Bagel Maven

538 Post Rd EWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 293-4168

 

Let’s face it, outside of New York City bagels are always just varying degrees of a let down, but in many cases it can at least be a pleasant surprise as to how little that let down actually is. This is the case with Bagel Maven, a mighty fine bagel for those with lowered expectations. It’s a little on the doughy side, but the outer crust has good texture to it. Unfortunately they are a touch stingy on the seed count when it comes to bagels of such standing, but that’s a mild ding comparatively. There are also very few options when it comes to “toppings.” So if you’re looking for sable, lox, nova, whitefish salad and an array of schmears, it’s gonna take you two stops, because you’ll also need to head on over to Gold’s Delicatessen. But at least the bagels are better here.

The only other thing I would note before I leave you to fend for yourself,  is that this place is not, I repeat NOT the kind of place you want to sit and dine. It’s strictly a grab n’ go.

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Neat

6 Wilton Rd. Westport, CT 06880(203) 557-8955 neatwestport.com

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Breakfast all day? All right! Damn, I love Westport. And as if I needed yet another reason to want to move there, they go ahead and open yet another great restaurant. Cute to the core and serving up the best chai latte I’ve ever had. More foamy than Cujo’s mouth, yet still piping hot and spiced to the brim with cinnamon, fennel, star anise, peppercorn, nutmeg and cloves. So good. As is their fresh squeezed OJ, enough so to make even a Florida boy like me happy.

Of the breakfast fare my favorite thing on the menu was the ciabatta BLT, which is also a nice go-to if you should want a more lunch-y option. The other dish I was digging was the trio of Egg soufflés, granted I would just go with three of the sundried tomato and burrata. Trust me. Skip the plain. And while the bacon would seem like it would be worth it, it’s not. If you want bacon then get the BLT.

The waffles are also solid if you’re craving something sweet. And if “kosher” is your thang, then the pretzel bagel with pastrami salmon has you covered. That said, I did find it to be a wannabe Pastrami Russ from Russ & Daughters, and while it’s definitely good, it falls very short of its mentor. Mostly because the bagel is pretty sub par. What is on par is the net, net. Worthy of a strong four.

4 teeth

 

Ess-a-Bagel

831 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10022(212) 980-1010 ess-a-bagel.com

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There is raging debate as to who has the best bagel in the city and I think I have to give the edge to H&H or maybe even Russ & Daughters. But right on the heels for me would be Ess-a, especially if you are talking about the establishment as a whole, as I believe Ess-a-Bagel would then move up the second slot, because they simply crush H & H when it comes to things like whitefish salad, cream cheese, lox and sable.

Sure, you have to put up with the vaudeville-type lifers behind the counter who can turn your outing into a 20 minute soliloquy when all you want is a fucking bagel, but at least it’s worth it. In particular, the worthiest of the lot for me is their sesame bagel, scooped out, with whitefish salad, lettuce and tomato (or cucumber). The whitefish is salted to perfection and I’ve never had better. But just be sure get the bagel scooped as I mentioned, otherwise you’ll be lapping the whitefish off of your tray.

Equally worthy is their Nova on an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and tomato.  The Nova is so damn buttery you will want to roll around in it like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal. Be sure to get this, or the whitefish salad, with a half sour pickle and a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda and you will be lost in Bagel bliss.

In terms of baked goods, Ess-a also has a few winners like their lemon pound cake in particular, but where they fall short for me is on the rugelach, and babkas. You can find far superior versions at Breads and Second Avenue Deli. But on the whole, Ess-a gets an A for breakfast, lunch or catering.

4 teeth

Russ & Daughters Cafe

127 Orchard St. New York, NY 10002(212) 475-4881russanddaughterscafe.com

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The kosher deli is like the tiger of restaurants, loved, but rapidly nearing extinction. As cited by the documentary Deli Man (an obscure Netflix gem), kosher delis in New York alone, have gone from over 1500 in number back in 1931, to today’s very depressing stat of just 21 establishments left. So, call it my Jewish guilt or moral obligation, but I felt the need to help turn the tides by turning my kids onto the glory that I lovingly call “Jew Food.” A cuisine unlike any other, that I have adored since childhood. But sadly, like many other bad Jews (apparently), I haven’t been back in years. Which is a shame, because there’s really no good reason. It’s not like going to Synagogue or anything. It’s actually quite enjoyable. And downright sinful.

Well, also turning the tides is a modern-day twist on the kosher deli, paying faithful homage to its diner roots, while also feeling contemporary somehow at the same time. That’s Russ and Daughters, a beacon of hope for the “chosen” cuisine.

Speaking of chosen things, our first choice was the Pastrami Russ, a small but crazy good sandwich made with their unique salmon pastrami, cucumber, coleslaw and deli mustard all on a cigar-sized pretzel roll, served next to a mountain of homemade waffle potato chips and a half sour pickle that also rocks. Mad mazels on this one.

