Posted September 24, 2014
By William Porter, The Denver Post Denver is home to a lot of people from somewhere else. While they tend to adopt Mile High folkways — skiing, craft beer, the Broncos — most of them also keep a soft spot for the foods of their upbringing. For Josh Pollack, who was raised in New Jersey, that food was bagels. Not the mushy variety you find pre-bagged in grocery stores, but the sturdy, chewy bagels that the son of a fourth-generation Brooklyn mom would be proud to top with a thick schmear of cream cheese. Naturally, after graduating from the University of Colorado in Boulder and toiling in the financial industry, he quit his job and opened Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen in Five Points. At 30, he has been a self-described "bagel man" since the early summer. So far, so good. Rosenberg's — the family name of Pollack's late mother — sits at 725 E. 26th Ave. The shop is a bagel's throw from the intersection with Welton that gives Five Points its name. It is also just around the corner from the historic Rossonian Hotel, where so many jazz greats stayed and played in years past. The crowd is a mix of neighborhood residents and workers, and hip kids coming in for a taste of Brooklyn and the array of espressos and lattes the staff turns out. Bagels come in the varieties you would expect: plain, sesame, poppyseed, salt, pumpernickel, garlic, onion, etc. What is unexpected is the spot-on, authentic texture and flavor. It is light but chewy, tender but toothsome. This comes from a bit of experimentation Pollack conducted. Knowing that New York City's water is a key to New York City bagels, he had water samples analyzed from the treatment plant and aqueduct supplying the Big Apple from Catskill Mountain watersheds. Testing revealed a mineral mix high in calcium and magnesium. It strengthens the gluten in the bagel dough. Pollack set up a reverse osmosis filtration system in his shop that strips his Denver tap water of its natural mineral content and replaces it with the NYC formula. "We roll the dough, proof it overnight, then boil the bagels and cool them before baking them on rotating racks in the 8-by-8 oven, which averages about 500 degrees," Pollack says. Rosenberg's is a breakfast-and-lunch place, open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Order at the counter, pay the tab, take a seat and wait for your name to be called. If you're lucky, you'll find a table at the long, gold banquette that wraps half the room. The L.E.S. (Lower East Side) bagel sandwich. Some bagel mavens are happy with just a bagel and schmear. The thick cream cheeses, also sold by the tub, include plain, scallion and veggie varieties, plus premium blends with lox or caviar. This being Denver, you can also get a knockout cream cheese spiked with roasted Hatch chiles from New Mexico. The bagel sandwiches are filling, but not oversized. No need to worry about Carnegie Deli-style cholesterol counts. I was smitten with the L.E.S., an onion bagel loaded with luscious, just-fatty-enough pastrami, Swiss cheese, crunchy cole slaw and creamy, tangy Ba-Tampte-brand deli mustard. (The shop also uses Ba-Tampte's full- and half-sour pickles.) Like all of Rosenberg's beef, the pastrami is sourced from Old World Provisions, a New York brand that supplies Katz's Deli in Manhattan. That means you'll also want to try the Reuben bagel, a flavor knockout with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing on pumpernickel. Pollack cures his own fish, from the silky Scottish smoked salmon to the black cod sable and the zippy peppered salmon. On a recent morning I indulged in "The Standard." The sesame bagel was piled with cream cheese, smoked salmon and a thick slice of tomato. All the flavors and textures retained their identities, yet melded beautifully. Brave souls can try the "Heart Attack" breakfast sandwich: a butter-griddled bagel piled with Tender Belly bacon, sausage, ham, American and Cheddar cheeses, and a fried egg. It's $10.95, defibrillator paddles not included. The sides, while small, aren't afterthoughts. A dill-driven potato salad comes from the general manager's grandmother's recipe. "We use a lot of grandmom recipes in here," Pollack says. A cucumber salad is a fine balance of sweet and tangy. And the potato- chip varieties include Zapp's Voodoo Chips, a Louisiana brand familiar to anyone who ever bought a muffaletta at New Orlean's Central Grocery. "We just got them back in," the clerk told me, as happy about the fact as I was. The shop offers an array of sodas. Deli-goers in the know will be delighted to see a full complement of Dr. Brown's sodas, including black cherry and — have mercy — the coveted Cel-Ray celery soda. Rosenberg's is on a roll. It's a great addition to the Denver dining scene.