by Sarah Tantawy |
Tucked at the end of Cross Roads Plaza on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook, the 36-year-old Long Island Bagel Café is easy to miss. Yet at 7 a.m. on a recent Tuesday morning, there was a line out the door.
The café was never quiet, as servers ran in and out of the kitchen putting fresh filters in the coffee urns. Customers made small talk with each other, often remarking about how good the bagels are.
The staffers threw around standard bagel talk. “Pass the cream cheese” and ”Are we out of egg everything bagels?” were as common as “Good morning” and “How are you?” Staff members laughed with each other and chatted with the customers, who made their way past shelves filled with Grandma’s Cookies and Kettle Brand Potato Chips.
Someone asked a cashier for the manager, Mike Durr.
The cashier yelled out, “Hey, ugly, someone’s looking for you” and suddenly Durr, 33, of Wantagh, was at the counter.
Durr has dark brown hair and narrow-framed glasses that continually slipped down his nose. He laughed at the cashier’s remark and sat at one of the few unoccupied tables, where he talked for almost an hour and a half in a recent interview with GreaterPortJeff. He was focused and attentive despite the customers flooding in and out, occasionally checking behind him to make sure everything was running smoothly.
Long Island Bagel Cafe, which has been in Stony Brook since 1986, has seven other locations across Long Island. In addition to bagels, it offers salads, breakfast and lunch sandwiches and paninis, alongside a selection of beverages.
A former executive chef at the New York Institute of Technology and the Roth Quad at Stony Brook University, Durr, a Queens native, left Long Island seeking new opportunities.
He took a job as director of food service at an assisted-living facility in Michigan, until a colleague from home connected him with Joseph Anzalone, Long Island Bagel Café’s owner.
“I was in Michigan for six months, and I hated it,” he said.
Durr took over the Stony Brook location in January.
Durr has orders ready for his regulars and makes recommendations for cold drinks from an assortment of local vendors featured in the refrigerated cases. It’s a friendly atmosphere. Even the customers are kind to each other (cue a woman spilling her coffee and four people rushing over to help).
“I want this place to feel like home,” Durr said. “I don’t want people to say, ‘I’m going to Long Island Bagel Café.’ “I want them to say, ‘I’m going to go see Mike.’”
Gabby and Fred Gerber, a married couple who live in Stony Brook, frequent the cafe three to four times a week. They say the friendly atmosphere draws them back.
“We like the food,” said Gabby. “It’s a good place. But even more than that, the people are kind. We’ve made a lot of friends here.”