The second Mile End Bagels store wasn’t supposed to be tucked behind a graffiti-tagged roller door on a Brunswick backstreet. And it wasn’t supposed to be takeaway-only.
In fact, just before the country descended into lockdown in March, the team was two weeks away from fitting out a cafe in the city, modelled on the original Fitzroy location.
But, much like the rest of us in 2020, the beloved bagelry instead turned to takeaway.
“We adapted because the other option was a slow death,” says co-owner Benjamin Vaughan. “We’ve taken the essence of the business … just the product, and opened an almost-food-truck built into a brick wall.”
In a compact space overlooking the Bunnings car park, Mile End’s second coming is completely streamlined. Coffee is strictly filter, from Wood and Co, which is roasting around the corner on Albert Street. And only the top 10 bagels from Fitzroy made the cut.
You’ll find the smoked salmon with dill-and-caper cream cheese, tomato and red onion; the brisket pastrami with cream cheese, pickles and hot’n’sweet mustard; and the ham off the bone with tasty cheese, egg salad, pickles, dijon mustard and kewpie. Though, to quote the menu: “variations and creations welcome”.
You can also get plain bagels individually, or by the half dozen or baker’s dozen, with tubs of cream cheese for at-home schmearing.
“We’ll continue baking at the original site, but this new store will be the bagel bar we’ve been thinking about doing for a while,” Vaughan told Broadsheet in September.
The pandemic persuaded Mile End to ditch the cafe model. And renovations are now planned for Fitzroy, to remove the communal dining table and make space for speedier preparation – which is welcome news for anyone who’s lined up outside the Johnston Street store on a Sunday morning.
“We are actually a takeaway business,” Vaughan says. “We were just caught trying to do both dine-in and takeaway.
“Covid provided a moment of clarity – now we’re just going to concentrate on being really good at doing takeaway bagels, which is how Brunswick was born.”
Click-and-collect orders will continue through the website and soon-to-launch app, targeting locals and gearing up for when Melburnians become time-poor once again.
There are also plans to open a third store in 2021 – and south of the river isn’t out of the question, should another non-traditional site become available. “If there’s anyone out there with an interesting garage, feel free to email us,” says Vaughan, only half joking.
“For now it’s just so good to be engaging with new customers. It’s definitely a local spot for the neighbourhood. Get your groceries, get your hardware and get your bagels.”
Mile End Bagels
1 Wilkinson Street, Brunswick
Thu to Sun 9am–2pm