Gryfe's Bagels has, in my opinion, the best bagels in the city. Bold statement, I know. But I have yet to find another bakery in Toronto that makes bagels that are just as delicious plain as they are toasted and smothered with cream cheese. Gryfe's Bagels need no adornment. They're fluffy and light, often devoured in just a few bites, and I think best eaten when slowly ripped apart.
Toronto has been trying to crack Gryfe's secret for over 50 years. "It's TLC," manager Annabelle Villa-Real tells me as she cracks a grin. Alas, I won't be the one to get the scoop.
The bakery was opened back in 1957 by Arthur and Ruth Gryfe. After they passed away, son Moishe took the helm and now runs the North York bakery, which can produce upwards of 1,000 dozen bagels on any given day. And that's the focus: bagels. While there are several varieties (poppy seed, flax seed, whole wheat, multigrain: $7.20/doz), as well as homemade mini pizzas ($5.75/pkg), and a few sandwich options (though not available on weekends), Gryfe's is not a hangout space. There's no seating, little décor, stark walls, and a cash-only checkout.
"There's nothing fancy here," Villa-Real says. "Even we're not fancy," she says smoothing out her apron. "But that's how people know us."
Gryfe's is also famous for its weekend lineups. Villa-Real says they used to start at around 8:00 a.m., until people started coming earlier to try to beat the crowd. Unfortunately, everyone had the same idea, and now the lineups are formed by about 6:00 a.m. "Out the door and around the corner!" she tells me. "Even in the winter, when it's snowing, they still line up."
On the plus side, the line will take you to everything you need for a weekend brunch. Gryfe's has a variety of cream cheeses, eggs, juice, and specialty jams imported from Israel ($4.99) in store. And if you're not in the area, chances are you can pick up a Gryfe's bagel somewhere else in the city.
Villa-Real starts listing off some of the places that carry their bagels. "Pusateri's, Daiter's, Grace Meats, Nortown, Villa Foods, Bruno's, Kitchen Table..." She actually goes on for another minute or two. I catch "Toronto Cricket Club" and "Holt Renfrew Bloor" somewhere in there too. "People just like our bagels, I guess," she says. And I'd have to agree. True to their mantra, Gryfe's simply "just tastes better."
Photos by Dennis Marciniak