Quite possibly more than our parents, our grandparents are the bedrocks of our childhood. And I make that bold statement because, before long and most certainly too soon, grandparents pass on from our lives... lives that we’re likely just beginning to fully embrace as our own. But as children who are lucky enough to have loving grandparents nearby, memories are often filled with the warmest of hugs, the best of meals, and the sweetest of laughs.
Considering the fact that Julia Keister named a bagel shop after her grandma, I’d tend to believe that some of those bold statements from above ring true. A month ago, Lil’s Bagels opened a walk-up windough on Greenup Street in Covington. But the business has been around since January 2016, selling bagels at local farmer’s markets, coffee shops, and hotels.
“Our tagline is ‘Made with Chutzpah,’ which we hope evokes the idea that we are a fresh take on the food and traditions from the Old World and beyond,” Keister explained. For those unfamiliar with Yiddish, “chutzpah” is a word that means “audacity” or “boldness.”
To the unassuming palate, one might not be able to tell a store-bought bagel from a homemade one. But that would have never been the case if you were part of Grandma Lil's pack. Though she wasn’t necessarily the best of cooks, she taught her granddaughter a very important lesson: Life is too short to eat a bad bagel.
“Bagels and lox have been a staple in my family—and Lil made sure of this,” said Keister. “Some people don’t realize that there’s a difference between a grocery store bagel and a GOOD bagel, but they are worlds apart in chewiness and flavor and the GOOD part is what we promise to serve.”
And Lil’s Bagels offers not just one or two bagels, but more like 8-12 flavors, from the classics, like everything and pumpernickel to the more adventurous, like blue corn jalapeno oaxacan cheese and spicy beet turmeric. They also sell sandwiches.
Here’s a quick rundown of the menu:
THE LIL: everything bagel, chive cream cheese, lox, caper, red onion
THE GOOD JUDY: za’atar wheat bagel, Judy garden spread, spicy greens, turmeric pickled jicama, rainbow radish, tahini bikini spread
THE GAWD FATHER: plain bagel, Lil’s schmaltzy pastrami bacon, pimento cheese, pickled green tomato, bibb lettuce
THE NOTORIOUS RBE: sesame bagel, Lil’s famous egg salad, pickled beet, bibb lettuce, wasabi roe cream cheese
There’s even a recent addition to the menu, which they were fine tuning the day I stopped by for my photo shoot. It’s a Hawt Pocket. “Just what you remember, but so much better,” said Keister. They have Papi Don’t Preach, an egg, chorizo, and cheese pocket; and the Can’t Chardly Wait, potatoes, swiss chard, onion, and curry spices pocket served with the house-made hawt sauce.
Now if all those food descriptions haven’t started a rumble in your tummy, there might be something wrong with you. Because I, for one, am ready to hop in the car and head over the bridge into Covington.
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Lil’s Bagels walk-up windough is located at 308 Greenup Street (41011). It’s open Thursday & Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In the warmer months, they hope to expand the outdoor patio to include seating options, and the long-term vision is to open up a full-service deli & mini market.