Kenisha Mahajan, Contributing Photographer

New Haven-based bagelry Olmo took home the grand title of “Best of the Fest” at the 2023 BagelFest hosted in New York City.

On Sunday, Oct. 22, at the annual BagelFest, Olmo received three prizes — Best of the Fest, Best Schmear for their limited-edition Yuzu Kosho Schmear, and Best Beyond the Boroughs as the best non-New York bagelry in the competition. 

“This year I said we’re coming to win,” Craig Hutchinson, the founder of Olmo, said. “We want to show up, we want to make New Haven proud, and we want to focus on how our brand is centered on hospitality and on being kind to people. Mission accomplished.”

Olmo competed at BagelFest for the first time in 2022, winning the runner-up for best bagel. BagelFest founder, Sam Silverman, reached out to Hutchinson and the Olmo team in 2022 to learn more about the unique processes and ingredients behind their bagels.

The bagelry uses a different dough, seeding process and baking process — steaming their bagels instead of boiling them — than most shops. Olmo’s unique flavors, such as the “Everything Everything” bagel, a favorite of Silverman’s, also set them apart from their competitors.

“We’re not a New York bagel, we’re the New Haven bagel,” Raphael Bastek, the shop director of Olmo, said.

Olmo originally opened as a sit-down restaurant in 2018 with a bagel shop operating out of its basement, producing 100 to 200 bagels a day. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant transitioned to a quick-service model and now produces upwards of 3,500 bagels a day. 

Despite the transition to faster service compared to its pre-pandemic setup, Olmo remains focused on hospitality and ensuring every customer has a good experience. 

“They really care about what the customer is consuming. Everyone is so nice, and there’s a really personal feel in the store and when everyone is interacting with you,” Casey Arias ’27 said. 

Olmo’s emphasis on the customer experience also contributed greatly to its success at BagelFest, Silverman said.

The winner of the “Best of the Fest” prize is determined by judges’ and attendees’ votes, which are weighed equally. Beyond the quality of their bagels, Silverman said that their rare ability to connect with customers in a fast-paced service environment played a big role in their win. 

“The team works incredibly hard around the clock to make customers happy through either taking a bite of their bagels, sipping their coffee, or just simply making them smile in the morning,” Hutchinson said.

Olmo is a staple spot for New Haven residents and Yale students alike, sporting the title of being “a second dining hall to Yale” among the Olmo staff, given that a large portion of their clientele is students, according to Bastek.

With Olmo’s back-to-back appearances in the last two BagelFests, the shop has garnered traffic from New Yorkers and Connecticut residents beyond New Haven. 

“There are people coming into the shop saying they either heard about us at BagelFest or saw us on the news since — even people traveling from New York specifically to try us out,” Bastek said. “It feels like we are beginning a legacy, how New Haven pizza is its own staple, we hope to do the same with bagels.”

Despite this rising popularity, Olmo remains a uniquely New Haven brand. In contrast to the expansion of New Haven staples like Sally’s Apizza and Frank Pepe’s, Olmo does not plan to grow the business outside of its Whitney Avenue location.

Hutchinson said that developing the iconic New Haven bagel brand would be a long project, but one they hope to accomplish.

Olmo is located at 93 Whitney Ave.

Kenisha Mahajan covers Cops & Courts for the City desk. She is a first-year in Benjamin Franklin College from Queens, New York majoring in ethics, politics and economics.