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July 23, 2015 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Why Is It So Hard to Get a Great Bagel in California? [New York Times] San Francisco bakeries have tried and tried again to replicate the chewy, crusty perfection of New York’s specialty. They are still trying.
The New York bagel, as everybody knows, is an institution. No bagel definition will satisfy all, but for starters, let’s just say: A good one requires a chewy interior with blisters, called fisheyes, on a shiny, crispy crust. Making a bagel requires several steps: Hand-roll enriched dough; let it rise, or proof; retard the rising in a refrigerator; boil briefly in malted water; then bake. Mitchell Davis, the executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation — a man who is currently living in Milan and who almost came to tears one recent Sunday morning at the thought of his husband back home in Gramercy Park, reading the wedding announcements and eating an everything from Brooklyn Bagel — believes that the secret to a good bagel is technique, the length of time, say, for proofing and boiling, more than the type of water or flour. Achieving the right crust is foremost. ‘‘That’s the hardest thing, that outer crunch,’’ Davis told me. He recalled that his father described the bagel as ‘‘a doughnut dipped in cement.’’
posted by Fizz (135 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is no bagel emoji and this is upsetting to me.
posted by Fizz at 2:39 PM on July 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Wonderfully entertaining read, thanks for sharing! The last paragraph was the best and summed up everything really nicely.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:40 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shorter NYT: “Best Coast,” my eye!
posted by Going To Maine at 2:41 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


On a related note, the bagels are good though not NYC good (yet), but the smoked fish is to die for at Wexler's in Grand Central Market in DTLA.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:41 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Moved from Orange County, CA to the New York area about 6 years back.

I think if I ever move back to California, I'll miss the bagels as much as I miss Mexican food now.
posted by thatnerd at 2:42 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


four former Dartmouth students started an outfit called Schmendricks. (The name means ‘‘stupid person’’ in Yiddish.)
From the NYT Yiddish/English dictionary
Shlemiel = stupid person Shlimazl = stupid person Shmendrick = stupid person Shmock = stupid person
Oh, these unsophisticated goyishe dialects!
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:44 PM on July 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


As one of the comments notes, the NYT must be silently retracting their 2012 article In the Bay Area, Bagels as Good as Brooklyn’s.

Perhaps as a Midwesterner my opinion doesn't count (typical NYC parochialism), but I actually quite like Baron's Baking in Berkeley, which is unfairly slammed in this piece. Beauty's in Oakland isn't bad either.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:45 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I often wonder about stuff like this. For example, why is it so hard to find good Mexican food in NYC? You'd think if one of the cooks from, say, Taqueria Cancun, moved to NYC and opened up a restaurant, their food would be every bit as good as what you'd get in SF.

I wonder if it's because bagel shops and taquerias aren't exactly huge moneymaking enterprises, and thus it wouldn't be worth relocating just to open one.
posted by panama joe at 2:48 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also: croissants in Vancouver. Is it a West Coast thing, like we just can't bake properly out here?
posted by Hoopo at 2:48 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


YES BAGEL THREAD
TWO BAGEL ENTER
ONE BAGEL LIVE
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:48 PM on July 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


Ever since H&H closed, it's hard to get a great bagel in NY, too. sigh.
posted by Mchelly at 2:49 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Bagel Report, Boston MA: Horrible inedible flat smooth plastic disk choked with smear of chalky smegma.
NYC Rating: 2
Non-NYC Rating: 6
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:51 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Montreal, and damn you all.
posted by aramaic at 2:53 PM on July 23, 2015 [37 favorites]


I've read many articles along the lines of "why is New York pizza do good?" There are many theories, but the common thread is as simple as "water."

New York City tap water consistently rates very high, which shocks the hell out of people that don't live there.

So, it wouldn't surprise me that part of the reason why bagels are better is directly related to the reasons pizza is better.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:55 PM on July 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


I live in San Francisco, but grew up in Boston. Boston's not New York, but it's close enough that I sure have Opinions on bagels. The way I cope is I keep a catalogue in my head of even worse bagels from other places, and that makes me feel better about San Francisco's bagel situation. In other words I deliberately eat bagels in places that have no business making bagels.

The worst used to be in Salt Lake City. Surprisingly, they were recently surpassed by Philadelphia, though I think that may have just been an anomalously bad bagel - it tasted like it had some soap in it or something. I did have something in Paris that they called a bagel and it was shaped like one, and it was totally delicious (because they sure know how to bake over there), but it wasn't at all a bagel, and it was a couple years ago but I still haven't fully untangled my feelings about it.
posted by aubilenon at 2:56 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Montreal, and damn you all.

Specifically, St. Viateur...
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:56 PM on July 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


It could be worse: you could be trying to get a bagel in England.

I remain indignant at the British Library cafetera till, which was ringing up a salmon sandwich on regular bread as a "bagel." I was assured that this was because they just hadn't changed the till over from an actual bagel predecessor to this sandwich, but given my observations otherwise, I am not entirely convinced.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:57 PM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I often wonder about stuff like this. For example, why is it so hard to find good Mexican food in NYC?

