It was 11 years ago that I, a New York Jew who had recently moved to the Frozen North, embarked on a mission to find the best bagel in Minnesota. I called it The Great Minnesota Bagel Showdown. Looking back now on the Showdown of 2012, I am only slightly less depressed. Three of the seven bagels we tested no longer exist. And for the last 11 years, the best bagels in Minnesota have been the ones I fly back from New York in bulk. It’s a nice system actually – one I recently wrote about in Have Borscht, Will Travel. I pack a carry-on with 4-6 quarts of frozen borscht to bring to my dad. On the return, I fill the carry-on with 4 to 5 dozen bagels to stock my freezer.
In 2018, my cohort in sarcasm and delicious food decided to revamp the Showdown. In The Great Minnesota Bagel Showdown of 2018, a new entry took the title. Rise Bagel Co. has become the lone survivor of newish bagel offerings in the Twin Cities. While, I won’t say no to Rise, it is telling that I rarely make the short trek to the North Loop to imbibe.
So here we are, still on a mission for the best bagel in the North Star State.
A few weeks ago, a friend and fellow bagel aficionado sent me an Instagram post about a pop-up bagel shop that was gaining popularity in and around town. Mogi Bagel has joined the pantheon of local food businesses that uses the Instagram/social media model. Mogi Bagel will post bagel drops and you have to be quick to register and pay for yours. Then you pickup your order on a later date – in this case at a commercial kitchen space (actually called, um, Kitchen Space).
Of course I started following and after one failed attempt to secure bagels and a week of forgetfulness, I successfully put in an order. For $10, I ordered 6 everything bagels. Pickup was easy – a very cute paper bag of bagels was handed over and I was on my way.
I opened the bag as soon as I got back to my car and was surprised at the level of everything topping – these babies were covered entirely with the onion/sesame/poppy/salt combo. The issue with this is that the bagels were not hot or even warm. When bagels cool down, the everything topping tends to soften and get a little mushy. Try slicing a cold everything bagel and you’ll likely need to scrub your hands afterwards. I don’t recommend eating these in the car either – unless you have a vacuum handy. They are a little chewier than I prefer and they lack the hard crust on the outside. While the texture was not perfect, the taste was there – if you enjoy a heavily seeded/coated bagel of course.
The second part of the test is how do they toast. When I bring bagels back from New York, I slice them and freeze them. When you pop them in the toaster, they stay intact and are as delicious as can be. Mogi Bagel toasted fine for taste and flavor, but structurally, they fell apart while eating. I’m not a baker, but after eating 15,000-20,000 bagels over the course of my life, I feel this could be an easy fix.
I’m going to borrow the rating scale from the 2018 showdown. Based on these, the highest possible score would be a 30.
Look (out of 5): Do your eyes say, “I need this?”
Crust (5): Firm, not crunchy, and distinct from the guts of the bagel
Fluffiness/Chew (5): Soft and pliable, but not “chewy.”
Taste (10): Nothing else matters if it tastes bad, so this is worth double points.
Intangibles (5): Any special shout outs that didn’t otherwise get their due.
- Look, 5: They look spectacular.
- Crust, 2: Not much there, but I’m giving Mogi the benefit of the doubt on this one. Perhaps if I had one fresh out of the oven, it would be different and there would be a noticeable crust.
- Fluffiness/Chew, 2: This is where Mogi takes a hit. For fluffiness/chew, I’m giving it a 2. Way too chewy for me.
- Taste, 9: This is the key – the rest can be fixed.
- Intangibles, 5: I appreciate the effort, the entrepreneurial spirit, the work, and the cute labels!
Final Score (out of 30): 23
So follow Mogi Bagel on Instagram and put your orders in. I’m going to try again with another variety. Let me know what you think!