Bagels: A Remembrance

Topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion and garlic & salt

Photo courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker on Flickr

This morning, as I munched on my toasted “everything bagel” with butter, I was inexorably drawn back to my years in New York City, one of the bagel capitals of the world.

Prior to moving there, I had certainly had my share of these round wonders. Panera makes a fine bagel, if I do say so myself. However, there really is something to be said for the culture of bagels in New York, something I have experienced nowhere else.

In fact, by the time I had graduated from college, I declared myself to be a person who really didn’t like bagels. And if you just thought to yourself that I must be crazy for holding that opinion, get in line. My friends thought it was incredibly bizarre. I think I just had a natural aversion to them for years. I have never liked using bagels for sandwiches, either. Too thick and chewy for a sandwich, at least from my perspective. The idea of a plain bagel with cream cheese sounded incredibly unappetizing to me (in fact, it still does).

Google "NYC bagels" and this is what you get.

However, something shifted for me when I lived in New York. Not only are bagels everywhere – bodegas, delis, bakeries, cafes – but people line up for them like they’re going out of style. A distinct Sunday Morning Bagel Ritual takes place in hundreds of shops each week in that grand city, where thousands of people slowly gravitate towards their favorite local place to “get on line” and call out their regular order. And no two are the same!

I was in New York for five years but I probably didn’t appreciate the bagels there until the last two. At the last place I worked, they had Bagel/Donut Fridays. Usually there was no stopping me from partaking in a donut or two, but one day, I started noticing a particular bagel staring back at me. I later learned that it was called an “everything” bagel. On top of these round creations are poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, dried onion, and salt.

Craving something salty to go with my sweet donut, I tried one. I loved it.

Everything bagels renewed my palate for this local delicacy. They’re insanely messy to eat and you will spill no less than three thousand pieces of bagel debris on yourself while you eat it, but the mixture of flavors can’t be beat. I became a total convert.

And! I even started frequenting Brooklyn Bagels in my neighborhood (though I lived in Astoria, Queens). There was one on Broadway around the corner from me and they had a great array of things to eat, including French Toast Bagels, which I don’t even have to say were amaaaaaziiiiing. One had to get to this place before 10am on Sundays or there would be at least a fifteen to twenty minute wait. It was worth it, though.

Like the rug in The Big Lebowski that tied the room together, frequenting my local bagel shop for my “usual” really solidified the love I had for my neighborhood, and even living in that enormous metropolis. (Astoria rocks and if I were to move back to New York City, I’d totally live there again.) I have extremely fond memories of getting breakfast at Brooklyn Bagels with Kevin when we were first seeing one another. Can you beat an everything (or French Toast) bagel with a cappuccino? I propose that you can not.

While I now have to settle for buying my everything bagels by the half dozen in a bag from the supermarket, toasting them myself and buttering them, they still bring forth these treasured memories which I hold dear to me.

Bagels are more than just “something to eat” in New York City. They are an experience. They are New York.

A satisfying breakfast to say the least.

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Comments

  1. There are people here who have never even heard of a bagel…Im like…WHAT. You are so right about Bagels and NY. Nobody does it better!

    • Hahaha I can totally hear the, “WHAT.” Now blow their minds with the concept of “French Toast bagel!” When I was in Paris, the woman I lived with didn’t know what chocolate chip cookies were. I was like, “WHAT.”

  2. The best bagels are boiled in water, not straight-baked. That is one reason why a panera bagel (while ok) will never taste as good as a REAL NY bagel.

    • I totally agree, Julia! Since I’ve been back in the Midwest, I have yet to eat a Panera bagel, though ten years ago or so, their cinnamon and sugar ones were delicious.

  3. Funny, I had an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese (“the usual” for me) this morning. I live across the street from H&H bagels, which is both a blessing and a curse. (And the line, at 9:30am, was 15 minutes long…)

  4. I could never name all the good bagel places in NYC (not unless I was paid). There are so many! Everything with veggie cream cheese is insanely good – great “usual.”

    I lived in many places in NYC and one of those years was on the UES. I underestimate how early those places can get packed.

  5. wow, look at all the bagels! I wonder how many pretzels there are? I am going to have to look it up.

    • I don’t know if pretzel stands have the same kind of Google Map imaging, since they’re mobile, but there are TONS. Also chestnut roasters. They smell good but I can’t eat them. (The honey roasted peanuts are another story.)

  6. I loved this! I’m a Mid-Westerner turned Londoner and hoping to soon be a New Yorker. NYC seems like the place to be for food – especially bagels! 🙂

  7. I have an everything bagel every morning for breakfast at work! They are tasty and yes very messy. The last time I went to the store they were out of everything bagels so I had to get plain. Plain just isn’t the same.

  8. www.giftspersonalized.us says:

    I have never had a New York City bagel, but you sure may make me hungry for one now.
    Ray

  9. Oh man I LOVE everything bagels!

  10. AGREED x 1000. My whole summer in Nashville, I woke up every morning wanting to cry knowing that I couldn’t have access to good bagels. Let alone schmear of decent lox spread!

    Loved this post!

  11. Funny you mention Brooklyn Bagels because I didn’t find it until someone was over and was craving a bagel so badly they searched it out on their iPhone. I’ve been back a few times (as it’s not as close to me as it was to your apartment) but I don’t think it deserves the name “Brooklyn Bagels.” It’s almost like pizza in Manhattan. Go to Brooklyn and get a bagel and pizza. There’s nothing like it. Maybe it’s in the water. Maybe it’s in the old machines they use. Maybe it’s in my/your head from the hoopla. Nevertheless, Brooklyn has the best bagels and pizza EVAR. I don’t say that just because I’m from there. I say it because it’s true. Next time you’re in NYC, we’re Brooklyn bound 🙂

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