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Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012: A Year in Breakfast

Whew! What a year 2012 has been! Naturally we like to look back on New Year’s Eve, so here are some highlights that have stood out for me, breakfastally speaking:

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Barnstormers Grill – the little diner in the OSU Don Scott Airport was reborn this year as Barnstormers Grill. The space and the menu got some small updates which resulted in a brighter restaurant and a more solid breakfast lineup. I especially enjoyed their very thick and meaty sausage gravy and biscuits. Bonus that you can also go sit in the old control tower and watch planes taking off and landing!

Auddino’s – I made a first trip (of many) to this long-running family bakery this year. The tiny retail shop occupies one small corner of their big wholesale facility. You can visit with the Auddino family while you pick up cake donuts, lobster claws, and their special glazed croissants. This year has been a good one for them, too: Auddino’s expanded with a cafe in Mill Run in Hilliard.

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161 Diner – the diner counter inside the Dublin Whole Foods Market serves a solid weekend brunch, packed with thick French toast, corned beef hash, omelets, and sandwiches. They retooled the menu earlier in the year, adding some new favorites like the gravlax salmon benedict.

Jury Room – I’ve been totally remiss on reviewing the brunches at Columbus Food League restaurants, especially when they define comfort food in Columbus. While I’ve visited Tip Top’s and Dirty Frank’s for brunch, I haven’t written about all of them. Fortunately, we did slip in an early visit to Jury Room for cocktails, breakfast burgers, and B.E.L.T. sandwiches, and we plan to hit them up again and again.

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Capitol Cafe By Milo’s – one of our favorite early discoveries was the newer Capitol Cafe in the basement of the Ohio Statehouse. The Pappas family (from Tommy’s and Milo’s) took over the cafe operations and created an actual restaurant out of it. It’s hard to beat the vaulted brick ceilings, marble staircases, and grand sense of history of the Statehouse. It’s also hard to beat their Italian benedict when they’re serving it.

Dinin’ Hall – 2012 has certainly seen an explosion of magnificent food trucks around Columbus, as well as locations and events dedicated to supporting them, from the Food Truck Fest downtown to OSU’s hiring of the trucks to FoodFort’s hard work supporting them. Foremost amongst these is Dinin’ Hall, Columbus’ first food truck pod, located at 400 W. Rich in Franklinton. Dinin’ Hall does a lot of special events, including some weekend breakfasts complete with coffee carts and specialized brunch menus from Columbus’ best trucks.

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Pistacia Vera – Pistacia Vera is already a Columbus favorite brunch spot, but I finally wrote about it toward the end of this year. Everything about PV makes it an easy recommendation to out-of-town visitors, from the beautiful macaroons and croissants, to their baked eggs and quiche.

Angry Baker – speaking of beautiful bakeries, Angry Baker has become a mainstay of Olde Towne East, with brioche and muffins, plus prepared breakfasts like vegan biscuits and gravy and French toast sandwiches.

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de-NOVO – one of our favorite surprise discoveries is the breakfast at de-NOVO bistro & bar downtown. Their underrated breakfast includes rich flavors in good-sized portions. We especially liked the mushroom omelet and the chorizo biscuits and gravy. de-NOVO is set up more like a fancy cocktail bar, but their breakfast deserves more attention, too!

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2012 has been another great year for coffee in Columbus, too, with the first North Market Coffee Roast in March, to the opening of fantastic spots like One Line Coffee and Mission Coffee in Short North, to our personal new favorite, the Hemisphere Coffee Roaster cart in Clintonville. Here’s hoping that Columbus roasters and brewers continue to get the attention they deserve in 2013!

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Even before our New York City trip in October, 2012 was feeling like the Year of the Deli. New York-style standouts include some delicious corned beef and eggs at Danny’s Deli downtown, plus a home delivery of fresh bagels from Sammy’s New York Bagels.

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We were fortunate to be able to travel a bit this year, including a short but busy weekend in New York City. Of course good food abounded, from porgy soup at Momofuku Ssam Bar to late-night Belgian waffles at the Wafels & Dinges truck, an incredible breakfast of lox, bagels, and sturgeon at Barney Greengrass (one of my favorite breakfasts of the year), amazing pastries at Sullivan Street Bakery, and finishing with donuts at Dough and my first ever egg in a nest bagel at Bergen Bagels.