This. I live in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada and I have yet to find a decent Mexican restaurant. As someone who grew up in Texas with all kinds of access to amazing Tex-Mex cuisine, it is the one thing that frustrates me the most about dining out. A lack of a good chimichanga.
posted by Fizz at 2:59 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, it wouldn't surprise me that part of the reason why bagels are better is directly related to the reasons pizza is better.

But the pizza isn't actually any better. I mean, the vast majority of it is mediocre, and there's great pizza restaurants all over the country.

The bagel thing is sorta real, though I think there are quite a few dedicated bagel-bakeries along the East Coast that serve great bagels. Or used to be, they seem to be fading out in lieu of Einstein Brothers and Panera.
posted by skewed at 2:59 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


So I was raised in the NYC suburbs, and live in Queens now. Honestly, there are good bagels in New York, but most of the ones I find in my neighborhood actually pale to Bodo's in Charlottesville.

COME AT ME.

(That said, the absolute best bagel I've ever had was in Flatbush.)
posted by thecaddy at 2:59 PM on July 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm not looking for a great bagel, I'd be happy with a good one. Or even one that's edible without being toasted. And doesn't have fucking raisins in it.
posted by octothorpe at 2:59 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


After the language laws were passed in Quebec (late 70s), there was a big migration of Jewish Montrealers to Toronto. Lots of young professionals and students with family still living in Montreal. It's only a 5½ hour drive. You would think that the connection would remain strong enough to nurture the development of a Montreal-style bagel in Toronto.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:01 PM on July 23, 2015


It's hard to even find a passable bagel in the greater Seattle area. No good rye bread either...
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:02 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's it - my next utopia in my book is going to have San Francisco burritos and New York bagels, together, in a 5 block radius.
posted by yueliang at 3:02 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I know what passes for nachos in at least one place in England. I got them at a carnival in northern England. It consisted of the kind of chips you'd get at 7-11 here, served with a ketchup-based "salsa". If they'd call that nachos, they might well call a salmon sandwich on regular bread a bagel.
posted by Anne Neville at 3:07 PM on July 23, 2015




They tell me that one cannot get proper bagels outside of New York. I bring them here and they agree that they were wrong.
posted by eriko at 3:10 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Moving from Hoboken, NJ to San Diego drastically, drastically reduced my bagel intake. I thought I was all set for a life of healthy breakfasts until I discovered the mighty chorizo and egg burrito.

(For the local readers, the bagel shop on Voltaire in Pt Loma, across from the library, makes a near NYC quality Everything bagel. Ortiz's taco shop right next door makes a killer chorizo and egg burrito too).
posted by remlapm at 3:10 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


wait, didn't we just have an overly picky and precious bagel beanplating thread?

(though on re-read, it does look like that old thread had a significant takeover of Montreal bagel fans, so maybe we should let the Americans have this as a safe space?)
posted by bl1nk at 3:15 PM on July 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Beauty's in Oakland is really quite good (credentials: I grew up in New Jersey) almost worth the ridiculous wait to get them...
posted by supermedusa at 3:23 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Shmendrick's was started by a law school classmate of mine. It's a good talking point for the "you can do anything with a law degree" convo.
posted by grobstein at 3:28 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I figure that Mexican food in California has great access to high-quality produce for relatively cheap. The cheap comes partly from proximity to where it's grown, but also because there's already a massive burrito economy. But yeah, mexican food almost everywhere else in the country is consistently kinda sad. (There's some good stuff in texas. in case you're reading, tamale house, I love you.)
posted by kaibutsu at 3:28 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


This. I live in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada and I have yet to find a decent Mexican restaurant.

Not to snark, but in my experience Niagara Falls is lacking in decent restaurants, period.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:35 PM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am presently working on this situation.
posted by parmanparman at 3:43 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why Is It So Hard to Get a Great Bagel in California?

Shipping charges from Montreal.
posted by benzenedream at 3:45 PM on July 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


Why Is It So Hard to Get a Great Bagel in California?

"You have overthought bagels."
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:46 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are we doing this again?

A) New York bagels aren't that great either. Montreal-style or bust. Even Toronto's Montreal-style bagels are better than New Yorks (St Urbain 4 lyfe)

B) Beauty's Bagels are worth the drive to Oakland although they're not quite perfect either. But for Bay Area bagels, they're quite good.
posted by GuyZero at 3:47 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


so maybe we should let the Americans have this as a safe space?

For your kaisers with a hole in the middle? No. Hell no.
posted by GuyZero at 3:48 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


So the main point I took away from this article is... someone in San Francisco needs to pony up and pay money to buy the bagel recipe that was developed by Schmendricks.
posted by matt_od at 3:50 PM on July 23, 2015


Montreal bagels are totally different than New York bagels. It's two totally different styles of bagel and comparing the two is an excersize in personal taste and futility.

