It’s not exactly novel that Paul Osher and his crew shifted gears last March, trading the brunch menu at Porkchop and Co. in for something more compact, carby, and easy to transport. It’s not even particularly astounding that the Ballard brunch spot decided to make that shift permanent: Earlier this week, Porkchop marked the restaurant’s seventh anniversary with a formal name change, to Rachel’s Bagels and Burritos.
What is impressive—the bagels at Rachel’s, nee Porkchop, are for real.
There are operations in Seattle that do nothing but bagels, and still the results fall short of your chewy, blistered dreams. The ones at Rachel’s began as a side hustle, but display nerd-level excellence, plus a nice balance of classic flavors and some flourishes of za’atar or togarashi or jalapeno-cheddar. Ditto the spreads, and the bagel sandwiches that don’t feel superfluous (and have names like “Living at Home Is Such a Drag” and “The Stacey Abrams”)
Last spring, Osher and his wife, Raquel Zamora, were on the verge of signing a lease to open a bagel shop. Instead, says Osher, “we just brought it in house” when dining rooms shut down. They quickly added a menu of breakfast burritos, an underappreciated culinary art form that also had staying power—not to mention portability. “And they’re named after the staff, so they’re here to stay.”
As demand for these two pandemic food groups grew, Porkchop gradually divested its menu of other brunchy menu items. The lineup became, in Osher’s technical parlance, “more bagel-y and more burrito-y.” The staff stopped making sandwiches on bread—mostly because they stopped making actual bread. “It started feeling harder and harder to go back to the old ways,” says Osher. He also plans to stick to takeout for a while yet.
Stripping away other menu items means more bandwidth for bagels, both in producing them and devising specials like this weekend’s sandwich of smoked black cod with nettles and miso-honey cream cheese. A new mixer and oven let the Porkchop, er, Rachel’s staff bake throughout the day on weekends (and, soon, weekdays), which decreases the odds of someone else snagging the last everything or sesame right before you show up.
Zamora inspired the new name; “Rachel” is a family nickname and has a nice assonance with the word “bagel.” Osher also pointed out an irony I had totally missed, distracted by the siren song of a pork belly breakfast burrito: “I heard so many people say, ‘how could a place called Porkchop have a decent bagel?’”