Wu + Nussbaum: The Plot Twist of the Century

Nussbaum & Wu closed temporarily for the first time on March 20, 2018 due to a health code violation. As I lived in the building directly next to the go-to bagel shop, this was perhaps better for my wallet, as I would no longer be shelling out an offensive $8 for an everything bagel with chicken salad. The shop must have racked up at least 28 points in health violations (Absolute Bagels accumulated 45 points during their health evaluation when they were shut down in October of the previous year, for reference) and word on the street was this: rats were involved.

But then they opened up again a few weeks later—happy days! I am ashamed to admit that I did go back a few times for an egg and cheese bagel that financially oppressed me as it always had. This return was a brief and final hurrah for Nussbaum & Wu (named for cofounders, Harry Nussbaum and George Wu, not the most recent owner) as it closed again for good (or so we THOUGHT) in June. The stale display cases continued to rot and delivery trucks continued to make pit stops at Nussbaum & Wu even after the owner had mysteriously disappeared, apparently without informing their suppliers. The only thing left behind was an aggressive note on the door exposing the owner’s name and phone number, asserting that he was “a disgrace to the business community.” Well, that and the rat droppings in food preparation and non-food preparation areas (yikes!).               

All of this is old news. Con Edison eventually cut off Nussbaum’s water and electricity after a certain period of inaction, and the vacant business has been standing like a corpse on the corner of 113th Street ever since, the interior still dimly visible and the logo still proudly stamped on the window. Then came the biggest plot twist of the century: Wu + Nussbaum! The saga continues, the plot thickens, and we are now moving into the third segment of this undulating rollercoaster of a trilogy. Our long beloved and equally hated bagel shop is making an unlikely, but somehow, fated return… with noodles, dumplings… and a vengeance?

I am frustrated by many things: the lazy reversal of the title, the odd addition to cuisine offerings, the completely unaddressed scandal of the health violation, and a missing persons case. Is the real owner back to reclaim his business identity in the Columbia community and the wider neighborhood of the Upper West Side? I am intrigued—and I know I’m not alone.

I posed the question to a group chat of friends and received a whopping two replies, both of which indicate a positive and curious outlook to the new (and hopefully improved) Nussbaum & Wu—er, Wu + Nussbaum. My friend Sharon is interested simply by the addition of dumplings. She’s curious—and rightfully so—to see if they will do dumplings justice. Her primary concern, however, is with the cleanliness of the location. Sharon offered a pretty solid plan of action that I think will serve her and many of us well:  “I'll eat at Nussbaum near opening day since that will most likely be when it's the cleanest, but unless it keeps up a clean reputation I may stay clear for the rest of the year.” It’s hard to make a comeback from rat droppings— it really is the biggest of all restaurant evils, and you can’t blame customers for being cautious. It’s your own fault for giving us trust issues, Nussbaum.

Gwyn, a lovely gluten-free advocate buddy of mine, will happily give the new shop a try if they actually offer gluten-free options and puts vegetables in their smoothies. According to Gwyn, “They only had kale as a decoration for the smoothie bar and that was rude.” Hoepfully they will put real vegetables in their noodles and dumplings as well. I don’t think anyone ever asked for decorative kale.

Real recognize real, Nussbaum. We’re really rooting for you, but you still have to prove yourself to us. We’ve been hurt and it will take some time for us to love and trust again. I might give you a shot, but don’t expect our relationship to be like it was before. Too much has changed. The pain is still there—but hopefully, the rat droppings are not.