Ever since H&H closed, it's hard to get a great bagel in NY, too. sigh.

Bah. H&H was always a mediocre bagel for people who didn't know better, and I for one celebrated the day it's tax-evading douchebag of an owner went down. Do yourself a favor and swing up by Columbia to grab a fresh dozen from Absolute Bagels. Thank me later.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:51 PM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a deprived Californian, I was just wondering recently what a New York bagel is actually like. Is it possible to get a few shipped out to me from a good place or should I just wait until I actually visit New York (whenever the heck that'll be)?
posted by phatkitten at 3:52 PM on July 23, 2015


Just wait. Freshness is the difference between a good bagel and a great bagel, so even if you could get a NY bagel shipped by the time it got to California it probably wouldn't be worth it.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:56 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've had St Vitaeurs bagels shipped to California and yeah, they're not as fresh as buying them locally, but it was definitely worth it.
posted by GuyZero at 3:58 PM on July 23, 2015


Is a bagel that's cooled down from the oven that drastically different? I mean, I know that fresh bagels are awesome in general, but since I've basically only had supermarket bagels and Noah's, I figure an equivalent non-warm bagel from New York will still be better somehow.

(Or maybe I now have NY bagels built up to be some sort of magical thing and I'm going to be disappointed when I do try one.)
posted by phatkitten at 4:01 PM on July 23, 2015


four former Dartmouth students started an outfit called Schmendricks. (The name means ‘‘stupid person’’ in Yiddish.)
From the NYT Yiddish/English dictionary
Shlemiel = stupid person
Shlimazl = stupid person
Shmendrick = stupid person
Shmock = stupid person
Oh, these unsophisticated goyishe dialects!


I feel like I should chime in here.
posted by shmegegge at 4:03 PM on July 23, 2015 [45 favorites]


I just moved to Oakland, and thanks to the last thread on bagels, I was really excited to try Beauty's when we first got here. I've since been a couple times, first thing in the morning, and they're great! I'm used to everything bagels having salt on them, but otherwise I have zero complaints about living near a great bagel place (with good coffee, to boot!).

I get that New York or Montreal might do things differently or better, but I don't care if Beauty's isn't the best in the world, because they're still great. If someone wants to get all "oh, that's not a bagel, it's chewy bread with a hole in it," that's your loss, because I've enjoyed myself immensely every time I've been.
posted by teponaztli at 4:04 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I really don't understand this. I've had great bagels here in the bay area. I honestly don't see that huge of a difference between the two. I love bagels, untoasted even, but the stuff out here seems to be just as good as elsewhere. Is this a snobbery thing or am I the dunce for missing the clear difference?
posted by Carillon at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


On a related note, the bagels are good though not NYC good (yet), but the smoked fish is to die for at Wexler's in Grand Central Market in DTLA.

Nice, a couple of my friends work there.

Wexler's also make one of the big time Best Pastrami Sandwich lists, beating out a bunch or perhaps all of the NY delis.

People get real pissed when they run out of bagels. So, I guess the public shares your view on how good they are ;-)
posted by sideshow at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


they're supposed to be CRISPY on the outside??

...

i don't think i've ever had a decent bagel in my life
posted by indubitable at 4:09 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where are people buying these great NYC bagels from? Specialty bagel shops?
Most people that I know eat their bagels from generic corner delis as part of an egg sandwich or toasted with cream cheese or butter or (even worse) peanut butter.
The bagels from the delis are generally not that amazing. Yet I feel they are probably >90% of all bagels consumed in the NYC area on a daily basis. And people actually eat at the generic delis daily, as opposed to the special weekend trip to Murray's or whatever.
Sometimes our office gets Zucker's to cater bagels and lox. I am not super impressed by their bagels nor their lox.

The vast majority of NYC pizza is terrible. Sure there are good gourmet pizza places but the average 99c slice is awful. Yet I see tons of people - like, normal people - eating it for lunch. Even the more expensive slices are usually pretty mediocre.

I would say 90% of NYC bagels are mediocre.
90% of NYC pizza is just plain bad.
posted by pravit at 4:13 PM on July 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


The crispy bubbly crust is the best part...along with the dense, chewy inside. For this reason I think Bruegger's is the best of the national bagel chains, because sometimes they manage to achieve at least the crust.

Team Bodo's for life! No toasting allowed!
posted by sallybrown at 4:15 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


otherwise I have zero complaints about living near a great bagel place (with good coffee, to boot!).

My only complaint is nearby parking. They are a solid bagel.
posted by GuyZero at 4:15 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


One day I will find a decent bagel in Seattle. Along with a decent chili dog and decent pizza.

That may be the day I warp reality to have chunks of New York and New Jersey mixed into Ballard.
posted by mephron at 4:19 PM on July 23, 2015


The bagels from the delis are generally not that amazing.

Oh god QFT, pravit, QFT. I used to get a morning bagel from a deli near Union Square on my way to work, and I don't know what horrible rituals they did to make them, what loathesome being they worshipped there, but the bagels were always OILY.

