Totally Tubular: Rad Bagels

With several dining features, a second-story greenhouse, an expansive collection of groceries and over two dozen vendors specializing in various baked goods, beverages, seafood items and more, the now decade-old Grand Rapids Downtown Market has solidified itself as a popular, must-see attraction for local foodies and sustainable shoppers alike. Whether you’re a regular visitor or still planning your first trip, there’s a whole lot the market can offer you: Including one new treat called Rad Bagels.

This eatery boasts a full menu of delicious bagels, with some familiar recipes and others much more daring. Have you ever tried a curry spice flavored bagel? How about a black bean chipotle bagel? Gochujang-scallion?

“You’re not just coming in to get a bagel and some cream cheese,” said Julie Kibler, one half of the husband and wife business team that owns and operates Rad Bagels. “The aesthetic of the whole space and the flavors that are available that you can’t find anywhere else are impactful.”

Julie Kibler and her husband, Shelby, are the creative minds behind one of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market’s most beloved and established in-house businesses: Field & Fire. For the past 10 years, they’ve utilized the market’s space to woodfire and bake their wide selection of delicious breads, pastries, pizza and more, always intending to offer Grand Rapids something both nourishing and nutritious. Since 2016, they’ve also operated a successful café near Canal Park under the same name.

“We went into our business expecting that the impact we have with our lives on the people that we’re selling to is one where we help them live healthier lives,” Shelby said. “The bread that we make, we’ve always tried our utmost to make it healthy for people.”

Shelby Kibler has been baking bread now for decades, but his introduction to bagels has a much clearer start: His time working at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, MI. There, he was responsible for testing and experimenting with the famous bakery’s many tried and true recipes, oftentimes even implementing his own creations (including the same Kibler’s Curry that appears on Rad Bagel’s menu today). More than a decade later, the Kiblers are back at bagels again, this time with a dedicated storefront space.

“Stretch your imagination and let’s see what we can come up with,” Julie said. “I didn’t want to have a plain bagel, although we do.”

Yes, they do. It’s called the “Boring AF,” possibly to discourage those less adventurous of bagel enthusiasts. Even so, Rad Bagel’s cafeteria-style atmosphere doesn’t fail to welcome in new customers and encourage a relaxed, colorful dining experience. And, similar to Field & Fire, an open-concept layout allows each customer to peek in and see the process of firing up their food.

The result is a delicious meal that you confidently know came from fresh, whole ingredients.

“One of the benefits is we get this locally grown organic wheat, rye, spelt, and corn,” Shelby said. “We’re milling all that in-house, which allows us to have fresher flour and more wholesome flour. We stonemill it, and then we put it into the mixer within 24 hours, generally.”

What’s undoubtedly harder to spot or discern at Rad Bagels is its impermanence: The location will only be operating for a short while, possibly the next couple years or so. The reason being Shelby and Julie Kibler have long been eager for some much needed expansion within their own Field & Fire businesses, and a slight change in location for their flagship bakery is included in said expansion.

“In the years since 2016, we’ve outgrown both of our spaces,” Shelby said. “We’ve been feeling the pinch for so long about space that we started to paint a picture of what we were going to do about it.”

While temporarily under the name “Rad Bagels,” Shelby and Julie have continually worked on plans for major changes to their business operation, including a move of manufacturing from their original Downtown Market spot to another prospective facility. Then, the Field & Fire bakery would take over Rad Bagel’s wide-windowed, easily accessible streetside corner at the market.

“I feel like we’re bursting at the seams, and this space is something we need desperately,” Shelby said. “Once that does happen, Field & Fire will exist directly across from Squibb, where Rad is, but the question I don’t have an answer for is, ‘will Rad exist at that time?’ I’m kind of hoping it will.”

Shelby sees it as one of two ways: Either the Rad Bagel menu will be seamlessly integrated into Field & Fire’s variety of offerings once they’ve taken over the space, or the fresh-faced restaurant will simply make way for the move-in and fade away to time. Whichever route they take, Shelby is certain that the bold moves he and his team took while developing Rad Bagels and its menu will undoubtedly influence their creative endeavors going forward.

“Even when we do move Field & Fire into the Rad Bagels space, those are things that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives,” Shelby said. “Having had a chance to experiment with weird flavors and bagels and bagel sandwiches is positive for us, although Rad Bagels might not exist.”

Like any other pop-up shop, Rad Bagels’ presence is temporary. Will its ‘80s aesthetic and unexpected flavors carve a space for itself in Field & Fire’s future? Or, like many a fad, will its presence come and go? Time soon will tell. Come and get it ‘fore it’s gone.

Rad Bagels
435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids