Best Portable Brunch: Pick A Bagel

by Charlotte Hammond
Groove Korea (

A bagel and schmear (that’s Yiddish/NewYawkese for spread) is, in many ways, the anti-brunch. It’s simple, it’s suited for take-away, it’s glutty and inelegant, pairs better with a coffee, a newspaper, and solitude than late morning gossip and cocktails. And yet. A bagel and schmear is lunch. Or breakfast. Or both. A bagel sandwich tends to glue up the intestines in a way that enables meal skipping and combining.

In the past year New York franchise Pick A Bagel bestowed Seoul and its gluten-eaters with proper fresh-baked bagels and an assortment of savory and sweet spreadables. Though Pick A Bagel has held pop-ups in Itaewon and elsewhere, a small stool-room-only location in Apgujeong anchors the bagel house. Those in the know will recognize the green and white swirl of scallion cream cheese alongside a greener mountain of veggie cream cheese. The majestic range is completed by the soft glow of lox cream cheese, the color of faded Bermuda shorts. Pick A Bagel’s deli case is a sight for any seasoned schmear fan to behold. Co-owner Bill Choi points out that their sweeter cream cheeses in flavors like strawberry, walnut raisin  and honey pecan are much more popular with Korean diners, but the savory toppings like lox are catching on.

While we’re on the fishy subject, let’s talk about this lox. Pick A Bagel’s lox is exemplary, the finest smoked fish a bagel could hope to embrace. Sourced from Salmone House, a Korean smoking company, this lox is downright buttery, perfectly lined with fatty white stripes. Wan pink fish from Costco this is not. The lox inclined should go for “the works” known at Pick A Bagel as the signature set: bagel of your choice with plain cream cheese, lox, tomato, raw red onion and a small handful of capers. It’s a steal at KRW 5,000.

Bagel neophytes stumped on selection can try the New York Sampler of six bagels and six cream cheeses for KRW 22,000.

Pair the bagel of your choice with coffee, juice or soda. Or be real Sex and the City-era New York about it and get a SNAPPLE. Killer throwback Americana.         

11 Nonhyeon-ro 175-gil, Gangnamgu, Seoul


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