I'm still not sure why I never tried another deli. There were like four on the block.
posted by Andrhia at 4:20 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing California will also never do as well as New York is affect preciousness over certain ineffable qualities of its regional production of utilitiarian snack/light-meal foods.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


But the pizza isn't actually any better.

GTFO
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


One day I will find a decent bagel in Seattle.

Blazing Bagels doesn't suck.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like there's a meaningful gap between a not-the-Platonic-ideal bagel and a bad fucking bagel. The idea that people will turn up their noses at a basically decent bagel that's just missing some faint whisper of Manhattan terroir makes me seriously roll my eyes. And then there are places like Atlanta, where even fancy coffeeshops sell "bagels" that have the consistency of a brioche roll-- what the fuuuuuuuu. (Although that joint in Virginia-Highland that makes bagels with baked-in olive oil is fucking heavenly, bite me New Yorkers.)
posted by threeants at 4:27 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Bah. H&H was always a mediocre bagel for people who didn't know better...

My grandmother is also gone. Would you like to kick her as well?
posted by Mchelly at 4:28 PM on July 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


The bagels from the delis are generally not that amazing… I would say 90% of NYC bagels are mediocre.

I'm not sure how to communicate the seriousness of what I'm about to say, that it's not hyperbole or for effect, but any shitty mediocre corner deli in NYC has a better bagel than the best bagel place inside the SF city limits.
posted by danny the boy at 4:38 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I really don't understand this. I've had great bagels here in the bay area. I honestly don't see that huge of a difference between the two. I love bagels, untoasted even, but the stuff out here seems to be just as good as elsewhere. Is this a snobbery thing or am I the dunce for missing the clear difference?

I honestly envy you, because I wish I could find happiness in our bagels. Like, my girlfriend is convinced she has a really developed palette but then she will insist on drinking 3 day old wine that I wouldn't pour on my worst enemy's grave and... I just don't know how to bridge that gap.
posted by danny the boy at 4:43 PM on July 23, 2015


I'd rather have LA's Mexican (and Latin American more generally) food than NY's bagels.

I'd rather have both.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:47 PM on July 23, 2015


Man, those chocolate chip bagels from Einstein Bros. are just the best. Right guys?
posted by qcubed at 4:48 PM on July 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Is a bagel that's cooled down from the oven that drastically different?

It's not so much the cool vs warm as it is just general staleness. If you can be guaranteed that you'll be eating a bagel from New York within, say, 6-12 hours of it coming out of the oven, then go for it. And even then, if it's overnighted or whatever, it's still probably worth a try. But know that you're not quite getting the full experience. There's a reason that a lot of bagel places sell their day-old bagels at half price... they're still perfectly fine bagels, but it's just not the same.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:54 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah it's pretty much a fact the the average Manhattan slice place is dreck.

Bagels are a little easier to find, but there is plenty of crap out there.

And the world needs both good Montreal and good NY bagels. It's not an either or.
posted by JPD at 5:14 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've read many articles along the lines of "why is New York pizza do good?" There are many theories, but the common thread is as simple as "water."

Ah but San Francisco has already replicated New York pizza - that's a solved problem. Tony's Pizza Napoletana pulled off the feat a few years ago. He does other regional pizza styles absolutely exactly too.
posted by w0mbat at 5:15 PM on July 23, 2015


Whenever people claim that no (food item) is as good as the ones from (particular region) I can't help but suspect there is some level of romanticization, misty-eyed memories, and regional snobbery at play. I've had perfectly good bagels in California (pizza, too). Credentials: Jew.
posted by The Gooch at 5:18 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like Bagels on the Square and Murray's in NY.

During Ireland's Celtic Tiger years I heard on NPR about a place in a Dublin food court that imported bagels from H&H, which they would pair with Ireland's fabulous smoked salmon.
posted by brujita at 5:18 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't help but suspect there is some level of romanticization, misty-eyed memories, and regional snobbery at play.

Oh and next you're going to tell me all sports teams are equally good and it's all about sportsmanship.

It's about regionally rivalry for people who hate sports.

MONTREAL! BAGELS! MONTREAL! BAGELS!

*does the wave*
posted by GuyZero at 5:21 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is a bagel that's cooled down from the oven that drastically different?

Yes.

When I lived in Montreal the company where I worked supplied St. Viateur bagels daily to staff but I rarely ate them because I could get them fresh as I lived walking distance to the bakery.

