Sandwiches are having a moment in DC, especially the breakfast variety. During a pandemic, we’ve seen a proliferation of pop-ups like Butter Me Up and Scrappy’s Bagel Bar, while the Park View bagel shop Call Your Mother has expanded to new locations. Now enter Allee and Oliver Cox, the husband-and-wife team behind Pearl’s Bagels. Their Mount Vernon Square shop—named after the couple’s French Bulldog—is opening Saturday with a starter menu of build-your-own bagel boxes and carryout spreads.
When the pandemic hit, the couple was churning out bagels as a catering business in Union Kitchen while building out the shop. Coronavirus stalled the permitting process, but the Coxes got the green light on June 16—the ten-year anniversary of the day Allee and Oliver met while working at a TV station.
A decade later, they’re hand-rolling bagels that marry the chewy New York style Oliver grew up on in Princeton, New Jersey, and the sweetness of Montreal-style bagels boiled in honey-infused water. All bagels start from a sourdough base before getting a final bake in a gas-fired Marra Forni brick oven (a popular choice in local pizzerias). As for the water—which some claim to be the terroir of a good bagel—it’s DC’s finest, just as the shop sources local with Ivy City Smokehouse lox and Little Wild Things micro-greens.
Bagels are sold by the half dozen in flavors like sesame, everything, and cinnamon raisin alongside spreads such as chive cream cheese and honey-butter schmear. A rich pimiento cheese spread is a family recipe from Ally’s maternal grandmother, whose cheesy jalapeño-and-Duke’s-Mayo dip is a fixture in her North Carolina home.
The bagelry is also offering at-home bagel-sandwich kits to construct your perfect egg-and-cheese or lox bagel with capers and pickled onions. Eventually, you’ll be able to walk into the shop and grab a composed bagel sandwich. In addition to classics, the team is flirting with combos including a Greek-style halloumi-and-harissa egg sandwich.
Though the shop emphasizes local sourcing, Oliver is also playing Garden State ambassador and bringing some of his hometown mainstays to the Washington area. Carryout cold-brew is courtesy of Princeton roaster Small World Coffee, and the smoked-tuna spread from Nassau Street Seafood is a dip Oliver grew up eating. The pink-tiled bagel shop is ultimately a work of nostalgia for the Coxes, for whom East Coast bagels are synonymous with memories of neighborhood shops in Massachusetts and New Jersey, family breakfasts, and hangover cures after a night out.
“Bagels are polarizing—people will get mad at you,” says Oliver. “If we can be your second-favorite bagel shop after whichever bagel shop made you fall in love with bagels? Then that’s that’s a win to us.”
Pearl’s Bagels. 1017 7th St., NW. Open for carryout Wednesday to Sunday from 8 AM to 12 AM. All bagels must be ordered by 4 PM the day prior to pick up.