A Nest of Her Own

Gab Taube, owner of Pigeon Bagels in Squirrel Hill, perfected her craft at A’Pizza Badamo.

The Pigeon has landed. Yes, Pigeon Bagels took one giant leap, from A’Pizza Badamo on Washington Road to a storefront in Squirrel Hill at the corner of Hobart and Wightman streets.

The in-demand bagels are the creation of Gab Taube, a Mt. Lebanon High School grad who hopes to make a big footprint in the city’s East End and beyond.

After more than two years of hand rolling, boiling and baking bagels six nights a week at Badamo’s from 2-7 a.m., Taube opened Pigeon Bagels in mid-July. While she trusted that Squirrel Hill residents would appreciate her bagels, Taube admits
to some anxiety.

“I had a lot of nervous energy going into the first day,” she says. “Then I realized that the worst thing that could happen is that we would run out of bagels before closing. But it all worked out.”

The opening-day tally showed that more than 1,000 bagels left the shop. In fact, people lined up outside Pigeon before Taube unlocked the doors at 7 a.m. When the last customer exited just before 2 p.m., less than a couple dozen bagels remained. That’s more than working it all out.

So if you’re wondering how a Mt. Lebanon resident ends up owning a bagel shop in Squirrel Hill, let’s follow the Pigeon flight path.

After earning a geography degree from Temple University, Taube joined her sister working at Badamo’s about five years ago. One day, following more than a few futile searches for the perfect bagel, she decided to make her own. To get started, she watched YouTube videos and tinkered with various recipes until she discovered her special blend.

Then she asked Anthony Badamo if she could cook after hours at his pizza shop.

“We always talked about making bagels,” says Badamo. “There’s so much that’s the same about pizzas and bagels, starting with the dough. We did a couple test batches, and the reaction was, “Whoa, these are really good.”

So with Badamo’s blessing, Taube popped her bagels in the ovens while most of Mt. Lebanon slept through the night.

“The ovens are crucial to making good bagels,” Taube says. With temperatures that reach 500 degrees or higher, the intense heat cooks a bagel that’s almost crunchy on the outside while still tender and chewy on the inside. In other words, the perfect bagel.

Since she’s doing business in Squirrel Hill, Taube wanted to serve a kosher Pigeon.

Under a rabbi’s supervision, all ingredients—including the many varieties of handmade cream cheeses—adhere to strict Jewish dietary laws. In addition, a certified team cleansed all the bagel-making equipment by either heating it to 900 degrees over a charcoal fire or boiling it in water.

As a result, rabbis from several nearby synagogues recommended Pigeon to their congregations, which might account for the opening-day surge.

Taube says ending up in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh’s largest Jewish community,  was a happy coincidence.

“I didn’t plan on Squirrel Hill,” she explains. “I just happened upon this spot. But it’s perfect,” especially since her paternal grandparents moved to Squirrel Hill about 50 years ago and her dad grew up there. For Taube, opening Pigeon in the neighborhood is a return to her family’s Jewish roots.

Speaking of roots, you may be asking yourself this question: Why does she call them Pigeon Bagels? Turns out Taube is German for pigeon—which means a Pigeon is finally feeding bread to humans.

Pigeon Bagels, 5613 Hobart Street, Squirrel Hill, is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. www.pigeonpgh.com. 412-224-2073.

Photography by John Altdorfer