The St. Viateur sesame seed bagel is the one true bagel. It is known.
posted by praiseb at 5:22 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've never seen "poppy" spelled that way before. Strange.
posted by GuyZero at 5:32 PM on July 23, 2015


Beauty's is pretty good -- their bagels are a little small, which means the doughy part is less substantial than it should be, but overall they're the only place I've been able to trust around here.
posted by invitapriore at 5:56 PM on July 23, 2015


Let's agree that all regional specialties aren't due to local ethnic communities or ingredients, but sunspots and the Corrolis effect.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:00 PM on July 23, 2015


Anyhow, only St. Louis has tzitzel rye.
posted by Mchelly at 6:02 PM on July 23, 2015


I actually think crappy NYC pizza is quite good, and much better than pizza you can get most places. I think the best pizza you can get elsewhere is probably about as good as the best pizza you can get in NYC, but the difference you can go anywhere in NYC and get a decent slice.
posted by !Jim at 6:06 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I still haven't tried the Montreal bagel place we've got here.
posted by !Jim at 6:07 PM on July 23, 2015


One thing California will also never do as well as New York is affect preciousness over certain ineffable qualities of its regional production of utilitiarian snack/light-meal foods.

One wonders how you've made it this far without hearing about tacos.
posted by one_bean at 6:09 PM on July 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


It could be worse: you could be trying to get a bagel in England.

Uh, Brick Lane?
posted by a halcyon day at 6:09 PM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm always so confused by these bagel threads. Not because I think New York doesn't make good bagels, mind you; I've been to NYC many times, and the bagels have been very good. But, whenever one of these threads come up, all I can conclude is: oh god, every bagel I've had in NYC must have actually been terrible, and I just don't know enough to know better! That's the only thing that could explain what these people are saying, because the bagels I've had, while very tasty, did not cure cancer, or pull stranded kittens from trees, or any of the other amazing things I'm hearing here ...

So yeah. I ... have no idea if I've had a good bagel? Because wow, the praise for what that must be is a bit overwhelming.

Bagel Report, Boston MA: Horrible inedible flat smooth plastic disk choked with smear of chalky smegma.

So again, maybe I honestly have no idea what a good bagel is, but the oddly named SPoT! in Norwood has the best bagels I've ever had in the Boston area. Lines out the door in the morning and around lunch, and you can see them making / proofing / pulling out fresh bagels multiple times a day. The only downside is the wait, it can take forever. Probably for the best, because otherwise I'd be there more often than is good for me.
posted by tocts at 6:11 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


The vast majority of NYC pizza is terrible.

This is true. Sturgeon's Law applies: 90% of everything is crap. There are more pizza shops per capita around NYC than practically everywhere else, so there's more crappy pizza here than practically everywhere else. On the other hand, there's also more good pizza. Sheer quantity alone is enough to account for the impressive number of top-tier places we have... which are a tiny, tiny fraction of the whole.

Sure there are good gourmet pizza places but the average 99c slice is awful.

The average NY slice is not 99¢. The 99¢ slices—a relatively new trend, I might add—are the lowest of the low-end slices. Quality is not the point of a 99¢ slice.

Yet I see tons of people - like, normal people - eating it for lunch.

Myself included, often enough. Because, at $2.75, two slices and a soda at Two Bros. cost less than one slice of the good stuff. It's cheap and filling, and those are the reasons to get it.
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:11 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Been years since I've been there but Cecil's Deli in the Highland Park neighborhood of St Paul used to make a ferocious bagel.
posted by Ber at 6:15 PM on July 23, 2015


You would think that the connection would remain strong enough to nurture the development of a Montreal-style bagel in Toronto.

The Bagel House at St. Clair and Yonge uses a real wood burning oven. Best bagels in Toronto (sorry, Harbord Bakery), even if they're not quite at the St. Viateur level.
posted by maudlin at 6:19 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where are people buying these great NYC bagels from? Specialty bagel shops?

Yes. If it's not a bagel shop, or at least a bakery (and thus fresh), why bother?

I'm actually on the NJ side of things, but Hoboken Hot Bagels on 6th & Washington is good, and my wife likes Wonder Bagels in Jersey City.
posted by fings at 6:24 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why would you not get your bagels from a bagel place? Even at the great appetizing places the bagels don't live up to the fish.
posted by JPD at 6:28 PM on July 23, 2015


Phooey on all you St. Viateur fans. According to scientific double blind studies that I conducted, Fairmount are the best Montreal bagels (all-dressed, of course).

And, similar to Guyzero, I schlep over to Oakland every other week to get Beauty's Bagels. They don't reach the heights of Fairmount, but FedEx-ing bagels from Montreal costs a hundred bucks for shipping, plus they might get delayed by Customs anyway...
posted by jasper411 at 6:48 PM on July 23, 2015


Why's it so hard to get a good burrito in NYC?
posted by effugas at 7:23 PM on July 23, 2015


In Sydney, Australia, I actually only know of one place that does bagels—the Vina Bakehouse in the Royal Randwick centre. And I've been eating them all my life after toasting them in the oven for a good ten minutes on 100°C, to get the outside really crispy and the inside piping hot, so that the required components of my desired spreads (butter + Vegemite or cream cheese + smoked salmon + lemon juice + dill) can melt... but now there have been a barrage of MetaFilter threads that say the outside should be crispy already, and they shouldn't be eaten toasted (or warm at all)??? I assure you, the two compositions I have parenthesised above are truly some of the most delicious things known to man. How do my two sins do anything apart from enhance the bagel experience?
posted by Quilford at 7:26 PM on July 23, 2015