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We also made some smaller trips, like discovering the old-style Legacy Pancake House in Dayton to the very excellent Sunrise Cafe in Yellow Springs. We also visited family again in Lexington, Kentucky, finally having brunch at Alfalfa downtown and picking up some crack-laced melty yeast donuts from Spalding’s Bakery. Back in my hometown of Grand Rapids, we explored the new Trillium Haven farm-to-table restaurant, plus the hip Rowster Coffee (write-ups to come soon!)

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Finally this year I introduced the Beyond Breakfast series of posts. There are just too many good places that we love for lunch, dessert, dinner, drinks, and beyond, and I wanted to plug some of my favorite small businesses. Beyond Breakfast has allowed me to cover spots in NYC, as well as roasted chicken at Kauffman’s BBQ in eastern PA or fried scallops at Quality Seafood in North Carolina. It’s also a good way to share our constant cravings for al pastor tacos at Taqueria El Fogoncito or fried chicken and smashed potatoes at Mya’s Fried Chicken.

It’s been a fun year in eating and blogging. The breakfast book has done well, too, and we may be making plans for the next book in the series (!). I want to say a special thanks to everyone who follows the blog, supported the book, joined me for breakfast, and made this a fun and successful enterprise!

Here’s to a Happy New Year and lots of happy breakfasting in 2013!

From Nick & The Fam

Beyond Breakfast: Taqueria El Fogoncito | Columbus, OH

Thanks to the hard-working crew at Taco Trucks Columbus, Columbus residents have had an easier and more enjoyable time discovering the large variety of taco trucks around town. We’ve had the pleasure of exploring many of them, from the group gathered on the southwest side of town, to diverse offerings along Morse Roads and 161, to some closer to home near Clintonville and Victorian Village. One of our favorites has become Taqueria El Fogoncito, located (currently) on the south side of Morse Road, at approximately 2733 Morse (see map here). We’ve visited this truck often enough that our four-year-old Will calls it “our taco truck.” Once, when we forgot to order his chicken taco, one of the cooks asked us if he should prepare Will’s usual. Imagine that, our four-year-old being a regular at a taco truck! I couldn’t be prouder.

We begin our meals at the truck with mandarin Jarritos, the orange-flavored version of the fruit sodas. They come in a range of flavors, although we most often see the mandarin and mango.

Fogoncito’s menu focuses on a handful of Mexican favorites: tacos (with or without cheese), gringas, and tortas. Gringas are the particular specialty at Fogoncito and their sister, both the truck and brick-and-mortar locations of Los Guachos. From our understanding, Fogoncito is owned by a relative of the Los Guachos owners, so they feature many similar favorites. The gringas are a simple open-faced flour tortilla topped with your choice of meat, melted cheese, plus onions and cilantro. Tortas take similar ingredients but sandwiches them between thick slices of bread. Pictured above is our four-year-old’s regular order: a chicken taco with cheese on it.

In addition to the gringas, our favorite is the al pastor tacos. You can order any dish with your choice of meat: chicken, asada (grilled steak), suadero (beef), tripe, campechanas (seafood), and al pastor. Let me make it easy on you: you came for the al pastor.

Al pastor is a preparation that begins with thin, marinated slices of pork stacked on a trompo (pictured above) and is fired on a spit. A pineapple is usually skewered above the meat, so that the fruit juices and fat from the meat saturate the pork, which is turned slowly and seared. At the time of serving, they slice thin strips of the meat from the side. The pork is served with a slice of the pineapple and layered on two corn tortillas, then topped with onions and cilantro.

Garnishes include sliced cucumber, lime, and a very spicy pickled hot peppers. Fogoncito also makes their own red sauce (a type of spicy salsa, I believe) and avocado/cilantro/wonderfulness sauce. I love, love avocado/cilantro sauce on the al pastor tacos and gringas, and am tempted to put it on everything else I eat. Spicy, smooth, sweet, savory. It’s one of those simple dishes that keeps you guessing.

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In November of 2012, Fogoncito moved to its current location on the south side of Morse. In the past it was located further west on Morse, then at the corner of Morse and Westerville Roads, but they were kicked off that location (which is only now being developed). They were closed for some time, so we were very excited when we got word – thanks to Taco Trucks Cbus and some dedicated Twitter fans – that they had re-opened, we visited almost immediately. Above is the current view of the truck from Morse Road. The truck is perpendicular to the road, FYI.

