Bagel sandwich with salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, and onions flagel flat bagel
Photo credit Nataly Hanin via Getty Images

What Actually Is a Flagel?

Most importantly: Is it better than a bagel?

If you’ve ever looked at a menu in a bagel store and saw an option to purchase a “flagel,” it wasn’t a typo. The name refers to the flat bagel — a bagel that’s been flattened in between the boiling and baking process, resulting in a thinner and crunchier final product. This is in contrast to traditional bagels, which are kept in their original form before going into the oven and are known for their density and fluffiness. The flattening makes the bagel look quite large and oblong, sometimes with an outlandishly big, oval-shaped hole in the middle. 

As is the case with many foods, there are multiple purported inventors of the flagel.  According to the Village Voice, the flagel was invented in 1994 at Tasty Bagels, an Italian-owned bagel store in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Food historian Francine Segan claims it was the product of the low-carb craze of the time. If this is giving you traumatic flashbacks to scooped bagels, perhaps there’s an upside: Though flagels are thinner than traditional bagels, they’re not made with any less dough than traditional bagels. The only difference is that they’ve been flattened, so they have the same nutritional content. 

New York-based bagel chain Bagel Boss also takes credit for the creation, trademarking the term in 2010. Their website (yes, that does exist, along with a dedicated Instagram account), includes a quote by Bagel Boss CEO Adam Rosner about how he invented the flat bagel in 1999:

There was storm [sic] the night before which lead [sic] us to lose power. We had a refrigerator full of thousands of bagels that became over proofed and were not going to be able to be used for bagels. After playing around with the over proofed bagels and a few trial runs later, I figured out that if you flattened the bagels, seeded them, and baked with a specific bake time, the end result would be a flatter, crunchier bagel or as we know it, The Flagel. That night, the Flagel was born.”

Social media has its fair share of flagel content. A handful of bagel store accounts on TikTok and Instagram have posted videos showing off their flagel offerings, as well as some users posting flagel recipes and videos that generally introduce the concept. All those posting seem to be pro-flagel, like one video in 2022 by popular cooking TikToker @aldentediva, who remarked how she likes the flagel because it provides a larger surface than a traditional bagel for cream cheese.

Could the flagel be the next social media food craze? It’s possible, given one surprising fan who’s been giving it attention recently: reality star Bethany Frankel of “Real Housewives” fame. Since May, Frankel has uploaded three videos on TikTok showing herself preparing and eating flagels. 

“A flagel is just like a flat bagel, but, for whatever reason, the ratio of everything-bagel seasoning to the bread is better,” she says in one video

She appears to purchase everything-bagel seasoned flagels from the Hamptons and Long Island-based bagel chain Goldberg’s, pairing them with admittedly “weird” combinations of toppings like tuna salad with marmite. 

Not everyone is team flagel though. “Why??? A flat bagel is a bad bagel,” one user commented on a flagel video by Jersey Girls Bagels, a bagel store in Bradenton, Florida. The store stitched the comment, replying “Some people love the crust of the bagel. A flagel is almost all crust,” over a video showcasing a flat everything flagel with scallion cream cheese. “Lol then they don’t like bagels they like crackers,” another user retorted, to which the store made one final stitch. “I’m done talking to you about the merits of flagels,” they said, following up by nudging the user to try one of their traditional everything bagels instead. 

It’s not hard to see why there’s pushback. Though the name tells you exactly what it is, it’s still shocking to see how the flagel looks as if someone ran over a perfectly good bagel with their car. The glorious, fluffy interior is gone — or rather, flattened to a thin surface. While visually there is a beauty to the standard bagel, the flagel looks like someone made a mistake.

“I’ve always thought it should be called a ‘finagle,’” Frankel says in a TikTok showing herself spreading cottage cheese and caviar on a flat bagel. “Like you finagle the bagel.”

This article was produced as part of The Nosher’s Jewish Food Fellows Program, which aims to diversify the voices telling Jewish food stories in media spaces. 

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