Reader, I must be up front with you. Lox, Stocks and Bagels is my happy place. My escape. My twice-weekly routine. I am anything but an independent arbiter, far from the paragon of objectivity that we sanctimonious journalists espouse. On the spectrum of fanatical support, if Lox, Stocks and Bagels were a political party, I would be its Tea Party.
But bite into a bagel from Lox, Stocks and Bagels and tell me you wouldn’t feel the exact same way.
Lox, Stocks and Bagels is a three-and-a-half-year-old local favorite breakfast and lunch spot and a well kept secret tucked into a strip mall nestled at the foot of Spencer Butte on 40th and Donald. Scott Lilly, a transplant from New Jersey and the owner of Lox, Stocks and Bagels, boils his bagels and makes everything down to the cured meats, in-house.
When I asked Lilly why, after 40 years in the restaurant business, he decided to open up a bagel shop of all things, he provided a remarkably clear answer: “Because I didn’t like any of the bagels in Eugene.”
Lilly then elaborated that actually, if you don’t boil the bagel, and instead use steam like other bagel shops in Eugene do, then “it’s not actually a bagel at all. Just a big fat roll with a hole in the middle.”
For those playing at home, boiling a bagel does a few things. First, it helps the outside crust begin to set while making the interior texture of the bagel tender and chewier the longer it bathes. Second, if you add some sort of sugar like barley malt or molasses to the bubble bath — Lilly won’t tell me which he uses — then the outer crust caramelizes, adding a little extra flavor and that almost crunchy outer shell.
The extra touches come through at Lox, Stocks and Bagels. Offered in a variety of flavors from chocolate chip to Asiago, the bagels don’t really beg for many toppings at all. Lilly’s favorite topping is some melted brie cheese, mine is a jalapeño bagel with shallot and chive cream cheese.
If you’re looking for something a little more filling for breakfast, you won’t find bacon, egg and cheese slapped inside a bagel. Instead, there’s the pork belly sandwich. Bacon and belly come from the same cut — you guessed it, the belly — but is smoked in-house and topped with a fried egg, tomato, onions and lettuce.
Lilly and his staff also smoke their own white fish for their white fish salad and their own salmon from Newman’s for lox. They also make their own chopped liver and egg salad. The only thing they don’t make from scratch is their cream cheese, but they do mix their own flavors, like their homemade kimchi cream cheese.
Because everything is made from scratch, the kitchen gets to experiment a bit.
Take, for example, the “Fuck Kevin.” The bagel sandwich is loaded up with traditional New Jersey pork roll, egg, fresh jalapeño slices, grilled onions and house spicy mayo. One of the assistant chefs put this spicy concoction together, and his father is the Kevin in question. Kevin lost his ability to taste when he was young, but the one thing he can taste is capsaicin or spice from peppers, and it is overwhelming to the point it can hurt.
When Lilly caught a whiff of what was being cooked up, he said, “If your dad eats this he’s going to be fucked.” And thus the name was born.
After trying the sandwich, I can confirm that Kevin would probably be fucked — it’s like getting hit in the face with the sensations of salt and spice and knocking your hangover all the way up to the peak of Spencer Butte while still tasting good.
The creation of “Fuck Kevin” was created in the fun, low-key environment that’s helped Lox, Stocks and Bagels survive the pandemic. Lilly said that the shop’s regulars kept coming and the to-go model helped them continue to pump out orders with minimal exposure between the customer and staff.
For those hoping, as I was, that Lilly might bring his perfectly textured bagels a little closer to downtown, don’t hold your breath. No. 1, Lilly said, Eugeneans aren’t used to living in a big city because driving 10 minutes to something is “NOT far!”
But don’t let him trick you: Lilly lives just up the street. And, No. 2, Lilly says he only ever opened this shop to give himself something to do and to be his own boss. Making everything in-house is already almost too much work, and adding a second location would make it even harder.
“I’ve worked in a number of places where the corners are cut,” Lilly said. “You buy premade stuff, and it’s stuff that can easily be made and be made better than what you’re buying. So I just don’t know. If it’s gonna have my name on it, that’s what I want.” ν
Lox, Stocks and Bagels is at 368 E. 40th Avenue. Hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 7 am to 2 pm or until bagels are sold out. Check Facebook.com/LoxStocksBagels to see if they are sold out. For more information, visit LoxStocksBagels.com.
The Lilly family recently experienced a tragedy, and friends have posted on social media such as the Eugene Foodies Facebook page that the best way to offer condolences is by supporting the restaurant. A GoFundMe was set up for the family to help with finances after their loss.