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Takeout Tuesday: The backstory behind Reno's best bagel, Rounds Bakery

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Delicious New York style bagels from Rounds Bakery in Reno

Out of nowhere, bagels became a hot button topic last week on NSN Daily. Well, I guess I turned it into that after boisterously voicing my opinion about a certain question in Murray’s Mailbag. Viewer Michael Snyder (@MikeSnyderHDS) gave Chris a choice of five bagels (plain, sesame, everything, jalapeño cheese, blueberry) and was asked to rate them by flavor. To my disgust, Chris came out with the following ranking:

1. Blueberry

2. Jalapeño Cheese

3. Plain

4. Everything

5. Sesame

He did redeem himself a little by saying he would vault jalapeño cheese to the top if it was for a breakfast sandwich. But how dare Chris bury the everything and sesame bagel at the bottom of this list? And blueberry as his top seed? Disgraceful. In fact, I went as far as saying it was an abomination. Were my attacks on Chris warranted? Probably not. But I was bored and absolutely love bagels and had to voice my opinion. Everything is my hands-down No.1 seed. Blueberry would be at the bottom, and it wouldn’t be even close.

After this excessive rant, which honestly ended with Chris coming out on top (he decided to defy me and consume a blueberry bagel while I was on said rant; style points for sure), I was left with a hankering for a good bagel.

After all, a bagel is one of my absolute favorite foods. It’s an all-time comfort food for me. Everyone likes to play the game of, “What is your dying meal?” I know mine would include a bagel on the side just for the hell of it. Take a perfectly toasted bagel with a nice slather of cream cheese, top it with some ripe tomatoes, sliced onion, capers and maybe even some salmon lox if I’m feeling frisky. Or throw some eggs, cheese and bacon in one. Or some chicken salad. I digress.

As a bagel connoisseur, I have frequented all of the establishments in Northern Nevada. There are a few great options in town. And taking the top spot is none other than Rounds Bakery (Truckee Bagel comes in second and Daily Bagel in third).

After all this bagel talk, I figured it would be the perfect time to highlight Rounds Bakery in the latest installment of Takeout Tuesday.

New York-style bagels at Rounds Bakery

After 10 years as a pilot in the Air Force, as well as an additional 10 flying for FedEx, Anton Novak was ready for a career change.

Feeling empty from the vagabond life of being a pilot, Novak decided to put down roots in Reno to help take care of his father who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Not long after that, a spilled drink into the lap of a stranger by his father introduced him to his future husband, Sean, and the duo decided to take over Rounds Bakery. The intention was to use the space to produce and sell a potato pizza crust developed by his father. They were able to get that off the ground, but soon realized they had something the community was really craving: authentic New York-style bagels.

Bagels are kind of like pizza. They are all good. But when you are dedicated to the process, you end up with a great bagel. And that’s exactly what is happening at Rounds.

“There are no shortcuts when it comes to a bagel,” Novak said. “You can do all kinds of things in the baking world. There are sort of tips and tricks, but a bagel is very fussy to get the right texture and density.”

Rounds puts their bagel through a lengthy process that starts with cold proofing them for 20 hours.

“There’s an old saying in New York: ‘I slept like a bagel,’ like you slept all night,” Novak said with a laugh. “We don’t rush that process and that allows the malt, yeast and barley and all those flavors to ferment with the dough.”

The next step is equally important to Novak.

“I say it’s not a bagel if it’s not boiled,” he said. “It’s just a brown piece of bread with a hole in it. We go through the labor-intensive process of taking all of the bagels and putting them in boiling water and letting them sit there for a few minutes and then turn them around and put them on the boards and bake them off.

“A process that is not to be messed with,” Anton added.

The result of this hard work at Rounds results in a bagel that is the closest thing you can find outside of New York. (Side tip: I recently had the best bagel of my life fresh out of the oven at Utopia Bagel in Queens last fall). They have that classic firm exterior that gives way to a perfectly chewy and doughy interior.

