many years. Our baker now, Steve Moses, is an outstanding loyal worker. I can’t do it without him.

 

FIRST BAGEL MEMORY: Lender’s frozen bagels! I would fork split them, toast with butter and cream cheese. This was years before I even thought of doing bagels. I would only eat one [Lender’s] today under duress.

 

BRISTOL BAGEL’s MOST POPULAR: The “Works” bagel, which features sesame, poppy, onion, and garlic. I copy all my numbers so I know exactly to the dozen how many I sell. We are so busy I have to have a hard number to hit or we will run out.

 

PERSONAL FAVE: Onion or Cheddar Broccoli, toasted with our scallion cream cheese. I literally eat two bagels a day. I’ll be taking one home after work today. I make all our flavored cream cheeses. I buy the cream cheese in bulk and flavor it with vegetables and seasonings.

 

BAKER KNOWS BEST: Ah, that’s my secret. I’ll [be traveling], walk into some bagel shops, and get one look at the bagels and walk out. My eye tells me exactly what they’re doing with their bagels and it’s inferior to what we have.

 

FEEDING GENERATIONS: Over the years I have loved watching these little kids show up, bagel bites in their mouths, and ten years later they’re still coming in.

 

OUTSIDE THE KITCHEN: I had gotten away from sailing, but once this shop started up, my dad (who is an outstanding sailor) and I started racing boats together and it has been an awesome bond.