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But they’re back serving up our some of our favorite tacos and gringas in town. Wherever they set up shop, we’ll follow them! As Will would say, it’s “our taco truck.”

ALSO NOTE: They serve two-for-one al pastor tacos on Wednesdays. So if you’re looking for a chance to try them…

If you want to visit:
Taqueria El Fogoncito
Located at 2733 Morse Road (map it!)
Columbus, OH
(614) 900-4784

Pistacia Vera | Columbus, OH

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Pistacia Vera (Facebook / @PistaciaVera)
541 S. Third Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 220-9070
Open daily 7a-7p (brunch served till 2p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

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Long have I been waiting to write about Pistacia Vera. The darling of the foodie world, both locally and beyond, PV has been featured on tours and in blogs and magazines repeatedly. I mean, one look at their bright German Village cafe and their near-pornographic displays of croissants, pastries, macarons, and cookies and it’s easy to understand why.

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I still remember when they started in Short North as Pistachio, in a brick-walled Pearl Street location that’s now home to Tasi Cafe. We wandered in during gallery hop and chatted with the owner. Soon after, though, the little patisserie had disappeared out of Short North and re-appeared as Pistacia Vera on one of the main streets in German Village. Clearly it was good move, for them, and to make way for the excellent Tasi.

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With a rare morning free, the Mrs. and I visited Pistacia Vera for a weekday brunch. We found the cafe about half-full.

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The big windows and open display cases provide ample opportunity for food photography. With so many eye-catching sights, you really can’t help yourself. The service aspect is simple: you place your order at the counter, are given a number, and then you pick from the dozen or so tables.

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We started with the pain au chocolat: a croissant with ribbons of semi-sweet chocolate. Layers of flakes give way to a soft bite of chocolate. We both ordered coffee, too, which was one aspect we felt so-so about in the meal. Pistacia Vera rightfully serves Cafe Brioso coffee (who we generally love), but the roast tasted too dark, almost burnt, which put it in danger of overshadowing the more delicate flavors of the pastries and the brunch.

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While we waited for our more substantial brunch, I hovered over the displays and photographed, well, everything.

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Big, flaky croissants.

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Ham and cheese croissants with prosciutto and gruyere.

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Pain au raisin with a sheen so perfect they almost seemed fake.

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Apple cake.

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Then brunch arrived. And in fine form, too. As we were deep into Dine Originals Week, PV had a quiche special on the menu. The Mrs. had the mushroom quiche, a tall and wide slice loaded with crimini and shitake and cooked to just the right consistency: it held together well without being dried out. Mushrooms are an unsung hero of breakfast. Few other ingredients impart a strong earthy flavor like mushrooms do, so when they are used properly in a quiche or an omelet, especially when complemented by the right cheese and seasoning, they can really shine.

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I knew well ahead of time that I was going to order the tomato provencal baked eggs. This style is often called shirred eggs, which means eggs cracked and baked in a dish. Pistacia Vera’s eggs are baked with tomatoes, cream, parmigiano-reggiano, and various herbs. It comes with a toasted croissant and their homemade (gluten free) preserves – that day they were serving spiced pear preserves. The preserves are sweet without being sugary, and they go very well with the croissant. Word to the wise, though: croissants in toasted form are messy. Just imagine all of those layers baked to a crisp, and then imagine how they flake apart when you bite into them. Have a napkin handy.

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This gets the award for Most Photogenic Bite of Breakfast in 2012. And the dish itself is one of the stand-outs of the year. The eggs were runny, which lets them mix with the rich tomato reduction (a “fondue” the menu calls it), the generous herbs, and the sharp cheese. It’s one of the better seasoned dishes breakfast dishes I’ve had in recent memory.

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After you eat your breakfast, you can spend even more time eyeballing the rows of Pistacia Vera’s signature sweets: macarons. They’re stacked in colorful piles that line an entire shelf, with both regular and seasonal flavors to temp you.
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I can easily understand why Pistacia Vera is a favorite stop for brunch eaters in Columbus (or lunch eaters or dessert eaters or coffee drinkers or general foodies). The rotating selection of baked goods, with very strong regular features, plus a short but creative and flavor-packed brunch menu, makes it a great representative of Columbus’ strong food scene.

