‘Crazy’ name, crazy good 9

Liberty welcomes New York-style bagel shop’s third KC location

As it turns out – at least with bagel recipes – the 73rd time is the charm.

“Magically, recipe #73, I took a bite, and I’m like, ‘That’s it, you nailed it. This is it, it’s perfect.’”

Janna Linde was the official taster for all 72 variations that came before that perfect combination, as her husband, Pete, tweaked and toiled in their kitchen almost every night for months before that.

The persistence paid off. The couple opened the third location of Meshuggah Bagels, their New York-style bagel shop, in Liberty in early November, following positive response to their first two locations on 39th Street in Kansas City and in Overland Park.

The name – which is Yiddish for “crazy” – was born from a trip from Kansas City to New York when the two were first dating. As a New Jersey native, Pete told Janna she needed to try two things: a slice of local pizza and a New York-style bagel.

One bite of the bagel launched the future name.

“I lost my mind,” she says. “It was crazy good.”

And to all us Midwesterners who feel like we’ve had plenty of bagels before?

“That’s just bread with a hole in it,” Janna says. “You can’t compare; it’s like apples and oranges. There is definitely a difference.”

And that’s the reason for the 73 tries to get the recipe just right; it’s why they had to lug back a 10,000-pound oven they bought from a Long Island family who retired after four generations of bagel making; and why they splurge for the highest-quality flour, even if the extra cost cuts into profits.

“There’s a reason that for 150 years people have been eating bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese,” Pete says. “It’s not skipping any steps. They knew something back then.”

So, with that perfect recipe of five ingredients – plus homemade cream cheese and fresh fish (never frozen) flown in weekly from Brooklyn – the couple have transported a taste of New York to the metro area.

“Inevitably, if we give them a sample, they lose their mind and they order it,” Janna says, “and then we’ve got ‘em for life.”

As Liberty residents themselves, the newest location made perfect sense, especially with their commercial kitchen located just down the road in Pleasant Valley. However, that’s not to say the choice didn’t raise a few eyebrows along the way.

“If we would’ve gone to some consulting company and said, ‘Where should we put our next store?’ I don’t think their first suggestion would have been Liberty,” Pete says. “The irony is there’s a possibility that Liberty will be our highest-selling store, even with people saying, ‘Wow, what a weird location to do it.’”

Any early skepticism, however, was quickly devoured by the outpouring of response from Northlanders, the pair says. The new location also offers an expanded menu, with the addition of a smoked turkey sandwich and a pesto parmesan ham sandwich.

“Everyone’s been so welcoming and so appreciative and so excited,” Janna says. “It’s been absolutely a pleasure; we’ve had so much fun.”

In addition to offering a product previously absent from the market, the pair says area residents appreciate the local ownership, especially while they’re surrounded by so many chain food sellers.

“I think people are excited when it’s an independent place,” Janna says. “There are so few places today that are really like that, where people recognize you and they know your name, and you’re a regular, and it matters. We’ve become friends with so many of our customers. They don’t just come in for bagels, they come in to talk and visit, and just sit and hang out.”

In fact, those first visitors are already becoming repeat customers at the new Liberty location, many showing up every day. But Janna isn’t surprised. After all, it happened to her, too.

“Once you’ve had them, you’re hooked.”