But I came here to praise bagels, not to bury restaurants. And on that score, I don't differ from the reader consensus that emerged from the first installment of The Great Hyde Park Bagel Hunt, that Orly's has the best bagels -- in Hyde Park. And considering that Orly's bagels became available only as recently as 2006, this fact alone represents quite an advance. (See this very helpful review from the Maroon on just where to find the best bagels in all of Chicago.)
So Orly's get's an "A" for effort. In fact, I just enjoyed a sesame seed bagel schmeared with my wife's amazing chopped chicken liver, and am now quite content. But the fact remains that Orly's bagels are still not equal to our chosen baseline, bagels from The Bagel on Broadway. And, though we haven't had a chance to get up to Dempster this month, reader sentiment was that Orly's would have to work even harder to compete with other North Side bagel kingpins: New York Bagel and Bialy, and Kaufman's.
Let's take a look at what we have:
Orly's bagels come close to the dynamic tension that must be maintained by any great bagel, between an outer surface that becomes nicely crunchy when toasted, and a doughy, twisty-chewy interior. On repeated tastings, however, Orly's seemed to push that dynamic too far, resulting in a very crisp shell encasing an overly- fluffy interior. As far as the seasonings, I have no complaint; it was only the dough that was a little too bread-ish.
By now it should be clear that anyone offering bagels in Hyde Park has to satisfy a discriminating audience. That's how it should be, and how we intend to keep it. Dining establishments only offer quality product where and when they know it will be appreciated, and they only maintain that quality when they face the continuing pressure of discerning customers (which is why the Thai food in Hyde Park is so poor, but that's another post...)
Orly's has definitely raised the bagel bar. Now we don't have to bend down nearly quite so far to get one. If they keep it up, hopefully we might have to reach up a little.