Holey City Bagels has developed their own recipe for hand-rolled, boiled bagels, focusing on one key factor: the crust.
“The crust is most important to me – or ‘the crumb’,” says Greg Odachowski, owner of Holey City Bagels. “If you can get them right out of the oven when it has that natural toast to it – a little hard on the outside, still soft on the inside – that’s the best.”
It’s also the reason Greg is in the process of outfitting the Holey City Bagels food truck. His 1962 Airstream is a gateway to what may eventually turn into a brick and mortar location.
“I’m looking forward to the day when I can pull [the bagels] from the oven, turn around and toss them into a basket,” says Greg.
Holey City Bagels – From Farm Stand To Food Truck
Holey City Bagels opened in 2017 with one goal in mind – provide the bagels that transplants (people who have moved to Charleston) crave.
“[Having grown up] in New Jersey, I knew that Charleston was due for some bagels made the old fashioned way,” says Greg Odachowski, owner of Holey City Bagels. “They just make them differently around here.”
Greg started developing Holey City Bagels while in graduate school for his Masters in Teaching.
“It was definitely a learning process because I’m not trained in baking. I just taught myself by trial and error and developed my own recipe,” says Greg. “I started making them at home. They were really good, and my family said they were awesome, so I said ‘I think these will sell’.”
“I just had to figure out how to make hundreds rather than eight.”
Greg tested his recipe at the Downtown Charleston food market – and sold out on his first day. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised they even let me into the downtown farmers market in the first place! Then I sold out – like, wow.”
“I don’t know if it was necessarily my bagels or that they were bagels,” says Greg. “But people love bagels in Charleston. There’s a lot of transplants so the demand is high.”
To save time and take Holey City Bagel to the next level, Greg is in the process of retrofitting a 1962 Airstream with the necessary equipment.
“I’ve always been fascinated by Airstreams. I do want to focus on a more retro look and feel,” says Greg.
“Having to set up and break down a full tent, dealing with the rain, wind, general weather – it can be a struggle and is very time consuming,” says Greg.
“The food truck – or food trailer, I should say – will give me more flexibility to go to more places. Especially in the summer when I have time off from teaching.”
Greg’s custom Airstream also cuts down on the wait time between baking and selling – meaning warm, even fresher bagels for customers.
What’s It Like Renovating An Airstream To A Modern Kitchen On The Go?
To start, Greg wanted to maintain the original charm that drew him to this particular Airstream.
“I found an old [Airstream] in Florida and gave it to a very skilled fabricator in Charleston – Steven with Black Oxide Welding – to have
retrofitted to a mobile bagel shop.”
“I didn’t polish it. It looks weathered. It’s got a nice look to it – a lot of character.”
While the outside is original, the inside has been gutted and renovated to provide the perfect space for Holey City Bagels.
“I had wanted to put my entire kitchen in it, with the mixer and everything. It just wound up being too heavy. [Eventually] I would love to roll up and just bake on site, but without having to set up a tent [the Airstream] will save a lot of time so the bagels will still be warm,” says Greg.
As surprise costs cropped up – including a fire suppression system and an RV generator – Greg started a GoFundMe to help bring his mobile bagel shop to life.
Within two days, Greg had already raised nearly $2,000 out of his $10,000 goal.
“I was very pleased by that. I didn’t know what to expect – it was kind of a humbling experience,” says Greg.
[The Holey City Bagels – Mobile Bagel Shop GoFundMe is currently live. Donate here.]
As he finishes the Holey City Bagels Airstream, he’s also doing pop-ups across Charleston. “Last week I went to Brickyard Plantation and set up in front of their club house and crushed it. Everyone there is from the Northeast. They were like pleading with me ‘we need a bagel shop.’ I was like, food truck? And they were like ‘No, we NEED a shop’,” laughs Greg.
“At the end of the day I do want to have a brick and mortar, but I haven’t been able to find the right location.”
What Makes A Great Bagel?
“Baking is chemistry,” says Greg. “Charleston is tough because humidity can change. You have to adjust your recipe depending on how humid it is outside.”
“You can use the same recipe from week to week and the bagel comes out different.”
Boiling is key to a crisp crust. “When you boil [a bagel] it’s like searing meat. You keep the moisture on the inside and create a crust on the outside. You can make a ton more if you steam them [like most chains do] but they don’t come out with the same texture,” says Greg. “The bread isn’t as moist.”
Of course, there’s always the myth of the water. “The Northeast says it’s all about the Hudson Valley water, that it has the right chemical makeup,” says Greg. “There is some truth to that but just by boiling them you can make them almost the same.”
That being said, he does still doctor his water with minerals, placing a heavy emphasis on almost the same.
Baker’s Favorite vs. Customer Favorite
If you hail from the Northeast, you know just how serious people can get about bagels. “People from New York always tell me they’re from New York – before they order their bagels,” says Greg. From debates about water, toppings, toasted vs not, everyone has a preference.
“I think toasting ruins it, honestly,” says Greg. “If it’s fresh, I don’t like to toast it if I don’t have to.”
“My favorite is a salt bagel with chicken salad – just as a sandwich, nothing else on it. Or just plain cream cheese. Salt bagels are my favorite, and they’re not that popular depending on where I am.”
“I used to do [pop-ups] at John’s Island and there were a lot of New Yorkers. They’d all come out and want the salt bagel, but when I do a Mt.
Pleasant [pop-up] they’re the last ones.”
While the classic bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel remains a staple favorite [“I love them as well,” says Greg], the Taylor Ham is a close second.
“It’s a New Jersey delicacy. It kind of looks like bologna. It’s like a hybrid pork product – tastes like a mix of bacon and ham,” explains Greg. “If you’re in South Jersey or Philly, you call it a Pork Roll. If you’re from the northern part of Jersey you call it Taylor Ham.”
“I started to just put both on the menu.”
Another Manhattan favorite is the scooped bagel. “A lot of people from Manhattan seem to like their bagels scooped. You pull the breading out of the bagel, and they’ll put cream cheese usually. I do a lot of lox sandwiches on scooped bagels too.”
What’s Next For Holey City Bagels?
“The goal is to continue to get the name out,” says Greg. As he puts the finishing touches on the Airstream, he has plans for catering and private parties, adding items like mimosas to make it a whole event.
“The food truck will allow me to do more venues and different locations. [Eventually] I’d like to be able to set up just on the street or Downtown.”
“Periodically, it just hits me that people are wanting to buy something I created from scratch, and they really want it. When you take a step back like, wow look at this line – it can take you out of being super stressed and put you in a good mood pretty quick,” says Greg.
“I have this one regular – he’ll drive 45 minutes to wherever I am. And he’s been a staple from almost day one. That’s crazy, like really cool.”
As for his advice for anyone starting a new venture?
“My knee jerk reaction is to say you know, do your homework and be prepared before you jump into it. But honestly, that’s not what I did at all. I just went for it.”
“That’s my advice – just go for it. You’ll figure it out. It’s helpful if you’re passionate about it. The crazy energy and enthusiasm I had in the first few years – I can’t believe the hours I held,” says Greg.
Greg expects the Holey City Bagels’ Airstream to be ready within the next month. To help him complete his goal of delivering fresh, hand rolled, water-boiled homemade bagels, donate to his GoFundMe page here.