Culinary cage match: Bagels

Stomachs, let's get ready to rumble!

I never thought I’d have to answer the question, “What is a bagel?” again, what with the round Jewish munch being so universally accepted and acknowledged. But people, for the most part, seem to think that a bagel is simply a donut made of bread, a round piece of dough that’s just called a bagel because of its shape. Which is why I did a quick bit of reconnoitering on Biscayne Boulevard to reacquaint myself with the luscious New York bagel of my youth, and to do some comparing.

Tuna fish doesn’t go on a bagel, neither does egg salad, nor cold cuts, etc. A bagel is meant for cream cheese (butter, if you’re older), lox, maybe a thin slice of onion, tomato, maybe some thin half-sour pickle slices if you have them in the fridge. Which brings me to Einstein’s Bagels, i.e. fast-food bagels. They arrive at the store frozen and are “baked” on premises. A bagel must be bathed, then baked, and I’ve never eaten a bagel that tasted like a bagel that wasn’t made fresh. Even when made fresh, they have a short shelf-life, and should never be eaten even as day-olds. Einstein’s bagels are not suitable for intelligent life.

Onto Bagels & Co. (also known as Bagels & Guns, due to their strip mall neighbor, Florida Firearms), where celebrities mingle with locals in the comfortably non-descript sunny room. They sell their bagels half-price after 2:30 p.m., which means, like any other commodity, sometimes you have to sell low or take a huge loss (toss ’em). Their bagels have the proper density, with the dough tasting of good quality bread flour; and the salt on the salt bagel crunches with the crust like a two-in-one dream. They smell like New York City (without the urine). These were the best, with the runners-up from Bagel Bar East and Bagel Cove. And yes, that shaker on the table is filled with crunchy bits of “everything.” Sprinkle liberally. They’re also open 365 days a year, and they have a generator, too, so even if there’s a hurricane, and the power goes out, you’ll never have to suffer through a day without a fresh bagel.

Bagels & Co., 11064 Biscayne Blvd, Miami; 305-892-2435

Published: 8/08

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