Commitment to the traditions of Marx Hot Bagels is important to Y.Y. Davis, the boyish-looking man stepping into the shoes filled by John Marx for more than 50 years.
“I would be crazy to change things, and by that I mean subtract from what John has built here, with excellent instincts (for the bagel business),” Davis said.
So, the Jewish community may rest easy that no wholesale changes are in the works for this kosher eatery. Davis and John Marx are working together now, extending through the first three months under Davis’ ownership. The tandem approach is to ensure a smooth transition, and to make sure that recipes and methods transfer fully with nothing lost in the changeover.
Davis, an orthodox Jew, is a Brit, born in England, arriving in Cincinnati by way of New York and New Jersey, where he managed several deli operations.
“I understand the (deli) business and have been in the food business for a number of years as well. In the delis I managed, there were prepared foods and sliced meats and the like,” he said. “Really, this (the deli eatery) is kind of an old-fashioned business, and I know what people like.”
Among the items he knows people like are the tuna and egg salads prepared from scratch and completely homemade in the back of the house. We tried both, one on an onion bagel and the other on a bialy, and each retains the Marx touch in the new Davis era. The salads are simple, common, every-day foods, but kitchen-table delicious. If ever there was a “like grandma used to make” moment, eating those salads is it. Together with the freshly made bagel and bialy they are a great combination for lunch or in the evening.
For those who may not realize, the egg salad is made from eggs hard-boiled and peeled in the back of the restaurant, hundreds of them for each batch. Then the eggs are chopped and mixed into a salad by hand. Same for the tuna, which starts with canned fish packed in water. The tuna is drained first, then the salad is put together and flavored to just-right quality. These are wholesome, nutritionally rich choices and I recommend you try them if you haven’t already.
The salads at Marx, especially the tuna and egg, enjoy something of a cult following in the Jewish community. You may remember reading in this column that some Jewish families entertaining their out-of-town kids come to Marx for those salads because the kids ask for them as part of their visits home. How special is that?
Looking toward the future, Davis said he is planning additional offerings.
“We’re going to try to launch a few new things together,” he said, speaking of the three-month period working with John Marx. “We’re going to try to launch pizza, but we’re not going to do it quickly because we want to get it right. Marx Hot Bagels is known for quality, and we want to be sure to maintain that reputation in the pizza.”
John Marx had contemplated introducing pizza for several years, but shied away, and put the plans on hold with the sale to Davis.
Now, the planning is back on, and a pizza offering will be available at some point. “But not until we get it right; the texture and the taste and the quality of the offering,” Davis said.
“This (the bagel deli) is a Jewish business, and me being an Orthodox Jew myself, I hope to continue to endear myself to the Jewish community, and to the wider public and to continue to rely on the product (to help do that).”
In the final analysis, relying on the product is common to every restaurant everywhere. Obviously, Marx Hot Bagels produces outstanding bagel products. And the deli items such as the egg and tuna salads are crowd pleasers as well. Any time I stop into this iconic bagel deli, there are people sitting at tables or at the counter eating a meal or a snack. Davis is keen to continue this and other legacies John Marx leaves, and to build on them in future. My bet is he will do it. One can see the confident determination in his manner.
See you at Marx Hot Bagels!
Marx Hot Bagels
9701 Kenwood Road
Blue Ash, OH 45242