Pistacia Vera on Urbanspoon

Beyond Breakfast: Bierberg Bakery | Columbus, OH

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[Update December 2013: Bierberg Bakery will NOT be open this year.]

One of the best things about the Christmas season is the cookies, right? If you’re like me, you’ve got specific memories of Christmas cookies and cookie decorating from your childhood and your adult years. On one of our last free mornings before Christmas, my boys and I were out running errands and decided to stop by tiny Bierberg Bakery in German Village. It didn’t take much convincing to get them in there. Our 16-month-old just learned the word “cookie,” after all, so it was time to put that to use.

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Bierberg is only open two months of the year, in November and December, and they sell a large variety of German cookies that are sold by the pound. When you take their sign down out front, the bakery appears to be just another small house on a side street in German Village.

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The retail part of the bakery is a single, very small room, with tins of cookies lining the shelves. Seriously, visiting Bierberg is like hanging out in a large closet with two older German ladies.

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We ordered an assorted pound of cookies, trusting to them to pic out good ones.

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They weigh it, box it, and wrap up it for you.

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It’s a simple delight to eye tin after tin of Christmas cookies: everything from vanilla to chocolate dipped to gingerbread…

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…some soft and chewy, some crispy and crunchy.

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I honestly couldn’t tell you the name of all the cookies we tried.

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But these gingerbread wafers were some of my favorite.

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We even said hello to the folks in the back, still making cookies. Bierberg isn’t open too much longer for the season, so I suggest calling them to find out when they’re open and making a visit!

If you want to visit:
Bierberg Bakery
729 S. Fifth St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43206
(614) 443-9959

Bierberg Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sammy’s New York Bagels | Columbus, OH

sammys3Sammy’s New York Bagels
Free home delivery 7 days a week
Available in the greater Columbus area
Order at (614) 252-1551 or online at SammysBagels.net

Ever since our trip to New York, we’ve been craving good bagels, and we’re lucky that you can certainly find them in town. Columbus’ two biggest suppliers are Block’s Bagels and Sammy’s, both baking New York-style bagels. Block’s and Sammy’s are such big wholesalers that chances are you’ve had their wares: Cup O Joe, Backstage Bistro, many of Ohio State campus eateries, plus plenty more, all serve locally made bagels. One big bonus about Sammy’s is that in addition to their wholesaling, they also offer home (or office) delivery.

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The ordering process is quick and easy. The minimum order is $9.99 (or a dozen bagels). Bagels are $.83 a piece, and you can also order cream cheese spreads, muffins, danishes, challah, turnovers, even lox, egg salad, and tuna salad. You can mix and match your bagel order, and every dozen earns you a free bagel.

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We ordered a baker’s dozen plus some scallion cream cheese. At the order screen, you’re just entering your address, phone number, and delivery date. Since this was my first order, they didn’t have a credit card on file. A Sammy’s employee called within a couple hours to confirm the order and collect payment. I initially left instructions for them to knock on the door, so I could get the bagels right away, but she advised against it because they deliver between 4-7 a.m.! You can schedule a date for delivery far out into the future; orders have to be in by 3 p.m. for next day delivery (by 3 p.m. on Friday if you want weekend delivery).

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I don’t know when our bagels arrived; we certainly didn’t hear them drop it off. But it was a delight to wake up to a bag of bagels on the front porch in the morning! The bagels were triple bagged: smaller plastic bags containing the goods, all packaged together in a paper bag with our order stapled to the side, and then altogether wrapped in a bigger plastic bag to keep it dry.

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Here’s the first peek inside our bag.

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Different bagels are bundled separately: the everything bagels all went together (standard practice). Egg bagels were together. Cinnamon were together. Then the sesame, sundried tomato, and honey sesame came together.

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Bags of bagels! I can’t stop saying it!

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We’re still working our way through them, but so far we’ve liked all of them. The sundried tomato taste fairly similar to the everything, but they’re so loaded with seasonings that I’m not suprised. I liked the cinnamon sugar topping on the cinnamon bagels, and I’m always a fan of a good sesame bagel. The ease of ordering and delivery may make Sammy’s Bagels a household staple; this will be particularly handy when we’ve got family visiting. Just place an order the day before, and have fresh bagels for everyone in the morning!