But as good as the Pastrami Russ was, the Latkas stole the show. Easily the best I’ve ever had, done up at least a half inch thick with a hard, crusty outer layer and moist, fuffy innards. It’s Ultimate Latka perfection. Also, we had ‘em both ways, the new fangled crème fraiche and salmon roe way, as well as the ole tried and true apple sauce way. Both are good, but the kid in me still leans toward the classic A-sauce.

And while we’re on the topic of classics, the Classic Board with Nova, tomatoes, capers, red onions, cream cheese and an everything bagel was also very good. Not quite as inventive as some of the other twists, but as solid as you’ll find anywhere else in the city, Essa included. Granted the Nova is very lightly cured though, so nowhere near as salty as you might be used to.

Lox, eggs and onions were good, but not great. Partly due to the less salty lox, which is what makes this dish normally shine, ya know, cuz salt and eggs and all. That said, the rye bread that comes with it is another Ultimate. So flavorful and packed with texture. In fact, we loved it so much we walked up the street after breakfast to the Russ & Daughters store on Houston to buy a loaf. And my god is that thing dense. One loaf probably ways as much as a Mini Cooper.

We ended the meal on a duo of dishes from the “Sweet” column, the first being the Chocolate Babka French toast. Yes Challah, you just got trumped. Topped with fresh strawberries and sidled up next to a ramekin of sweet cream- no need for syrup on this thing. It’s richer than Daddy Warbucks.

Yet as wonderific as the Babka French Toast was, the kosher purist in me still found the Noodle Kugel to be the shiznet. It’s like muscle memory for your taste buds, bringing you back to that sweet noodle lovin’ fro your childhood that you just can’t deny. And wow did that sound way more child molesty than intended.

All in, Russ is tops in my book. Even if Gweneth Paltrow likes it too. From the incredibly fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juices to both Ultimates I mentioned above to their caviar cream cheese that needs to make its way from store to café (hint-hint Russ).

4 teeth

Stars Bagels

711 Saw Mill River Rd. Ardsley, NY 10502 • (914) 591-4321

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The line of insanity (not to be confused with The Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride) pouring out of this place on a weekend morning is a telltale sign that you’ve arrived at the best bagel place north of 81st Street in Manhattan.

Crusty on the outside, doughy on the inside, these bagels are good enough to make your Torah twirl. From the minis to the megas, cinnamon raisin to everything these guys nail it like nobody told them they weren’t in the city. Even their schmears, whitefish, lox and sable are worthy of mad mazels.

But like all bagel places it’s not exactly the poster child for ambiance, so be sure to grab and go, unless you’re more evolved than I, and don’t care about such shallow things. Also, I do want to address all the haters on Yelp complaining about rude and slow service. I have probably been there over twenty times and never once had a problem. And I’m pretty easy to piss off. So I’m guessing it’s you. Not them. Oh, and as for slow, you have no idea what slow is until you’ve been to Mount Kisco Bagel Co.

4 teeth

 

Bagel Emporium

95 King St. Chappaqua, NY1051 • (914) 238-9777bagelemporium.com

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I have no gripes with the service here, unlike the other reviews you might see. And no gripes with decor, although it is extremely basic and not a place you would ever want to spend more than 5 minutes on a grab ‘n go.

But most important to me for a bagel joint, shockingly, are the bagels. They are big and way too doughy, including the outer crust, which has absolutely no crunch to it. The seeded bagels are anemic, so much so that you’re likely to find more seeds left in your teeth after eating a sesame bagel from virtually anywhere else than you are to find on an entire sesame bagel at the Emporium,  BEFORE actually eating it.

And don’t get me started on the veggie cream cheese, which is more like a paste than actual “cream.”

I can beat a dead horse with the best of them, but I’m assuming by now you get the picture. So if you’re still looking for a go-to bagel place in the area, head to Mount Kisco Bagel Company. It’s not perfect either, but by comparison, it’s Ess a Bagel.

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Mount Kisco Bagel Co.

480 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 •  (914) 241-0606
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Definitely the best bagels in the area if you’re willing to endure the PAINFULLY slow service. And by “painful” I mean excruciating. For example, the the bagel in the picture above probably took about 15 minutes to slice in half. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but this is not…

The first time I went there I was only second in line with four employees behind the counter, so I figured I’d be in and out in a jiffy. Well, that was because I was foolishly optimistic about the natural order or the space-time continuum, but time itself was no match for the depths of inefficiency that unfolded before my bewildered eyes.

I witnessed a woman literally take one slice of cheese out at a time, using only one hand at a time, to then walk back to the cutting board where the bagel sandwich was being prepared some ten feet away, then back again to the cheese bin where she then proceeded to pick up a second slice, again using only one hand, not bothering to grab even a single other ingredient in the process. Then, there were multiple trips to the back room by every one of them, each only doing one task at a time, and each only servicing one request from the previous order, top to bottom, at a time. Somewhere an assembly line must’ve been rolling over in its grave.

But at least the bagels were worth it. Also, to be fair, since I’ve been back, they must’ve gotten enough complaints to speed up their act, either that or I’m still waiting in line there and I’ve just acclimated to the time vortex.

3 teeth