It could be worse: you could be trying to get a bagel in England.

what's your opinion on the Beigel Bake and/or Beigel Shop in Shoreditch?
posted by those are my balloons at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2015


Let's not forget that Boston has its own style of bagel - smaller and not as dense as a New York bagel and sold at Kupel's in Brookline.
posted by adamg at 7:44 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I lived in in Brooklyn from 87-89. I have fond memories of coming out of a bar sometime after midnight in the west village and buying fresh, still-hot bagels at the bagel place near the bar. Also, NY had pumpernickel bagels that were denser and heavier than any form of bread I've ever seen. I've had a few semi-OK bagels in California but nothing close to NY.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:53 PM on July 23, 2015


I can't help but suspect there is some level of romanticization, misty-eyed memories, and regional snobbery at play.

I don't know... For example, sourdough bread - which is something I love, has even been a family thing with starter kept alive for years, something I always try wherever I find it on a menu and yet...

... it has never tasted as good as it does in San Francisco...

So... are bagels anything like that? When baking, altitude can make a difference, and so can relative humidity, etc. Yet - one would think bagels would be the same when made in NYC or the West Coast, because... "sea level"... But then, sourdough should be just as good on the east coast, no?
posted by jkaczor at 7:54 PM on July 23, 2015


Dear New York Times,

If you want me to agree to your nit-picky screed about what makes an authentic bagel and enumerate all the horrible, tragic bagels that come from Other Places and if you insist on saying, "But not too much vision. After all, creativity is not the bagel’s friend" Then perhaps you shouldn't have kicked off the month suggesting that we put peas in our guacamole.

Love and kisses,

California
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:54 PM on July 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


... it has never tasted as good as it does in San Francisco...

Many foods - perhaps all? - among them bagels, pizza, fish and chips, mild bitter ale, burritos, burgers, black pudding, etc, are not actually just foods at all, but are a confluence of ingredients, cooking technique, and psychogeography. The first two can be matched or approximated when trying to create dishes away from their point of first experience, but the third cannot.

I suspect one of the reasons people enjoy eating on vacation so much is not for the food itself, which is often delicious, but because it helps burn the sense of the place deep into the brain in a way that merely being there does not.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:02 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


This thread got me in a bagel-eatin' mood, and so I bought some bagels from a place called THE BAGEL BOYS (note: the staff were all female) and one of them was a jalapeno bagel and the other one was an onion bagel. Both of them were perfectly acceptable bagels, in fact I'd go so far as to say they were really good bagels. But you know what? If next time I get a bagel and it's from a different place, it's still going to be a god-damned bagel. I'm not going to lay down on the floor and cry that IT'S NOT A BAGEL BOYS BAGEL because that's silly. I'll just eat the bagel because my blood-cream-cheese levels are low. It will still be a perfectly good bagel. Bagels is bagels. They're bagels wherever you get them.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:03 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Beigel bake is profoundly mediocre.
posted by JPD at 8:17 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


London Beigel sitrep:

Beigel Bake on Brick Lane - not just the best beigels in the world but also provide a useful pronunciation guide right there in the name. Also try the salt beef on rye. You won't regret it. Proper salt beef, thicker than the rye is, as it should be.

Don't go to the place next door. It's no good.

Anywhere in Shoreditch? Very very doubtful. That's not just for beigels, that's for everything.

If Golders Green is closer than Brick Lane there's always Carmelli, though they're not quite as good.
posted by motty at 8:21 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Beigel bake isn't good. And salt beef on a bagel just seems weird to americans given they are mostly associated with dairy here.
posted by JPD at 8:40 PM on July 23, 2015


Is this Beauty's in Oakland a branch of - or homage to - the Montreal breakfast joint of the same name?
posted by Flashman at 9:10 PM on July 23, 2015


One thing California will also never do as well as New York is affect preciousness over certain ineffable qualities of its regional production of utilitiarian snack/light-meal foods.

Great, now I'm craving mission-style burritos.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:12 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why Is It So Hard to Get a Great Bagel in California?

It probably isn't. The bagels there could be better and a subset of New Yorkers wouldn't admit it, because a subset of New Yorkers likes to whine about everything that isn't in New York.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:41 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]




I often wonder about stuff like this. For example, why is it so hard to find good Mexican food in NYC?

When are people going to let this myth die?

I get that California and Texas have the advantage of basically being parts of Mexico that the US annexed. But if you adjust for that obvious home field advantage, NYC has plenty of great Mexican food. Really just about any kind of food you can think of, you will find someplace in NY (probably Queens) knocking it out of the park.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:02 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I recently found a pretty good central Florida bagel place. Bagel King. The wife and I went there at the suggestion of an ex-NYer voter registration canvasser. The bagels are very much like NYC bagels. They boil them first. When the bagels run out, they close (around 3PM). You can eat in or buy a dozen to go. An almost perfect bagel joint.

Almost.

