Readers respond with strong opinions, a couple more local bagel options, and a couple more that they argue are worth a field trip.
People really are opinionated about the state of Seattle-area bagels. Really opinionated. After the results of “The great Seattle-area bagel taste test” came out, people responded on Facebook (on The Seattle Times’ and my post) and in online comments, of course. I got a couple voicemails. But for some reason, those who feel strongly about bagels hereabouts like to send email — dozens of messages poured in, and the bagel-feelings are still coming, a full week later.
Even babies are opinionated about Seattle’s bagels. A reader named Brian writes: “We moved here about 11 years ago from the New York/New Jersey area. Our daughter was two at the time and wanted a bagel. We asked around about where we could find good bagels. We went in, bought a bagel, and gave it to our daughter. She bit into the bagel, stopped, and said, ‘That is not a bagel. I want a real bagel.’ Since then, I bring them back from my frequent trips to the East Coast.”
Some locals take umbrage at the perceived larger nature of the debate. “I’m tired of people from New York criticizing Seattle…” one writes. “If they like New York so much, why are they here? Give it up. Or go back.” Others, in a more specific mode, bemoan the loss of Capitol Hill’s Bagel Deli and, going back even further, New York Bagel Boys in University Village.
For a different transplant’s take, one person wrote as a proponent of the superiority of Detroit’s bagels. Then a reader named Marty took the controversial stance that we “should have just started with the accepted fact that Montreal-style bagels beat New York-style any day of the week” (that would’ve gone over well). Others maintained that Montreal-style taste sweet, which a bagel shouldn’t (Eltana’s did not, to us, for what it’s worth).
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More helpfully, a number of readers sent urgent messages about bagels — here in the Seattle area and near enough for special-trip striking distance — that we missed:
Little Lago on Seattle’s Portage Bay makes their own bagels every day, and reader Margot doesn’t want you in on the secret. She says they’re “better than we get in NYC — but don’t tell anyone or I will not be able to get them, as they sell out every day.” Kathleen Hayes, the grocery buyer for this deli/sundries little sibling of beloved Cafe Lago, says of the bagels’ style, “They’re not big and doughy. They’re actually quite perfect… akin to a old-style New York bagel.” Fighting words! Several others wrote to recommend Little Lago’s bagelwork, too. Sorry, Margot.
Standard Bakery in North Seattle has just started making bagels every day but Tuesday (their day off), and owner/baker Josh Grunig is serious about it. His resume includes Grand Central Baking; Standard started out as the Pocket Bakery pop-up. Grunig says he’s “a little obsessed with bagels.” He uses malt syrup, rests them overnight “to bring out the flavor of the natural sourdough levain,” then boils and bakes. “It’s hard to find a great bagel in Seattle,” he says, “and we think the Standard Bakery bagels are quite tasty.” Some West Coast-style understatement, perhaps?
The Bagelry in Bellingham has lots of vocal local fans. Open since 1984, it claims to make “the best bagels in the Northwest,” which, yes, some would say is not much to brag about. One proponent’s less-than-ringing endorsement: “The last time I tried them, they were not bad, and yes, I prefer New York bagels.” But there were many more along the lines of Anna, who says The Bagelry produces “the authentic perfect Bagel” (her capitalization).
Whidbey Island Bagel Factory on, yes, Whidbey Island — with a second location in Oak Harbor imminent — also has a legion of adherents who’d tell you to get on the ferry right now. Reader Patti: “I think they are great. They have a slightly crisp crust and a nice, chewy interior, not bready!” And per Jay Sue: “The absolute best.”
Several people wondered why we left out Einstein Bros. Bagels. The diplomatic answer is that we decided to support local bagel-makers, leaving out national chains. (Bellevue’s Big Apple only snuck into the taste test because we went without realizing it was a franchise, then thought we might as well issue a warning.) Reader Michel wrote to offer what amounts to a better explanation on Einstein’s issues: “Bagels there are acceptable most days, excellent sometimes (depends on who the cook is and on the weather), rarely terrible, but that has happened; but Einstein is a definite downgrade from Noah’s Bagels, which they took over a few years back.” Inconsistent and a downgrade from Noah’s — enough said.
Lastly, does eating bagels cause reading comprehension problems? Four different readers wrote in to chastise me for the omission of Redmond-based Blazing Bagels, and another was aghast that I’d left out Eltana. These places were very much included in the Great Seattle-Area Bagel Taste Test (online and in print — I double-checked). Apparently, the love of a bagel can obscure mere words.