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'Time to make the bagels': Husband, wife open new Fargo bagel shop, lunch counter

Andrea Baumgardner makes a bagel sandwhich for a customer Wednesday, March 23, at BernBaum's inside MidMod Madhaus at 115 Roberts St. in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 2
BernBaum's brings a bagel deli to off Broadway. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 2

FARGO – McCal Joy and Marisa Jackels were disappointed when they stopped into BernBaum's on Tuesday, March 22, to grab lunch. The new bagel shop and lunch counter in Mid-Mod Madhaus is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Owner Andrea Baumgardner offered them a sample to tide them over, and the friends promised to come back the following day.

Business has been booming since Baumgardner and her husband, Brett Bernath, opened BernBaum's earlier this month.

The idea for the business, which gets its name from the couple's two last names, came as Bernath was preparing to sign a new lease for Mid-Mod. Baumgardner had been talking about getting back into food service part time, and Bernath pointed out they had more space than they really needed at Mid-Mod.

She took a look at the storefront and was reminded of the trendy little lunch counters one could see in New York, especially on the East Side.

Bagels were an obvious choice when it came to deciding what to serve. Bernath was already known for the bagels he made at the Green Market, a restaurant and catering company Baumgardner co-owned for several years in downtown Fargo.

"When we closed Green Market, the one thing that people repeatedly said was, 'It would be great if you guys could do those bagels again.' "

The couple also saw it as a way to blend their different backgrounds.

"We really thought about his family background, which is Jewish, and mine, which is German-Scandinavian, and sort of where those two overlap," Baumgardner said. "We did the Venn diagram and found rye flour and smoked meat, smoked fish, pickles. Then, with any restaurant I open up, I thought, 'What do I want to eat?' I will always eat bread and cheese."

While Baumgardner said it's not necessarily difficult, making bagels is time consuming. They start the sourdough during the day and shape it in the evening. The dough then cools and ferments overnight in what's called a retarder. The next morning, the bagels are boiled and baked.

" 'Time to make the bagels.' I used to say that as a joke at Green Market, but now it's true," Baumgardner said, referring to the classic Dunkin' Donuts commercial. "I'm totally the doughnut guy."

BernBaum's is about more than just bagels, though. They also serve a variety of bagel plates, sandwiches, salads and soups. In a nod to some of their regular customers at Green Market, the couple also made sure to include a number of vegetarian and vegan options.

Similar to the lunch counters of New York, BernBaum's seats just 17, but Baumgardner said that's perfect based on the size of their kitchen.

"We took our inspiration from those tiny little places on the Lower East Side, so probably by Midwestern standards, it's a small space. So far, everyone has been very cool about it and very open and sharing," she said. "I think we're working on making that comfortable for everybody. In a way, it's a different experience."


What: BernBaum's

Where: 115 Roberts St., Fargo

Hours: The lunch counter is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Grab-and-go bagels are also available from 10 a.m. Sunday until they're gone.

Contact: (701) 306-4131

Online: Search for "BernBaum's" on Facebook.