Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Great Hyde Park Bagel Hunt

posted by chicago pop

The subject first came up in conversation with a faculty couple from the East Coast. "Where can you get a decent bagel in Hyde Park?" It's come up many times since then. It's not that bagels are unavailable; it's just that, well, they're not really bagels. I don't mind being thought of as a bagel-snob, as I'm sure there are others who would join my club. The point is, progress comes in all shapes and sizes, and in this case it comes with a hole in the middle.

So I've decided to go on a hunt for Hyde Park's best bagels. I'll start with 2 local bagels, and one bagel of reference, imported, of course, from the North Side. There will be future reviews, and this is by no means a definitive or comprehensive sampling. I'll taste bagels as I find them, and maybe readers can tip me off to some purveyors that I've missed. But for starters, here's what I've come up with.

The Bagel Standard

Sesame, Everything, and Poppy Seed bagels from The Bagel, 3107 N. Broadway

OK, these are real bagels. They look the way a bagel should look, like that girl your mom keeps inviting to dinner, the one with hair on her forearms and a broken nose, but an undeniable va va voom. They're lumpy and have a nice, random smattering of topping. They're nice and crispy-golden on the outside. But let's not limit ourselves to superficial appearances, as pleasant as they are.

Now, when you cut one open, here's what it looks like:

Cross Section of Poppyseed Bagel Above

Like good French bread (which is another post, Bonjour Bakery), there should be some small holes in the dough, which displays a varying density throughout. This contributes to the bagel's "mouth feel" of chewiness, in pleasant contrast to its crisp shell. If I cut into a bagel and it looks like a slice of Wonder Bread -- smooth and fluffy and even -- I give it to my dog.

OK, so armed with a standard of reference, let's see what we've got.

The Medici Bakery

Poppyseed, Sesame, and Cinnamon-Raisin Bagels from The Medici Bakery, 1327 E. 57th Street

These bagels are beautiful. I can't deny that. I like looking at them. The problem arises when I decide to eat one. But sticking to aesthetics, these bagels strike me as the kind that Jimmy Stewart would make with his family on Christmas Eve. No hairy forearms here. They are perfectly round, have geometrically round holes in the middle, and look at that almost perfect band of poppy seeds. It's all just so nice!

The problem is, these are bread rolls with holes in them. I think they might be good with butter and jam, but I don't eat bagels with butter and jam. I'm not quite sure how they got this way, but the dough lacks the chewiness and tastiness that lets you know you've bitten into a bagel that means business. I buy these once in a while, but they always leave me wistful for Dempster Avenue.


Third World Cafe/Costco/Einstein's Bagels

Everything and Sesame Seed Bagel from Third World Cafe, 1301 E. 53rd St.

Third World Cafe buys their bagels outside. When I asked the cashier most recently, she told me they were from Costco. I frequently buy bagels in bulk from Costco, and they are usually labeled as Einstein Brother's Bagels. So my assumption -- and it could very well be wrong -- is that these are Einstein's bagels.

I've had Einstein's around Chicago and they are good, and they are just as good when served up at Third World Cafe. They're a little on the oval side, with a nice messy smattering of topping, and when you cut into them, they look like this:

Cross Section of Poppy Seed Bagel Above

Nice and doughy with plenty of holes inside, all translating into that light-but-chewy mouth feel that I love in a bagel. So, you can't really go wrong with the bagels at Third World, but that's because you're more or less buying standardized Einstein's bagels. Not spectacular, but pretty good. They're the best I've been able to find in Hyde Park so far, but I'm not done looking.


38 comments:

nate said...

Let's hear it for Third World Cafe. That place has been growing on me more and more, and their truly free wireless (none of that Istria "free" for an hour stuff) is great.

I've been wanting to do this for scones... I've only had one reliably good scone in Chicago, and it was from the 2006 HP Farmer's Market bakery people. This year's just had a triangular muffin, like most.

ScottM said...

Actually Orly's really does bagels well. (But you want to get there when they open to get them fresh out of the oven.)

chicago pop said...

scottm: thanks for the tip. Orly's is up next.

Elizabeth Fama said...

STEWART...James Maitland STEWART!

Cheeze.

chicago pop said...

You mean cream cheeze?

Corrected!

bornatreese said...

Orly's bialies are also really good. I hope that future grocers in this neighborhood will do as the Co-op did and carry items from Orly's, Cedars, Soul Veg., etc.

chicago pop said...

OK, next up: Orly's and Dunkin' Donuts (no great hopes v-a-v the latter, but we have to cover our bases). Someone has even suggested testing the bagels at BP. This is something I am willing to do, gentle readers, if only for the cause of better bagels in Hyde Park.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Gosh, there are people who have been in Orly's!

Chicago Pop, does that bakery on 47th Street near Cottage Grove make bagels?

Maybe the Zaleski & Horvath Market Cafe will carry some excellent bagels to go with their artisanal breads...

chicago pop said...

