In the May 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, there was a spread…er, schmear about bagels. No, not the handmade classic bagels I grew up with back East. This piece and the accompanying ratings included bagels from Dunkin Donuts, Costco, and the frozen section of the supermarket. Dunkin Donuts was rated the best bagel. Are you f****** kidding me? Maybe it’s the best bagel available at 3:00AM in Worcester, MA – but that’s about it.
So, I took it upon myself to do a little bagel testing of my own. I recruited a fellow New York Jew (aka Bagel Expert #2) and an Italian from Philly (pretty close to a New York Jew and Bagel Expert #3).
I then selected 6 locally available bagels to compete with 1 from the bagel shop around the corner from my childhood home in Queens.
The reason I took so long to write this is simple – I’m still recovering from the shock of the results.
Now, let’s get a couple of things straight. This was not a scientific taste test – and frankly, it was quite amateurish. We ate the bagels in two ways. First, toasted and plain. Second, toasted with lox and cream cheese (because this is TC Jewfolk and Jews eat their bagels with lox and cream cheese).
We used everything bagels when possible (because I personally deemed that the Jewiest of bagel varieties). When everything wasn’t available we went with plain.
When tasting the bagels, we threw out several criteria (in no particular order):
-size of the hole
-outside crustiness vs. inside chewiness
And here are the results:
#7. Starbucks – Advertised as New York-style and with a new and improved recipe. We thought they were generic dough circles without any flavor or distinction.
#6. Seven Stars Coffee House – Way too chewy for our testers and quite small in stature.
#5. Common Roots Cafe – Very dry and the worst in the seed adhesiveness category. Also noted for being slightly underbaked.
#4. Rye Deli – Also on the drier side and poor seed adhesiveness.
#3. New York City bagel shop – Doughy, but good outside crustiness ratio. The biggest of the bagels.
#2. St. Paul Bagelry – Points off for having an abnormally large hole. The best when topped with lox and cream cheese.
#1. Bruegger’s – It took me 45 minutes to type the ‘B.’ My two bagel “experts” rated this the best bagel in the Twin Cities. One of my “experts” called and texted me to proclaim his embarrassment. He also politely asked not to use his name for fear of hate mail.
I refuse to admit defeat (which should come as no shock to anyone who knows me), but this was not a scientific taste test. There were so many flaws that I don’t even know where to begin. So while my two “experts” completely destroyed my bagel theory, I still can’t figure out where to go from here. Are they so far removed from real bagels that their taste buds and senses betrayed them? Or are Bruegger’s mass-produced and oddly flavored bagels actually good?
Stay tuned as I try to infiltrate Brugger’s to find out how these Twin Cities delights are made. If I succeed, there will be video. If I don’t, I’ll move on to #2.
Bruegger’s aren’t so bad. I have always found them pretty decent. I am really surprised you didn’t include Costco’s “everything” bagel in this test.
I love Bruegger’s. I always get glares from bagel snobs when I say this, but it is a quality bagel.
I would totally glare at you. 😉
They used to sell H&H bagels from some trendy restaurant in Uptown. That was a treat but expensive.
The bagels @ Cecil’s Deli on Cleveland in St. Paul are actually fairly unique and tasty. But there is not of substance to them.
I suppose we all must like Bruegger’s at least a little bit. If one takes the time to get the right fixins and condiments for it (such as great non-brown lox, and any cream cheese is better than the Bruegger’s cream cheese, and fresh sweet onions, etc.) it is actually not as bad as it could be.
My hunch is that if Breadsmith went into the business of making bagels they would kill everyone in its path. But for now …
Really? Starbucks? Panera Bread bagels should be on this list 🙂
Mort’s Deli in Golden Valley carries frozen H&H bagels. I haven’t purchased them on the theory that frozen immediately subtracts a few points from the quality of the bagel. OTOH, maybe they’re better thawed than the best local bagels. Any takers?
