Bringing New York-style bagels to Nashville, Proper Bagel has quickly become a favorite breakfast and lunch destination for many Music City residents.
Open since January 2016, the first part of the family-owned eatery and market’s name comes from the care taken to create its from-scratch bagels, which are kettle-boiled and baked in a stone-lined bagel oven – the “proper” way to make a bagel, according to Heather Speranza, who owns the establishment with her husband, Alex Espansa, and her parents, Marcella and Carmine Speranza.
Proper Bagel is located directly across from Belmont University on Belmont Boulevard, which is an ideal location for hungry students, professors and staff members looking for a place to grab a bite. Its clean, modern design also makes it an inspiring place to study or work, and it’s not uncommon to see folks typing away on their laptops while enjoying a meal. Plus, the area gets plenty of foot-traffic from the surrounding neighborhood and local businesses – in short, it’s a prime location.
“As a law student at Belmont University, I don’t have a lot of extra time, so location is key,” Lauren Poole says. “Belmont Boulevard is a very cool place to be, and Proper Bagel fits in with the crowd for sure. The sleek decor and high-quality ingredients do it for me.”
Proper Bagel offers an expansive menu with bagel varieties like sesame, everything, cinnamon crunch and pumpernickel, plus a broad selection of sandwiches, chopped salads, soups and more. Got a hankering for a big schmear of cream cheese? The restaurant has several unique flavors, such as Nutella peanut butter and olive jalapeño, as well as more traditional options, including scallion dill and roasted veggie. Butters and jams are also on the menu in delicious flavors like apricot, fig and raspberry.
“I didn’t order anything crazy, just my usual – an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese, but it was anything but ordinary,” Poole says. “It tasted so fresh!”
Those who enjoy fresh fish are in luck, too, as the restaurant serves smoked fish flown in from Brooklyn, N.Y., which is hand-sliced to order and available by the pound to take home. Bagels are also available by the dozen, and items in the salad case – like roasted Brussels sprouts and Mediterranean tuna – can be taken to-go.
Dessert choices include cookies, cupcakes, rugelach, baked doughnuts, small bundt cakes and other sweet treats. When it comes to drinks, Proper Bagel serves Barista Parlor coffee, espresso drinks, hot chocolate and a case full of cold beverages.
In the future, owners say the restaurant will expand its menu to offer specialty items like rosewater waffles and banana and bacon pancakes with peanut butter syrup.
Instead of constructing a new building, Proper Bagel’s owners decided to update an existing building to give it a contemporary look. Decorated almost entirely in black and white, it features subway-tiled walls, penny round-tiled floors, modern light fixtures and gleaming tables.
Nashville is certainly no stranger to new businesses – especially restaurants – and while residents are excited to embrace newcomers, many are happy to see them repurpose long-established structures.
“It’s no secret that Nashville is the new ‘it’ city,” Poole says. “As one of the few born-and-raised Nashvillians left, I have mixed emotions about old places being torn down for new. I love what Proper Bagel did with the space – it’s great to see new Nashville breathing life into old places.”
Due to its popularity, be prepared to wait in line if you visit Proper Bagel during typical breakfast or lunch hours. You may not be able to snag a table inside during peak times, but be sure to check the outdoor patio before getting your order to-go.
2011 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, TN 37212
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