I know, it's kind of scary, isn't it? Maybe venturing into the Orly's bakery doesn't require plunging too far into the depths of that darkly-tinted grotto (tinted windows? where do you see that nowadays?) but I'll check it out, along with the 47th St. bakery...

Rosemary said...

While the Bagel has better bagels than you'll find in Hyde Park, nothing comes close to those found at New York Bagels and Bialys on Touhy Avenue in Lincolnwood,also on Dempster St east. Open 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day. Even with high gas prices, it's worth the trip.

Also worth trying, though different from NYB&B are Kaufman's bagels on Dempster Street in Skokie.

chicago pop said...

Rosemary:
Thank you for bringing our attention to these two great bagel resources! It's been too long since I've been up to Kaufman's. We may have to have a "battle of the bagel titans" involving the ones you recommend. Though I'm afraid to put them up against HP bagels in the next taste-test, as I don't want it to be too dispiriting!

chicago pop said...

Maybe the Zaleski & Horvath Market Cafe will carry some excellent bagels to go with their artisanal breads...

Here here. Attn: Zaleski & Horvath -- there is a market for goooooood bagels in Hyde Park.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Years and years ago (maybe close to 20?) my mom used to bring home New York Bagels and Bialys. I just asked her if she remembered where she was buying them back then, and her best guess is Treasure Island. (!)

Alec Brandon said...

I've never had them, but I too have heard that the Orly's bagels are good.

Supposedly they sent one of their cooks to H&H in NYC (the vatican for bagel makers: http://www.handhbagel.com/ ) to apprecentice and learn how to make a proper bagel.

I'm not sure if this is actually true, but just passing on the information.

Alec Brandon said...

Alright, one google search confirmed the H&H information:

http://maroon.uchicago.edu/online_edition/voices/2006/05/23/beyond-einstein-searching-for-the-best-bagel-bakeries-in-the-midwest/

Otto said...

does that bakery on 47th Street near Cottage Grove make bagels?

If you mean Abundance (47th & Michigan), they don't do breads. Bronzeville Coffeehouse (43rd) just might.

Anyway, didn't (the real) Mr. G's carry NYB&B? They had a tall cart in place of the northwest end cap.

Otto said...

Northeast, that is. Toward Breslauer's.

Zig & Lou said...

At Zaleski & Horvath we do plan to feature excellent freshly baked breads and pastries. In the realm of bagels, we agree that Orly's has the best local bagels. We will also offer a range of artisanal breads (both by the loaf an in the deli), and in the AM we will have a selection of scones, muffins, and other treats (including what we like to call 'breakfast cookies', they are like regular cookies, but we feel better about eating them in the morning when they have the 'breakfast cookie' title).

chicago pop said...

alec: thanks for the Maroon link. I feel for the students on campus who have nothing but Einstein's to choose from. Some good footwork in that article. And now we have some substantiation for the general sense that Orly's rocks the bagel casbah -- their baker has been to the "Vatican" of bagel-making (!!) -- or perhaps we should say, its "Great Yeshiva"?

Welcome, zig & lou! You can't imagine how excited I am to hear about your place on 47th. So no bagels, alright, I can live with that. But for some good bread you'll be seeing me on a regular basis.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Otto is giving away his age and tenure in Hyde Park by mentioning Breslauer's. He probably still refers to my house as "the Laves's house." ;-)

bornatreese said...

And he probably rides the IC downtown.

Rosemary said...

Where is Zaleski & Horvath?

chicago pop said...

The Zaleski & Horvath Market/Cafe is scheduled to open at 1126 E. 47th St. in April in a storefront formerly occupied by business called Prosperous Realty. The market will bring artisanal cheeses, smoked meats and wine to the neighborhood sorely lacking in grocery stores. Just a few blocks closer to the lake, a former 42,000-square-foot grocery store has been empty for more than two years.

See Trib article, Dec. 17, 2007. The venture is being backed by Tim Shau, the guy who brought us Istria. Word.

Laura said...

Just a heads up, Orly's bagels lack any consistency in quality. One day they are perfect, the next the worst I have tasted.

You may also want to add the Produce Mart, which sometimes stocks bagels at the deli to your list.

Though as someone who has already done this hunt, you may be better off just making your own if you want the real deal.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Chicago Pop will get tired of me correcting his spelling, but the husband of the husband and wife team that's opening the Zaleski & Horvath Market Cafe is Tim Schau (note the c).

We harbor hopes of doing a post here at HPP about the Market Cafe and how it fits in with the planned Cottage Grove Corridor retail and residential improvements. If any of our readers have inside expertise about the Corridor, feel free to e-mail me or Chicago Pop.

chicago pop said...

chicago pop is thinking of telling dear friend e. fama that she missed a great career as a copy editor. I'm going to have another bagel and think about how to break it to her.

Laura mentions a consistency issue at Orly's: thanks for the tip. I'd also love to know how your bagels turned out. But make my own? Absolutely no way in hell.

