Ibrahim Essa and Ahmed Ahmed have been good friends since they were middle school students in Egypt. The two men moved to America in 1991 within a week of each other and worked at a Dunkin Donuts together. Eventually, the two of them agreed that owning a franchise was not for them, and 20 years ago they opened New York Bagel and Deli on Parkway Avenue. The business celebrated its anniversary in December.
Ahmed and Essa, who often start and finish each other’s sentences, are also united in their passion for Ewing. “We appreciate the 20 years we have been doing business here and serving everyone around us,” Essa said.
Together the owners list their many strong supporters, which include New Jersey Manufacturers, Educational Testing Services, Cenlar, Waste Management, Bank of America, the state Department of Transportation, the Ewing Police Department and courts, the Katzenbach School for the Deaf, Ewing High School, Fisher Middle School and The College of New Jersey.
In return they also support the community, including sports teams in the Ewing public schools, and the Ewing High School prom.
Essa and Ahmed have many loyal customers, some of whom became customers as TCNJ and Ewing High School students and make it a point to return to pick up their bagels when they are in town for homecoming and holidays.
The New York Bagel and Deli menu proudly declares they have “the World’s Finest Bagels,” and their their New York style bagels are made fresh daily in their restaurant, “like original New York bagels,” Essa said.
“They are baked, boiled and made in the premises,” Ahmed said. “Customers visit from Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, all over. They make us a stop when they are in the area for homecoming. All of the TCNJ college sports teams pick up their bagels and cheese spreads before traveling.”
“They cook right in front of you here. The chef cracks the eggs and makes omelets,” Ahmed said, adding that all of their food is prepared in front of their customers — something they believe is unique in Ewing, and perhaps all of Mercer County.
“Our gourmet salads are fresh-sliced right in front of you. You want it, we cut it up. You don’t want it, we don’t cut it. Nothing is pre-sliced,” said Essa, adding, “You call us for pick-up; we are the fastest in Ewing.”
New York bagel uses Boar’s Head cold cuts and Philadelphia Cream Cheese. In the winter they make their own soup daily. “We don’t make it in advance or buy it pre-made. We make it fresh. We are working hard for our customers,” says Essa.
In two decades their menu has only changed four times. “It takes us years to increase prices. We try to keep them as low as long as we can,” Ahmed said. Recent additions to their over 220-item menu include pancakes five years ago, and this year’s addition of the big guy sandwich, “a big hit that includes fatty greases, three to four meats, fries and onions,” Essa said.
New York Bagel and Deli has a very loyal following. “We have a customer for nine year that takes the same thing every day,” Essa said.
One customer has been there since the very first beginning, Ahmed said. William Freedman has been visiting the restaurant regularly since day three. He joins Jennifer Lopez and Tom Hanks in having a celebrity wrap sandwich named after him.
Six Ewing police officers have also earned this honor by having wraps named in their honor. There are the Lannie, Bruno, Miller, Flynn, D’Morrise and Kownacky wraps. As one police officer retires, a current police officer earns that designation.
“We’d like to thank the Ewing police department for keeping us here safe all these years. We appreciate them,” Ahmed said.
“We are like a family here,” Essa said.
Speaking of families, their children often work in the restaurant. Ahmed has two children: Omar and Amena. Essa has three: Amal, Mohammed and Ashraf.
New York Bagel and Deli is located at 1097 Parkway Ave. Phone: (609) 882-0078, fax: (609) 882-0709. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., including all holidays.