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Don’t Forget the Bialys

Behind the counter with the Blue Ash Bagel Man.

The sign at the front door warns: “Welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of Bagel Man.” Bagel man, a.k.a. John Marx, has been slinging top-notch bagels and dishing out quippy one-liners since 1969. His strictly kosher Blue Ash shop sells more than 30 varieties of bagels baked fresh daily (flavors range from blueberry and honey wheat to orange cranberry and French toast), along with soup, sandwiches, and fresh-baked pastries. But Marx’s best-kept secret is the bialy, a hand-stretched yeast roll with slightly softer dough that’s baked—as opposed to boiled, like a bagel—and features a slightly depressed center filled with minced white onion and poppy seeds. It may taste like the cross-cultural love child of a bagel and an English muffin, but we dare not diminish its proud Polish-Ashkenazi heritage. At age 73, after 45 years in the bagel business, Marx says he still wakes up “ready to raise hell every day,” and lives by the same motto he started with: “Why be normal, why be sane, why be easy to explain?”

Marx Hot Bagels, 9701 Kenwood Rd., Blue Ash, (513) 891-5542

Originally published in the March 2014 issue.