Summer Bagels

Let me address something important from the get go:  Yes, it’s PROBABLY the water (and techniques) and yes, I feel more than comfortable stating that the bagels I’ve grown up eating in New York are leaps and bounds better than any I’ve experienced elsewhere. I enter this cycle of denial and blatant acceptance that goes for years on end. Sure, I am a person who eats bagels now and then in the Northwest, with some ups and downs and some homemade endeavors, but then I have one that disappoints me so much (and this was seriously a ‘boiled’ variety that prior to this summer’s NY stay, I thought I accepted) that I have to put it down, vegan butter and all.  There is another much-touted bagel maker in town that I enjoy, but I think they have a lot of nerve calling themselves New York-style, based on size alone. The high point of this cycle is revisiting New York and experiencing that thick, ridiculously chewy bagel for the first time in however long. Walking into a bagel shop, it’s immediately clear that I should stop eating these outside state lines. I’m only setting myself up. I should show some respect.

Even while I consider myself an Earth Balance + avocado + nooch + sea salt type of girl these days, I still want that almost insanely heavy schmear of whipped tofu cream cheese goodness when I’m in New York. The bagel, keep it toasted, and make it sesame, poppy, or garlic or cinnamon raisin, if I’m feeling particularly fun. Salt, perhaps.

The amount of tofu spread (or cream cheese, or whatever else you order, for that matter) applied to bagels in New York is manic meets comical, but so appropriate…even if you find yourself wiping some away after the first two bites. I can’t explain that anymore.

Bagels were a consistent, cost-effective and totally filling part of my life until I moved to Portland (Fine, and those experimental years of soft Finagles and curiously tough Bruegger’s during my college years in Boston, where I’d smuggle in my own travel containers of Soy Garden. And then came Dunkin’s bagels. Ugh.) They remain a nostalgia-hitting highlight of my visits “home” and super budget-friendly, quick meal, where the tale of the lost arm at Bagel Boss in Bay Shore has been floating in my head since childhood. There’s never enough time and space for the bagels I want returned in my daily routine.

This stay, I seemed to make even more time for pizza (again, thanks water) and likewise for bagels, for sure, but it fell short. Try as I might, I can’t make up for lost bagel time.

There was this one afternoon a few weeks ago, where I hungrily walked into a bagel shop in Williamsburg for an early lunch, after forgetting about breakfast again. The old bagel routine came back to me: matter-of-factly ordering while twenty-somethings awkwardly stared at spreads, grabbing a Peach Snapple, contemplating the small cartons of Tropicana, and trying to figure out if I was in a time warp to my Little League Days. I had my meal on a curb nearby, and attempted peace with a tofu spread stuffed, sesame bagel and all those memories.

My favorite places to grab a bagel in NYC, based on convenience and habit ⸺ since I’m usually at my sister’s in Bushwick, of course ⸺ are The Bagel Store (my tops), Bagels on the Square in the West Village (where J. Legume and I grabbed our first meal as legal people in l-o-v-e), Little Skip’s Cafe, Swallow Cafe, Bagelsmith and Bread Brothers. I also happened to hit Bagel Talk while I was heading to Central Park.

NYC has such an amazing, diverse culinary, community scene, but jeez, if it isn’t the seemingly simple, iconic bagel I reflect on the most.

And writing this, contemplating what I truly dig about food in New York, I’m feeling the need for a pizza bagel, which isn’t going to happen anytime soon, since it’s just as easy for me to make pizza dough which I’m happier with than bagels, but I will live vicariously through J. Legume and hope she stops by (Little) Norbert’s for another vegan kale pizza bagel while she’s still in town. Go get it, girl.

Summer of bagels/never enough:

Toasted sesame, jalapeño tofu spread, Peach Snapple from The Bagel Store on Metropolitan Ave

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Outside Little Skip’s, Bushwick

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Bagel cam, Little Skip’s

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Bedford

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There’s another Bagelsmith on Lorimer.

Bagels at my sister’s

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Sesame dreams

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This one was enjoyed on Staten Island. Earth Balance + nooch.

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Brooklyn walks

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Bagel Talk, UWS

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Tofu. Tofu. Tofu.

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I forget if this was inside Bagel Talk or Bread Brothers, but the point is, between the glare and my need to order smoothly and noticing my faintly returned accent, I never get a good shot of these cases. No matter.

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Behind this bike, which is locked to the train station fence by handcuffs, is a little bagel store in my Long Island home town.

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Salt bagel, smuggled home

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J. Legume picking up a pizza bagel & garlic knots at (Little) Norbert’s in Bushwick

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They’re surprisingly open early for bagels, coffee & Champs’ muffins

Speaking of, I think the little little Champs is now my favorite.

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Scrambled tofu + bagel + hot sauce, Champs on Ainslie (which I’m removing from my list, sorry)

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Not typing.

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In line for Shakespeare in the Park next to some really awful people. TGI-bagel.

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Another in-the-water, plus my vial of coconut creamer (yep)

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                     One of two bagels I brought back for myself. Pumpernickels for a dear friend.

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Oh, and Tompkins Square Bagels were on my list for the mention of Earth Balance, but I simply didn’t have the time.

*Okay, there were a couple of other spots that legitimately offered tofu spreads and sorta decent bagels around Brookline and downtown Boston, fine.

And to think I started the cycle again within a week of returning. For shame.

14 thoughts on “Summer Bagels

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more on the NY bagels being superior to all other bagels. I was in Houston last weekend and the place I went reminded of those NY bagels so much. They are mostly pretty bad here in Austin but luckily tacos abound.

  2. I feel you on the NYC bagels being superior to all other bagels. Except I also make some really phenomenal bagels. I think it’s an altitude thing (not that I’ve checked how NYC compares to PDX) and a style thing. And tradition. Tradition.

    BUT THE TOFU SPREADS. No where else have I had such fantastic tofu spreads but NY.

  3. Oh gawd, NYC bagels! I swear my diet is 80% pizza and bagels when I’m in the city and 20% everything else (Beyond Sushi mainly!). England does not do a proper bagel and I do not have the skills to make ’em well myself, we seriously need to hire a bagel courtier to bring the good stuff to us in Austin next May.

  4. Oh. The way the heart can long for a bread-product-from-afar. Why are some things to hard to recreate?? Your bagel pictures are amazing. I want a bagel. We have the same taste in bagel flavors and bagel toppings. You are my bagel twin.

  5. Oh my goodness what a spread! You’re so lucky you stay near the Bagel Store, they are definitely the best. I stay near Murray’s which is SUPPOSED to be the best but I like Ess-a-Bagel the most. OH man NYC bagels I will miss you so much. As Jojo said above, the UK CANNOT make bagels. There are some in the Jewish section of north London that are decent BUT STILL. Not NYC.

  6. I’ve never even seen the amount of tofu spreads you encountered here! I mostly stick to Bagelsmith on Lorimer, and Bagel Bob’s in the city, but The Bagel Store sounds awesome!
    EB + nooch is a new topping idea for me. I never understood why so many places offer tofu spreads now, but not vegan butter. Cute bagelcam shot. Especially with the very Bushwick crowd in the back.
    I have to get to the tiny Champs outpost!

  7. UGH, I was just there and June and this post made me want to go back already. Bagels are the one food item in New York I truly, truly miss. I’d never had Tomkins Square Bagels until my most recent visit (never while living in NY), and was not disappointed. But my heart belongs to F-Line Bagels in my old ‘hood – Carroll Gardens, on the northern cusp of Red Hook. Absolute Bagels, by Columbia, is way up there, too. Hot garlic bagel w/scallion tofu cream cheese 4 lyfe.

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