First of all, those frozen H&H bagels from Mort’s are not the real deal. I was excited at the prospect but deeply disappointed. Of course it was Mort’s – where I ordered a bagel with lox and cream cheese and the person behind the counter stared blankly back at me. She was relieved when I said smoked salmon.
Critics and bagel lovers around the world agree that Davidovich Bagels are the best! They are all natural, hand rolled, kettle boiled, plank baked, Kosher and shipped everywhere.
If they’re so good, why don’t you send us some to judge for ourselves?
E-mail me at [email protected] for a shipping address.
Everyone knows H&H Bagels is out of business.
Davidovich Bagels have won every taste test,
they are #1.
When I’m craving for a jalapeno cheddar bagel twist with bacon, eggs, and cheese I head right over to Einstein’s Bagels.
So why weren’t Einstein bagels included in this? I mean, you included Starbucks. Might as well have included Super America bagels while you’re at it.
Laughing out loud here at Starbucks while reading this post. (I wouldn’t even consider getting a bagel here. Ever. Same goes for Caribou.)
I think you need to tackle lox next. Really, where can a good Jew get good lox?
Where can a Jew get good lox? Great question Nina. I’ll go out on a very short limb here and say not in Minnesota.
The only lox I’ve seen in this state is pre-packaged (typically from Acme out of Brooklyn). I often dream of paper-thin sliced, melt in your mouth lox on a real bagel with whipped cream cheese.
There are no authentic NY bagels in the twin cities. Then again, there is no good pizza in the twin cities. I lived in NY for 50+ years and remember when Brueggers tried taking some business from the local bagel bakers. Local bakers won that battle and it wasn’t even a contest. I’ve gotten use to Brueggers, but Panera’s bagels are better. Dunkin’ Donuts bagels should NOT be on the list. If you want NY bagels, have them shipped from H&H. Go Yankees!!!!
Ok boo Minneapolis. I mean let’s all just face it bagels in this city suck. Even the “#1” bagel spot Breugger’s stopped making egg bagels but makes blueberry. Really? Blueberry? No.
There are however a bunch of legit NYC bageleries and bialy spots that deliver.
Lox- Lund’s used to sell very good lox in their deli. Trader Joe’s has a decent variation of it that is not too bad. Although I generally do not like Trader Joe’s.
Bacon on a bagel. First, Einstein bagels stink. But they are still bagels; hence, they are Jewish Soul Food.
Second, I think it is a huge disrespect to the Jewish people to put bacon on a bagel. Show a little respect! If you must put some kind of meat on it maybe compromise a bit and put some good pastrami on it. But to go all the way to bacon is absurd. I tend to very much non-respectfully glare at folks who order a bacon sandwich at Bruegger’s in the line before me. I will even go so far as to say I will give them the old “evil eye.” My advice- stay away fromm the Bacon & Bagels. Your girlfriend might not mind kissing you if you give it up.
Zach, it’s 2012. Jews eat bacon. That’s just reality. Jews also get their ears pierced and get tattoos. Stop the glaring and start some smiling.
You can even take it a step further and stuff lard/bacon fat into your pierced ears. And you can even get a way cool tatoo of Oscar Meyer Bacon wherever you would like it placed.
Joking aside, I really have no problem with people not wishing to follow the rules. [I am over-simplifying it.] But I do think it is appropriate as Jews for us to acknowledge that we are different and proud of it. For example, while I do not keep 100% Kosher (I do not eat pig, and I tend to eat only kosher meat), it does concern me when I go to a simcha at a reform temple to be served both non-Kosher meat and milk dishes at the same time. Fine- reform Jews do not need to follow all of the same customs. That is cool. That is their perogative. I do not think G-d will be very angry at such people for that. But doesn’t it make sense for Jews to go a little out of our way to keep the milk & meat separate? That is better than Jews going out of their way to prove that it is 2012 and we can eat whatever we want.
Sorry for going off topic. But it is a bit analogolous to Bacon & Bagels. My old girlfriend in college used to order Bacon Cheeseburgers for herself whenever we would go out to eat and she was pissed at me.