Allow me to open up a little canned rant of mine: I want other people to make things for me (like camembert cheese, or grocery stores or bagels or underwear) and then I want to pay them money for it, in my own neighborhood, and then I want to think about whether I got my money's worth or not. If I want tandoori chicken, I don't want to build a clay oven, etc. One of my hopes for this blog is that it may help each of us not have to be a little Robinson Crusoe in order to enjoy some of the smaller things that make city life pleasant (and worth the expense).

Richard Gill said...

This involves bagels (only indirectly as a grocery item, and only if the Co-op still has any in stock). Today an item popped up on the Co-op on-line calendar. It says there's a meeting tonight (Jan.10) of the Save-the-Coop Committee. Among the items for discussion: Is there still any way to save the Co-op?

Go to the calendar and click on the box under January 10. There' a message signed by "Robin"...Kaufman I assume, who was possibly the most disruptive and uncivil person at the December Co-op board meeting.

I don't know what to say about this. Maybe somebody else does.

chicago pop said...

Richard Gill:

Thanks for the laugh! I just crawled back up to my desk after busting my gut in hilarity, slightly freaking out my dog in the process. Are you sure the "Save the Co-Op" meeting isn't an announcement for a stand-up routine from Off-Off Campus? At this point, I think these folks should be joining hands with the "Bring Marshall Fields Back Now!" crowd.

I know of one sure-fire way for "Robin" to save the Co-Op: give them your money! Just write them a check! It's that easy! And then we don't have to listen to her anymore. Unless she wants someone else to pay for it, and then it gets a little harder, but looking for handouts probably wouldn't bother whoever plans on showing up to this seance to bring-back-the-dead.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Here's Elizabeth, the copy editor, correcting Richard Gill this time:

Robyn spells her first name with a "y," so it might not be her -- although it's possible the web master (or mistress) typed the message in the calendar and misspelled it.

Now hold your horses, there -- I'm not finished nitpicking you yet. Her last name is spelled with a double n, as in "Kaufmann."

Zig & Lou said...

Nice rant "Chicago Pop'. Part of the inspiration for Z&H MarketCafe are the sentiments you expressed. We want Camembert (and about 100 other cheeses), and a myriad of other delicious foods. And we don't want to have to drive all over Chicago to find them, combined with pleasant, attentive, and knowledgeable service. Also, to be clear, we do plan on offering Orly's bagels in the AM.

Peter Rossi said...

to zig and lou-

Could carry your baked goods at Cafe Istria? I love the coffee and the people at Istria but I don't think the baked goods are anything special.

I can't wait for your store, but having a satellite outlet at your Istria cafes would be very well received.

I would also pick up fresh baked bread for dinner as I'm sure others would.

this way I wouldn't have to go into the Medici Bakery and get insulted or ignored!

Zig & Lou said...

Peter,
I sold my interest in Istria in order to focus on the broader scope of food and food culture that Z&H will encompass. That said, Z&H will offer fantastic coffee, tea, and espresso beverages.

Ben said...

I don't have any inside information about the Cottage Grove corridor, but I do have some keen interest in learning about its developments (my residence is just off of Cottage Grove). I would be more than happy to look into it but will definitely yield to someone with more of an inside track. It is a completely neglected strip with loads of potential. Hopefullt, some of the potential projects come to fruition.

Richard Gill said...

Ok, Elizabeth, I'm also a copy editor (for four magazines, two of which actually pay me money), and I enjoy playing "gotcha" with some writers. Yea, I are a editer tu. So, I guess I can take a hit.

But while we're on the subject of editing (and I'm not quite sure how we got here in a series of posts about bagels)--the lead article in the January 9 Herald says that the U of C "propositioned" Dominick's and Treasure Island. Does the Herald not know what the verb "proposition" means, or did they write it that way on purpose?

Otto said...

And he probably rides the IC downtown

I find it much more mellifluous than the silly Greek (Esperanto?) trademark or "the METX."

Elizabeth Fama said...

Richard, I'm not really a copy editor, I just play one on TV. If I were a real editor, I might have known what mellifluous meant without looking in a dictionary ("having a smooth, rich flow." From Latin mel honey + fluere to flow).

Ben, as you may know from Richard Gill's report on the Co-Op Board vote, we happily accept submissions to HPP. As a simple first step, I thought it would be interesting if someone made a map of all the proposed (and in-process) projects and businesses, just to see the scope of the activity. Another thing that interests me is learning more about the consulting group Quad Communities Development Corporation (QCDC), and the role Bernita Johnson-Gabriel is playing in the rehabbing of the Cottage Grove Corridor. I'm also curious about the public meeting they had that gave them their stated "mandate" from residents on how to rehab the Corridor (getting to the heart, again, of how we assess public opinion for public projects).

If you have any interest in pursuing an article of your own (either using these ideas or not), I would be ever so grateful, as it would allow me to write my novel. (Oops, I guess a writer should also know what mellifluous means.)

Ben said...

I'm on it.

Peter Rossi said...

zig and lou-

if you don't own Cafe Istria that does not preclude you from supplying them with some decent baked goods.

Don't get me wrong, I plan on visiting your store on 47th but not every day!