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1596 The Queensway
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Kiva's Bagel Bar's fourth location is on Richmond at York St. Kiva's Bagel Bar is open weekdays only.

Review: Geshmak down

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on December 15, 2016

Everyone loves a bagel, or at least I think they do. So why whenever a new bagel restaurant opens up downtown it doesn't last? What A Bagel tried twice and failed twice. So I’m touching the mezuzah and hoping Kiva's Bagel Bakery Restaurant will succeed in bringing the Jewish creamery-style restaurant back to the core where it all began.

Since 1979, Kiva's been hand-rolling its bagels and making its own challah and rye breads, not to mention offering prepared foods and a cheese shop, plus a full service catering and wholesale bakery, oy. It specializes in three types of bagels from the typical and the twister to the Tel-Aviv (a.k.a. flaygela), a flatter style. And they all go through a 12-hour process that includes kettle boiling the old-country way. Dense but never heavy, these buns are the perfect partner for lox and a shmear of cream cheese. But if Kiva's wants to succeed downtown it has to bring more to the table than a great bagel. And it most certainly does.

Firstly, everything is made from scratch in their own kitchens with the exception of chocolate, raspberry and apricot rugalah (3 for $2.99). OJ ($4.50) is fresh squeezed and thankfully not subjected to the flavour-destroying pasteurization process. No chemicals or preservatives are ever used and the menu even indicates the use of real butter, with Pam, olive or canola oil available upon request. A scoop of tuna ($7.99 served with a bagel; large $9.99 served with a ginormous twister) ain’t no cheap light kind that resembles cat food. Only the more expensive white albacore for Kiva's customers with just enough enough mayo to bind it together. Ditto for their chopped egg scoop ($6.99-$8.99). There’s nothing worse than overdressed egg salad. Even the lox ($8.99-$11.99) is superior quality though the single order is a bit on the skimpy side compared to what you get at the Bathurst borscht belt.

Kiva's menu is huge, so you'll have to make some gut-wrenching decisions. Will it be plain cream cheese or with chives? With lox already mixed in? What about the creamy cottage cheese which looks like cream cheese? The low fat Lana .05% scoop ($6.99-$8.99). And if you can't decide, leave it to the staff to price a nice geshmak platter for you with lettuce, tomatoes, chopped red onion and practically a half a jar of capers. Talk about being generous.

Open from 7am to 4pm daily, the new downtown location is right in the heart of the Financial District on York Street at Richmond. Most mornings they get slammed. And no wonder, the choices are staggering: bagel sandwiches, fresh fruit bowl, yogurt and granola, continental breakfast, muffins, eggs, gourmet omelettes, cheese blintzes, French toast, and a whole section dedicated to just club sandwiches. Plus salads, soups, and dessert items, including cookies and loaf cakes (chocolate, red velvet, marble, poppy, lemon, banana chocolate chip and banana), not to mention a host of daily specials. You could eat here every day for a month and never get the same thing.

A tuna "nicoise" salad ($13.99) is rather basic with a mix of romaine, red onion, green olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and boiled egg in an herbaceous oregano vinaigrette, but fresh and large it is. Better is a breakfast egg and salami ($4.99) sandwich with lettuce and tomato. And they serve Lester's deli meats from Montreal. But don't expect any seafood or pork. Kiva's may not be kosher but it is kosher-style–so you can say you at least tried.

By far the absolute most impressive thing about Kiva's is a homemade blueberry cheese danish ($4) that beats out Harbord, Hermes and United Dairy bakeries combined. I know, thems fightin’ words. The doughy but tender pastry is lovely, even if par for the course, but no other bakery in town is filling their danishes with this New York cheese. I haven't been this excited over a pastry since eating a kouign-amann, a caramelized Breton butter cake, in Montreal's Plateau. Perfect.

Take it to go or grab a quick seat at one of the few tables in the front. Or head to the back for table service. Sure, the room may look like a former bar/lounge, not exactly what you'd expect from a bagel house, but here it's all about the nosh, so just shut up and eat.

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

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