We got a dozen to go, but I couldn't find the chopped liver. I absolutely love chopped chicken liver. It's on their website, along with smoked fish salads and matzo ball soup. So where was the chopped liver I was jonesing for (on top of my warm everything bagel).

"We stopped making it. In fact the decision to stop was made just last week. So, sorry, no more chopped liver."

The... fuck... you... say...

No chopped liver? Why does God hate me so much? Why couldn't the guy ring my doorbell a week or so ago? Why can't I get chopped liver out of MY DAMN HEAD?!

The bagels are great. Can't stress this enough. See, it's like being the first guy to land on the moon. But the door is stuck. Made it to the moon. Can't take that away, first guy here. I can see it through the little porthole. But I can't walk on it. The DAMN DOOR is STUCK!
posted by Splunge at 10:29 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


pony: alert me when there is a bialy thread so i too can assert my opinions

alternative: real actual pony i can ride to peter pan's
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:53 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


My (solid) theory as to why you can't get [X] in [place that isn't known for X]:

There's no scene.

In New York there are hundreds (thousands?) of pizza spots churning out New York–style pizza or New York–style bagels. Most of them suck, yeah, but out of that great mass comes a number of shining examples, the GOAT of pizza or the GOAT of bagels. And what got them that way and what keeps them that way is the scene, the need to stand out amongst so many mediocre imitators.

Amid that scene are the scenesters, millions of self-styled pizza and bagel connoisseurs. Allegiances run deep, battles are fought over which slice or torus is the best. And, o shit, is your shop slipping? You were the GOAT but now something is off?? Oh, the kvetching! Everyone will know within weeks.

There's a spot in New York called Dos Toros (a couple of them now, I think). It was started by a couple of Berkeley kids and it's modeled after the best burrito in the Bay — Gordo*. I've gone there a couple times. It's alright. They do the cheese wrong and they wrap it wrong and the filling was good but not great. It satisfied the craving but that's about it.

I wasn't there right when they opened but I imagine that their burritos were a lot better at the beginning. But now, years on, nobody really cares because there aren't other burrito shops beating them at the game. And there aren't burrito connoisseurs coming in and complaining how they aren't as good as they used to be. All they need to be is good enough, and without the scene putting pressure on them, that's all they'll ever be.

* COME AT ME
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:40 PM on July 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


This. I live in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada and I have yet to find a decent Mexican restaurant.

Not to snark, but in my experience Niagara Falls is lacking in decent restaurants, period.


Paris Crepe on Queen St. Very good by anywhere's standards; celestial by Niagara Falls standards.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:51 PM on July 23, 2015


The answer to the question in the headline is buried halfway through the article:

"We were never going to grow the way a top-tier tech company is going to grow,’’ Scholnick told me, stating the obvious.
posted by STFUDonnie at 3:42 AM on July 24, 2015


As a deprived Californian, I was just wondering recently what a New York bagel is actually like. Is it possible to get a few shipped out to me from a good place or should I just wait until I actually visit New York (whenever the heck that'll be)?

As a deprived Californian, I'm never ever making it to New York City in my life unless some drastic miracles happen to my lifestyle. So I've decided that I'm better off never knowing the perfection of a bagel that at best I'd eat once and then pine for the rest of my hippie Californian days.

This is also a good point. How the hell would I know, really?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:27 AM on July 24, 2015


Do yourself a favor and swing up by Columbia to grab a fresh dozen from Absolute Bagels. Thank me later.

Please don't! Absolute is around the corner from me and was the Sunday morning staple for years (as well as breakfast pretty much every day for my kids on the way to school). It was written up in some guidebook and/or on Tripadvisor and now the line snakes out the door and halfway down the block on weekend mornings.

Can't speak to Brooklyn but they are the best bagels in Manhattan, hands down. And they haven't raised their bagel prices in about five years, god bless them.
posted by stargell at 8:30 AM on July 24, 2015


Man, those chocolate chip bagels from Einstein Bros. are just the best. Right guys?

You know when you see someone do something really stupid, but you gotta admire the bravery?

That, right there.
posted by eriko at 8:54 AM on July 24, 2015


NYC once again wonders why places that aren't NYC suck.
posted by Legomancer at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: an exercise in personal taste and futility.
posted by yoink at 9:04 AM on July 24, 2015


Man, those chocolate chip bagels from Einstein Bros. are just the best. Right guys?

It's sweet bread, with chocolate chips, in the shape of a torus.

I'm ok with that. It's not a bagel.
posted by GuyZero at 9:54 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gah. So much of this is subjective.

I submit that, if you opened a bagel shop in San Francisco in which the "kitchen" consisted solely of a wormhole through which employees would grab bagels fresh from the oven from the most respected bagelry in NYC, food critics eating there (and unaware of the wormhole) would loudly proclaim the bagels were "Good, but not like the ones in NYC"
posted by caution live frogs at 10:44 AM on July 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


(also the above s/NYC/Montreal/g there are you happy now Canadians?)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:45 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Please don't! Absolute is around the corner from me and was the Sunday morning staple for years (as well as breakfast pretty much every day for my kids on the way to school). It was written up in some guidebook and/or on Tripadvisor and now the line snakes out the door and halfway down the block on weekend mornings.

