Simit, as we’ve reported previously, has gained a foothold outside of Turkey. The enticing sesame-encrusted bread rings have an easy target in bread- and bagel-loving New York – so much so, in fact, that the simit craze has even crossed the Hudson River into New Jersey. We decided to check out the stateside version for ourselves.
Simit + Smith recently opened a new location in Midtown Manhattan at Fifth Avenue and 38th Street, joining two downtown locations and the factory in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. Each simit is hand-rolled at the factory and freshly baked at each store. The three different types of simit offered include original with sesame, whole wheat with sesame and whole grain. Diners have the option of selecting the traditional bread ring or creating a sandwich. We ordered two of the latter: the grilled cheese with merguez sausage and ham with gruyère and Dijon mustard. Although it came not as a ring but as a bun, the bread was definitely the star of the show – perfectly crunchy on the outside with a light, fluffy center.
Chobani, one of the biggest “Greek” yogurt companies, has put a similar spin on simit. Although yogurt takes center stage at the company’s SoHo café, the menu also includes simit sandwiches, with ingredients that skew more traditional Mediterranean than those used at Simit + Smith. Offerings range from smoked salmon and herbed labne to Turkish aged beef with kasseri, a sheep’s milk cheese. While what’s inside is different, the outside is actually the same, we discovered: the staff told us that Simit + Smith bakes Chobani’s simits and delivers them directly to SoHo each morning.
Farther afield, in Montclair, New Jersey, there’s Simit House and Bakery. Owner İbrahim Yağcı is originally from Istanbul and grew up in a family involved in the bakery business. He remembers watching his grandfather bake fresh breads each morning. With Simit House he strives to offer traditional Turkish fare, including menemen, baklava, poğaca and, of course, the eponymous simit. Yağcı recruited a professional baker from Turkey to move to Montclair, and he bakes all the items in-house. While enjoying a cup of Turkish coffee, we devoured his version, a crunchy ring that was perfectly browned from the molasses used in the baking process (as tradition dictates). We watched the baker mold the dough to form the simits, which are typically baked twice each day. At Simit House, they’re served the traditional way, with classic Turkish breakfast items such as olives, tomatoes and white cheese. And there’s also the Americanized version, the simit bun, for grilled chicken and pastrami sandwiches.
Simit is the “grandfather to the bagel,” Yağcı said, explaining that the recipe he uses dates back over 600 years. During our visit to Simit House, many people entered the shop to purchase these bread rings. Yağcı gestured to his patrons and told us that he opened in Montclair because he loves the varied demographic and the residents’ openness to trying new foods. He has even begun selling simit at the local Montclair farmers’ market. “I have everyone hooked on our simit,” he said.
Whether traditional or reinterpreted or co-opted, the simit is here to stay. And that’s the kind of globalization we like to see.
Simit + Smith
multiple locations, including
Address: 124 W. 72nd Street, Manhattan
Telephone: +1 212 496 6605
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7:30am-8pm; Sat. & Sun. 8am-8pm
Address: 150 Prince Street, Manhattan
Telephone: +1 646 998 3800
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8am-7pm; Sat. 8am-8pm; Sun. 9am-7pm
Simit House & Bakery
Address: 2 Church Street, Montclair, New Jersey
Telephone: +1 973 893 5970
Kristen Baughman is a social media and public relations consultant with Gadabout Food based in Brooklyn, NY. She has also written for publications such as New York Street Food, Raleigh Beer Guide, Wake Living Magazine and OUR State Magazine.
(photos by Kristen Baughman)