i have to start this entry by stating that i am not from new york city and so i'm a little more flexible than some about bagels. as mentioned before, i grew up in calfornia eating A LOT of bagel, almost all from marin bagel co. or noah's bagels. in santa cruz, where i went to college the bagelry put out some amazing combinations of toppings and flavored cream cheese that make my mouth water just thinking about them. with this said i love new york bagels and a trip to the big apple is incomplete without indulging in a chewy poppy seed bagel from one of the thousands of delis that puts out great bagels. and while my standards may be more lax than others, i still would rather not eat than have one of those pieces of bread in the shape of a bagel that many supermarket have in their bakery section and call bagels.
so after driving by many times and seeing an ad in the bollard for 158 pickett street cafe, claiming to be the home of the best bagels in the world, seth and i finally stopped in. its a super cute little cafe that has sort of a cabin-y feel to it. i was a little annoyed that their menu on the wall had no description of the items. am i just suppose to guess what is in or on each bagel and sandwich? i scanned the counter area looking for a printed menu with more detail but to now avail. so i decided to just go with the standby, poppy seed bagel with cream cheese, tomatoes, and red onion, but they were out of poppy. onion was a fine substitution.
in my mind i was wondering how this bagel would come out: open face or sandwich style? seth and i found a tiny little table, i got a cup of water in one of their reusable water cups, and i checked the place and the people out while we waited for our bagel. a few minutes later a very good looking guy with piercing blue eyes came over to our table with our bagel, served open face. first point in their favor as this is the way i think a bagel should be served. each bagel half was topped with a perfect schmear of cream cheese -- not too little not too much. two thinly sliced tomato slices and thin slivers of red onion sat on top of the cheese. the bagel was finished off with fresh cracked black pepper and big crystals of salt. after a couple of bites i realized there was also a drizzle of olive oil.
in my mind it was perfection. the bagel was light yet chewy with a good flavor all its own. the toppings were dispersed over the top of the bagel perfectly as to allow one to get a little of everything in each bite. but not overwhelming like when some places cut the onions too thick and all you taste is onion. it would have all been complete with just the salt and pepper but the olive oil really pushed it over the top.
all in all, i don't know if this was the best bagel in the world or even the best bagel i have ever had. but it was a great bagel and may be the best bagel in the portland area if not maine. and yes i have been to mr. bagels, a good bagel but not a great bagel.