Oh, boo. I'm in a similar boat (I grew up on 114th, I'm in Brooklyn now) and I have a lot of fond memories there. I haven't been in a few years; sad to hear that it's less neighborhoody these days.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:58 AM on July 24, 2015


I submit that, if you opened a bagel shop in San Francisco in which the "kitchen" consisted solely of a wormhole through which employees would grab bagels fresh from the oven from the most respected bagelry in NYC, food critics eating there (and unaware of the wormhole) would loudly proclaim the bagels were "Good, but not like the ones in NYC"

I expect this is true--just like the "you can only get good Guinness in Ireland" thing. The problem, though, is how on earth could you ever test it without the aid of said wormhole? And even if you had the wormhole people would tell you that passage through the wormhole subtly affected the flavor.
posted by yoink at 11:01 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ever since H&H closed, it's hard to get a great bagel in NY, too. sigh.

So true, for those of us who spent our early years teething on the crust of a real bagel. Most NYC bagels have become giant, soft boring white bread-pillows. It's not true that the most mediocre NY deli has a better bagel than other cities, anymore. It's just some kind of placebo effect when you eat a bagel with the skyline behind you -- it seems better than the same one in Omaha.
The best bagels I've had in Manhattan in the past decade are at Absolute on the UWS, run and baked by Asian people.

On edit: yeah, what youse guys said. Absolute.
posted by flourpot at 11:02 AM on July 24, 2015


also the above s/NYC/Montreal/g

That one doesn't apply because they really are different kinds of bagel. If you passed Montreal bagels through a wormhole to NY people would say "wow, those are Montreal bagels"--nobody in NY thinks they're making, or are trying to make, Montreal-style bagels.
posted by yoink at 11:02 AM on July 24, 2015


Guinness IS different in Ireland, though - it's brewed to a lower ABV for tax purposes.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:03 AM on July 24, 2015


Stop saying bagels.

The correct plural is bageln, and everyone knows that.
posted by aramaic at 11:04 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


The correct plural is bageln

Or, more properly, Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl bageln.
posted by yoink at 11:22 AM on July 24, 2015


Guinness IS different in Ireland, though - it's brewed to a lower ABV for tax purposes.

The claim I'm referring to is that Guiness brewed in Ireland and then shipped over the Irish sea somehow mystically loses some je ne sais quoi which is preserved no matter where it's shipped within Ireland itself.
posted by yoink at 11:28 AM on July 24, 2015


I live in the DC metro area, and I confess that I have had bagels shipped from Zabar's. Was so worth it.
posted by candyland at 1:10 PM on July 24, 2015


candyland, check out Bullfrog on H St. in DC. Sooo gooood.

Also: Modern-Day Caligula Orders Everything Bagel
posted by exogenous at 1:50 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bagel thread? Time to pull out this glorious piece of ephemeral cinema....
posted by theartandsound at 1:54 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


People who order Everything Bagels are indecisive. They make unfaithful lovers.
posted by cazoo at 2:24 PM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was curious about Montreal bagels, so I did a Google image search, and found New York versus Montreal Bagels: Friends or Foes?.
posted by fings at 2:43 PM on July 24, 2015


That article was written by the Neville Chamberlain of bagels.
posted by GuyZero at 3:43 PM on July 24, 2015


The best bagels I've ever eaten were after midnight at H&H on Broadway. I'd come home from being out, stand in the steam heat of the boilers and the dry heat of the ovens to ask for 13 bagels from the guys who were loading up the big brown paper bags to ship them a hundred or two hundred at a time to delis and corner stores throughout Manhattan, and a tub of lox spread, then pay, and then eat them on the way home at 84th Street, then eat more once at home, and then finish the whole affair in the morning for breakfast. It was a time and a place and a city and a food and a version of me that I'll never forget.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:16 PM on July 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's no bread in LA that isn;t mediocre or overpriced and often times both. But its raining first quality parisian baguettes all over in Westminster, where the vietnamese bake bread with french regard so as to make ban mi.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:52 PM on July 24, 2015


Bagel Oasis in Ravenna is the best bagel in Seattle. They even have pumpernickel, which is impossible to find in this town.
posted by rouftop at 4:14 AM on July 25, 2015


Why Is It So Hard to Get a Great Bagel in California?

Sweet humblebrag NY Bro!
posted by srboisvert at 6:03 AM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]




"We were never going to grow the way a top-tier tech company is going to grow,’’ Scholnick told me, stating the obvious.

I love the idea that these guys were apparently so immersed in the local VC driven SF startup culture that they focus grouped and "beta tested" the shit out of recipes before coming to the realisation that oops, no, silly them, of course a bagel shop wasn't going to be the next Facebook.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:45 PM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


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