The best bagels in town?

by Brian Clarey

Though I’ve lived in the South for 20 years, as a transplanted Yankee there are a few food items that I’ll always be a snob about. Pizza, for one – I believe there are more great slices in a 20-mile radius from the Long Island house I grew up in than there are in the entire state of North Carolina. I’m also a little snotty about certain seafood delicacies, though I’m convinced you can get a better variety of good quality fish in North Carolina than anywhere else on the East Coast.

I’m also a bit stuck-up about bagels.

The bagels at A&S Bagels on Hempstead Turnpike, one of the touchstones of my teenage years, were magnificent affairs, as big around as a bread plate and so high they were almost spherical, the hole in the center pinched closed by the bread’s sheer abundance.

I liked a salt bagel with egg salad and a chocolate milk back then, but that is neither here nor there.

Though there is a strong Jewish contingent in Greensboro’s multicultural stew, there are not a lot of bagel places, save for a trio of national chains scattered across the city.

Bagels need to be made fresh each morning – mixed, kneaded, shaped, boiled (yeah, you gotta boil ’em) and baked well before the sun rises.

At Greensboro’s Best Bagels in Town the action begins at about 2 a.m., when production begins on the more than 25 varieties of bagel the joint puts out – pumpernickel, honey oat, blueberry, cheddar and tomato spice, to name a few.

They’ve also got the everything bagel, which I believe is best toasted (unless it’s still warm from the ovens) and slathered with sweet butter.

It’s 9 a.m. when I hit Best Bagels in Town, but the shelves of goods are nearly depleted. I choose a poppyseed bagel, and opt to fill it with scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon, though I realize the presence of cloven-hoof meat is some sort of blasphemy, but what the hell… it’s my breakfast.

I sit down to eat it in a booth along the front wall. The place looks to be a remodeled fast-food structure, with windows all around and kitchen/counter space to the rear. The décor is cheery, with natural woods and a jade green base, curtains in the windows and good, natural light.

The bagels here are big – not Long Island big, and certainly not as puffy, but big enough to make me sit up and take notice. The texture is perfect: a fairly dense interior with a shiny, chewy skin. And the thing is loaded with poppyseeds.

The bagels are about the most exotic thing on a menu stacked with everyday favorites: breakfast foods, tuna salad, grilled chicken, roast beef.

But… Best Bagels in Town also has lox, that delicate, smoky salmon flank that my father would bring home on special mornings. And they do it right, with cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, onion and capers. Definitely capers.

They also have lox in cream cheese form, along with nine other blends including spinach bacon, olive pimiento, herb and cranberry nut.

And, of course, there is vegetable cream cheese, which goes very well on an everything bagel.

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