A bagel, by definition, is holey. Eaten au naturel, a bagel can be wholly a bagel. For some, I imagine, it can be even be holy. Add to that now Wholy, as in South Austin's Wholy Bagel. If the origin of the name is a mystery, the bagel itself is not. Put simply, these are some of the best bagels I've ever had, in Austin or anywhere. And in my little corner of Southwest Austin to go from absolutely nothing to this place is a lovely thing indeed.
One thing Wholy is not is trendy. It does not have wheels or a propane tank out back or international fusion or loud music. It's a tiny shop, crammed in a strip mall between Cypress Grill and the former home of Little Gym. Especially viewed from the parking lot, this place is about as nondescript as they come.
But inside is cozy, clean and warm, with a friendly, chatty, attentive staff. The store is dominated by a deli case with a small selection of Boar's Head meats and some fresh cream cheeses, but the real deal is up on the wall where the bagels are perched in metal baskets. One thing you notice when you first walk in is the paucity of these baskets - there's not a lot of excess inventory. But every time I've been there, I've seen a baking sheet of bagels being carried out and popped in the displays - just maybe a dozen at a time. That's part of the magic of this place - the scale is small enough that everything is just super fresh.
The bagels are huge and light - poised at a point between chewy and soft. It's not an easy balance to get right, and while different people may have different ideals on the chewy/soft/dry/moist spectrums, for me, these are just about perfect. I think there are some purists who would argue that these are too puffy for real bagel street cred. For me, it's not an issue. Except when I've tried to cram them in our toaster, which doesn't work so well.
Wholy Bagel is just a few miles from our house. My new Saturday tradition is a bike ride down to the store, loading up the backpack with cinnamon raisin for the girls, and everything or poppy for tracy and I, and riding back with the smell of warm bagels egging me on up the long and inescapable Escarpment hill.
It's a tradition I can see sticking with for a good long while. Wholy Bagel - your name may be a conundrum, but your bagels rock my world. Thank you for putting your anchor down where you did.