Meet the Trader: Beigal Bake, serving 24/7 for five decades 

Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery. Pic: Victoria Brustad

In the middle of London’s vibrant Brick Lane, known for its mix of diverse cultures and aromatic spices wafting through the air, is a culinary institution called Beigel Bake.  

Under the bright “open 24 hours 7 days” sign, customers eagerly devour their bagels: salt beef smeared with mustard or smoked salmon and cream cheese. Hunks of salt beef are carved in the window. For five decades, Beigel Bake has attracted drunk munchers, families, and tourists alike with its quick, inexpensive, and consistently appetising bagels. 

While Brick Lane is mostly famous for Indian restaurants and vintage shops, the longest queues are not for a taste of curry, but for the bagels at this Jewish-owned bakery. This iconic shop, founded in 1974 by the Cohen brothers; Amnon, Asher, and Sammy, has not only stood the test of time but has flourished into a viral sensation.  

At the helm of this bustling bagel haven is Elias Cohen, son of Amnon Cohen: “What makes our establishment different is that we’re always available. I think that’s our big USP – we’re quite proud to be open 7 days a week and not close on any holidays.”  

Elias Cohen, whose father, Amnon, opened the shop in 1974. Pic: Victoria Brustad

Beigel Bake is a well-oiled machine with up to fifty people working there at various times. He said: “We get by even though sometimes we struggle and have to pull up our sleeves and work a bit harder. Other than that, we have a really good staff and people that have been around for longer than I’ve been born. It’s a family-run business, and we treat our staff like family as well.” 

This year marks 50 years since the shop was established. While it’s always been a popular place, social media has played a huge role in their success: “When Instagram blew up, 5-10 years ago, we started noticing a significant surge. We get a lot of tourists fortunately. You know when you’re on holiday, you always want to be Snapchatting and Instagramming, showing people what you’re getting up to – so I think it kind of picked up from there,”

As Beigel Bake continues to flourish on platforms like TikTok, customers often post their first reaction when trying their bagels. One user, named foodreviewclub, starts his video by saying: “Wow! This is one of London’s most iconic foods; the salt beef bagel from Brick Lane.” After tasting the bagel, he continues: “that’s what legends are made of right there”, giving the bagel a 9/10.  Another user, named foodandcraic, said: “It was really busy inside, which is always a good sign, and there were so many different types of bagels to choose from.” 

Their bestseller, the salt beef bagel, being made in the window of the shop. Pic: Victoria Brustad.  
The salt beef bagel. Pic : Brick Lane Beigel Bake, Facebook

Other than using a traditional family recipe, the secret to the bakery’s efficiency is a set routine and a commitment to freshness. Elias said: “We used to bake and do all the hard work like preparing all the sandwiches in the evening. But we thought it would be nicer to get our customers more fresh bagels. So, we moved to baking mostly in the morning, apart from when it gets to the weekend when we bake pretty much all day long.” 

As the years pass, the owners have tried to preserve the essence of the shop. However, Elias said some had been made: “Our bagels are vegan, so we get a lot of customers from that. We try to lean into providing more vegan products. So, we’ve got avocado, hummus and falafel now, and we also offer more meat products like southern fried chicken.” 

The never-ending queues outside the Beigel Bake Bakery. Pic: Victoria Brustad

Being open24 hours a day, 7 days a week means there is never a dull moment. Drunk customers are a part of the challenges that come with a 24/7 operation. Elias said: “When it’s later on in the week and everyone wants to go out and have a bit of fun and let loose, then it’s going to get a bit more rowdy. 

“There’s always times we get people who can be a bit unpleasant. Obviously, it doesn’t happen too much, but it’s something that we’re aware of, and we do our best to manage it in the best way we possibly can.” 

People waiting in line to get their freshly baked bagel. Pic: Victoria Brustad

With its simple interior and affordable menu, Beigel Bake sees everyone. It’s not uncommon to spot celebrities or even members of the royal family rubbing shoulders with locals, united by their love for the shop’s iconic bagels. As Elias says: “You can always have something to eat; you can always come to our shop.”

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