Friday, May 14, 2010

Sidecar: You can't get "a decent bagel" in this town. Deal.

sidecarlogo.jpgAmong the many complaints I've heard about the Eugene food scene (lack of good Chinese food, Middle Eastern food, bars, etc.), one that's consistent is the complaint that Eugene lacks a decent bagel place. This isn't unique to Eugene -- I believe it is, in fact, a complaint that everyone west of New York City who's ever been to New York City utters at least once a month: "Where can I get a decent bagel?"

The truth is, nowhere. Once you leave the East Coast, you should say good-bye to your "decent bagel" standards and instead prepare to embrace the regional imitations you'll encounter in the rest of the country. These are all, essentially, bagels, in that they follow the same boil-and-bake standards of the East, but once you leave New York tastes change. Bakers feel a need to make up for their lack of cheap, blue-cupped coffee and smog by adding flavors. Their customers actually demand this. It comes from a lack of acquired taste: If you didn't grow up eating bagels, your first impression isn't "hey, here's a sturdy staple of my weekday breakfast diet." Your impression, instead, is, "This is a little plain." So in the Midwest, you'll meet the Cinnamon Raisin bagel over and over and over again; on the West Coast, please expect for reusable boxes of Oat Power Bagels and metric tons of Asiago Bagels.

In Eugene, it's not that much different. The bagels are oversized and overtopped at all five of the dedicated bagel stores in the area. Bagels are one thing that haven't quite been hippied up here, yet, so we still roll with the best of the West Coasters, throwing cheese or cranberries into everything.

Despite these five stores -- and a handful of other bakeries willing to try their hand at the bagel business -- the question remains open: "Where can I get a decent bagel?" If you're pining for the thick, chewy, palm-sized bagels of your favorite New York Deli, you can't get that here. Give up.


  1. Sometimes, I really miss the overpriced bagels at Breadline in D.C.

  2. My memory of D.C. bageldom is hazy, but I don't remember many complaints other than -- you're absolutely right -- the price.

  3. I have no context because I've never had a NY Bagel but would you say that the "closest" thing to a NY Bagel in town is a Humble Bagel? I love 'em and since I grew up with them I use them as my basis for what a good bagel is... ?? I have a co-worker that swears that Safeway bagels are more NY Bagel like... I have a hard time believing that?