As an American living abroad long-term, it’s natural for me to have the occasional craving for comfort or regional foods from back home. Or my mom’s homemade slow cooker spaghetti sauce…(drool).
Before I go off on a big tangent and start thinking about all the American food I miss (which honestly isn’t too much), let’s talk about breakfast foods! What’s that saying?
You can take the American out of America but you can’t take the America out of the American.
Besides the traditional bacon, eggs, and orange juice breakfasts, what’s more of an American breakfast on the go than a bagel with cream cheese? This is not the traditional breakfast in Spain and cream cheese itself has only recently made its way into sprucing up typical Spanish dishes. And let’s face it – do you think it’s easy to find bagels in Madrid?
Over the past decade, it’s been difficult to find relatively inexpensive American comfort foods abroad or even American products period in Spain. Well, in the past three years, it’s gotten easier (or whenever the Taste of America supermarket chain was founded) but it was rough back in 2010 or earlier. A number of American fast-food chains have made their way across the pond since then and quite a few more specialty bakeries have popped up in various Spanish cities.
When I lived in La Coruña, the go-to American bakery/café was Migas Dulce Bocados where they specialized in cupcakes and pancakes (and some unique teas!). In Santiago de Compostela, I was so happy when this authentic American-style café called Lusco e Fusco opened back in June 2015 just a couple of months before my move to the city (for only one year). It was (and still is!) an amazing place run by a Chicagoan baker who did several creative projects during the time I lived there and baked a select amount of cinnamon rolls only on Saturdays. She received tons of repeat customers so she created a loyalty card and I filled up two of them before I packed my bags and headed to la capital.
However, once I got to Madrid, I had to start my search all over again.
Once I found my first long-term apartment, I scoured the city in search of a good American breakfast and some authentic tasting baked goods during my first year.
During those first few months in Madrid, I spent my evenings and weekends traveling to new parts of the city in order to try out a variety of different restaurants and cafés. I partially did this to taste new things and go to new places but also it was partially to get away from my first two shared apartments, which were quite horrible.
Something I hadn’t ever noticed in other parts of Spain is how popular brunch is in Madrid. You will, however, rarely find it served by a born and bred American but rather our Spanish counterparts trying their best to provide an authentic brunch. And previously, the only place to get handmade, oven-baked bagels in Madrid was at the café/bookstore, J&J’s Books and Coffee but not now!
Without further ado…I present to you, Mazál Bagels & Café:
What’s their story?
Tamara Cohen is the creator and founder of what used to be known as Bruja’s Bakery. She talks in her blog about how her boyfriend Luis has called her “bruja” (literally: witch, but it can also be a term of endearment) ever since she dressed up as one for Halloween back in 2015. The word has stuck as a nickname and it made sense at the time to use it for her newly created online bakery.
However, what started as an at-home bakery providing the best New York-style bagels and other treats for residents in Madrid has now turned into so much more.
While Tamara knew that Bruja’s Bakery would never work as a commercial business name in a Spanish-speaking country like Spain, she knew that she wanted to open a physical store for her bakery in the future.
It took two years of visualizing her final product and ironing out the details with her boyfriend standing by her side lending moral support. But she did it!
She had previously baked all of her bagels, cookies, and pies in their relatively small Madrid apartment under her old shop name, Bruja’s Bakery. Her boyfriend or Tamara herself would arrange pickups or deliveries (within the Santiago Bernabéu stadium area) through their website, WhatsApp or their online ordering system.
After two years of baking bagels first in a toaster oven and then in a large, modern-sized oven, the at-home business eventually began to wear on Tamara. So, after being granted Spanish citizenship at the end of 2018 thanks to her Sephardic Jewish heritage, she started dreaming ever so slowly about turning her at-home bakery into a real, brick and mortar café/shop.
And that’s how in 2019, her dream became a reality. After a lot of research, testing, planning and scouting out the right location – which is crucial for a business to survive here in Madrid-, she got found the perfect place and got the keys in early November 2019.
Mazál Bagels & Café didn’t officially open its doors until January but Tamara was sharing updates via Instagram stories any chance she wasn’t knee-deep in flour or covered in paint. She did a great job building momentum and keeping us all in suspense up until their opening day.
(But she showed us plenty of behind-the-scenes shots and sneak peeks.)
Before I get into when they opened and what they offer, you’re probably wondering about the story behind the name Mazál, right?
Tamara is a descendent of Sephardic Jews who lived in Spain for many centuries. However, in the 15th century, the Spanish monarchy ordered this people group to either depart Spain or convert or die if they wanted to remain. Ever so slowly, and since the current Spanish royal family made a decree to grant people with Sephardic Jewish heritage citizenship in 2015, they’ve made their way back. Since her Jewish heritage is very important to her, Tamara wanted to find a word for her store name that was easy to pronounce in English or in Spanish. As she searched through words that mean a great deal to her people, the Sephardic Jews, her mom suggested the word mazál meaning luck in English.
And that’s how Mazál was born.
When did they open?
When Mazál was still in the process of officially opening, their former business Bruja’s Bakery was closed for nearly a couple of months while Tamara and Luis put things into motion.
After ambitiously wanting to open her doors at the end of 2019, Tamara took a bit more time to polish things up and get the place looking fantastic. She had a soft opening the weekend of January 10th but officially opened her doors on January 15th, 2020.
My husband and I chose to visit them on their opening day as those are always special and exciting days. We wanted to take part in this historic moment for bagel lovers in Madrid. It was surprisingly quiet with just a couple of people enjoying a bagel and coffee at the tables and the front display case was stocked full. We even saw the shelf where she keeps American products on hand for sale get delivered so that’s how new everything was just 6 weeks ago.
Cut to about two days later when word had totally gotten out that you could get authentic, New York-style bagels in Madrid, Tamara was running out of bagels every day!
If the customers she was getting through the door that first week hadn’t heard about her online turned real bagel shop, they knew now! She has had to increase her daily number of bagels just to keep up with the ever-growing demand. It’s tiring and grueling work some days but this is her passion and they love providing residents (or visitors) of Madrid with the best bagels in the city.
What do they offer?
Every Day Bagels (every Tuesday-Sunday in the shop)
If you want to go for bagels on the weekend or order some for the whole week, I’d recommend you reserve them online via their platform.
*If you don’t, there will be restrictions on how many you can purchase on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.*
Cream Cheese Bagel
Fancy Cream Cheese Bagel
PB & J Bagel
Butter & Jelly Bagel
*Any choice of bagel (see full descriptions on their website)
NY Style Pastrami Bagel
*Any choice of bagel (see full descriptions on their website)
And since it was Opening Day…
You can also order:
Chocolate chip cookies
Giant Healthy Skillet Cookie
…and any seasonal cake or pie!
After her smashing opening week in the middle of January, Tamara now has a bustling, busy bagel shop on her hands. Business is not slowing down but she couldn’t be happier. By introducing a Bagel of the Week and adding a special weekend Brunch menu (including mimosas!) to the menu, she and her coworkers are keeping up with demand and enjoying the process every step of the way. Opening your own physical business space is no easy feat and I admire Tamara for following her heart and pursuing her dreams.
To continued success for Tamara and Luis and may they strive to continue creating the best bagels in Madrid.
Where to find them
Calle Alonso Cano, 30
Metro: Alonso Cano (Line 7), Iglesia (Line 1) or Gregorio Marañon (Line 10)
Can’t get enough bagels? Follow Mazál Bagels & Café for exclusive updates and more on Facebook and Instagram.
*This is a review based on my own opinions and personal visit to the shop. I was not asked to or paid to do it but simply wanted to because I genuinely love their bagels!*