The only thing stopping them from achieving New York-bagel glory is the water. There’s a belief you can’t get things like pizza and bagels and other items to taste like they do in New York because of the water. It’s true. However, many restauranteurs in Reno have noted our water supply is well suited for breads, doughs, etc. Anton agrees.

“The rocky stone cliffs and shores of the Truckee offer a little bit more mineral content and nice alkalinity,” he said. “A lot of people thought, ‘Wow, you are opening a bakery at 5,000 feet? That’s going to be a challenge.' But those challenges you can get around. You can’t get around good water. You have to have it.”

Prior to the pandemic, Novak said Rounds had been exploring the investment of water treatment equipment that would alter the PH to what you would get in New York. Unfortunately, that had to be put on the back burner for now. But in the meantime, the bagels are still as good as ever.

My favorite way to enjoy a Rounds Bakery bagel is an everything toasted and topped with their Sriracha cream cheese. It offers the perfect amount of heat to complement the salty and garlicky nature of the everything.

“You picked my favorite,” Anton said.

Knowing how good it is, he was quick to point out that he can’t take credit for it.

“That goes to my husband and co-owner Sean," he said. "He developed that one, and it’s been a hit ever since.”

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Two of their sandwiches feature the sriracha cream cheese, including my favorite on the menu: the Ultimate BLT. Your bagel is topped with bacon, hard-boiled egg, sriracha schmear, avocado, arugula and tomato. It’s an absolute knock out.

Changes to the bakery

When I visited to Rounds Bakery this week, I immediately noticed changes, most of which involve customer and employee safety. First, it was required that you wear a mask to enter the restaurant. Second, instead of walking to the counter and seeing a basket full of bagels, they are located on the other side. Rounds has decided to become more of a market, with all of their bagels pre-wrapped in the baskets where customers can walk in and grab what they want and pay using a touch screen.

“There is nothing more important, honestly,” Novak said of the safety of his customers and employees. “My military training and background, the attention to detail in aviation, you take all the precautions you can and hope they are so excessive that nothing bad ever happens."

Novak said they’ve installed an air-purification system that sanitizes the surfaces of the space through air circulation. He said it eliminates 99 percent of viruses.

“We are not just a restaurant anymore; we are a good manufacturer,” Novak said.

Rounds Bakery supplies their products like bagel sandwiches to companies and other locations across the region.

“Our food goes to the university, to 10,000 people at Tesla, to three locations at the airport where people are traveling on planes and traveling across the country,” he said. “We are following the strictest of USDA and FDA procedures in our bakery. Our employees appreciate it and they understand it and so do the customers.”

Feeding front-line workers

Rounds Bakery has been one of the local restaurants in the area at the forefront of taking care of our health care workers during this time. Novak said that decision came naturally as someone who spent years doing humanitarian relief through flying C-130s during his time in the military.

“The front line came so close to home where we have our health care workers, our neighbors, treating the sick and risking their lives,” Novak said. “In many cases, they are unable to leave their floor or their unit to get food without causing excess stress on other nurses or patients.”

Novak’s “Rounds 4 Heroes” joined forced with the Feed Our Heroes campaign and delivered 450 meals a day to six hospitals and two testing sites in Northern Nevada for seven weeks.

“I’m getting prepared if we have a second wave we are going to be doing the same thing again,” Novak said. “It’s not so different from what I used to do, except now I don’t do it with a plane. I do it with a delivery truck.”

National donut day

In addition to having the best bagels in Northern Nevada, Rounds also has top-notch donuts. Novak said they will be returning to the bakery on Wednesday in honor of "National Donut Day."

Make sure to get there early if you want to try their version of the "Cronut" (a croissant-donut hybrid). They are amazing.

Finally, I did end up bring home a blueberry bagel. I haven't decided whether to give Chris a chance and eat it or just throw it in the trash. Just kidding, I hate wasting food. Maybe my wife will eat it.

Nevada Sports Net's executive producer Alex Margulies will feature a local restaurant once a week in his "Takeout Tuesday" feature. You can contact him at amargulies@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter at @marguliespxp.

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