Beyond Breakfast: Kauffman’s BBQ Restaurant | Bethel, PA

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Okay, one more post related to October’s NYC trip. On our way back from the city, my wife and I swung through eastern Pennsylvania to visit her Grammie. She lives in a very rural area, close to Reading, and nearly every time we visit, we go to Kauffman’s BBQ Restaurant. Kauffman’s (sometimes just referred to as “the chicken place”) is near and dear to our hearts because it serves straight-up comfort food, but even more so because it makes us think of Pop-Pop. He passed away a couple years ago, and this was one of his favorite spots. I still remember the first time we ever went, about six years ago. He was very dedicated to showing us the process of ordering, what to order, and how to maximize your bowl at the salad bar (hint: don’t put too much lettuce in it).

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So needless to say that, while Kauffman’s isn’t fancy by any means, it’s still a very special experience when we visit. The building itself sits on a winding country road, a few towns away from where Grammie lives. That part of eastern Pennsylvania, Berks County, is a series of small, old towns with German names. Driving through that country, you come over a hill outside Bethel and suddenly there’s Kauffman’s, with its long, low building aside a wide parking lot, miniature golf course (I’m not kidding), and a big fiberglass chicken out front.

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I mentioned that we also know Kauffman’s as “the chicken place,” right? Well, before you even get to the menu, you’re treated to a view of racks upon racks of roasting chickens. They turn slowly under the heat, dripping their juices down onto each other and the rows of skewered potatoes lined up underneath.

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On our last visit, Grammie told us that Pop loved seeing these because he once used this same equipment years ago when he ran a poultry shop in Philadelphia.

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Kauffman’s is run cafeteria style. A wall-sized menu hangs on one side of the large entry room.

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Then you step through a small door into a long, thin hallway. You grab a tray and order pretty much directly from the kitchen. Although Kauffman’s serves steaks and fish and sandwiches, the real feature is the chicken. You can order a 1/4 or 1/2 chicken. The platters come with a potato, rolls & butter, plus a run at the salad bar.

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Once you order, you’re given the proper cup for your drink (depending whether you ordered soda or just water), you get your roll and butter plus your bowl for the salad bar, and then you take a number for your meal and find a seat in the expansive dining rooms.

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Soon enough, they call your number and your chicken is ready.

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Look at this beautiful plate of comfort food! Roasted chicken! Fresh rolls! Macaroni salad! Potato filling (aka mashed potatoes and gravy)!

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On this visit, I decided to mix things up and order the chicken croquettes, which are shredded, breaded, fried, and covered in gravy. Again, nothing’s fancy, but the food and – more importantly – the company is the ultimate in comfort.

If you’re in the area and you want to visit:

Kauffman’s BBQ Restaurant (Facebook)
33 Gravel Pit Rd. (map it!)
Bethel, PA 19507
(717) 933-8415
Open Wed-Fri, 4-9p; Sat & Sun, 11a-9p
kauffmansbbqrestaurant.com

Bergen Bagels | Brooklyn, NY

Bergen Bagels (Facebook / @BergenBagelsMyr)
536 Myrtle Ave. (map it!)
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 789-9300
Open daily 6a-11p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

In addition to our sweet stop at Dough on our way out of Brooklyn, we wanted something savory as well. Because we couldn’t return home without a bag of fresh bagels, we decided to double-up and grab second breakfast while picking up the goods.

A quick online search revealed a nearby Bergen Bagels, which boasted a good history and solid reviews. This location had recently moved to a new spot, which was clean, bright, and easy-to-find. The location was so new that Google Maps still had the old place listed.

We caught it right at opening, and lines quickly grew. If native Brooklyners were gathering for bagel breakfasts, then we knew we were in the right place.

There’s something really delightful about catching a restaurant right when they open, when the displays are neatly organized and completely loaded with food.

And the spreads and salads are packed full of goodness. It’s so full of potential.

We were in bagel mode, so it was breakfast sandwiches for us. My wife chose their smoked salmon spread on an everything bagel. It was appropriately smoky and salty, with the right creamy texture, and went perfectly with the all-flavors-combined of the everything bagel.

And I was stunned to learn of the existence of an egg-in-the-nest bagel sandwich. Why, oh why, have I never thought of this before? It’s. So. Obvious. To make eggs in a nest, you need bread with a hole in the middle, in which to crack an egg. So why not a bagel? (Or a donut… hmm, future blog post in the making here…)

I know I’m over-reacting, but come on! Even though the egg was added after the bagel was baked, I loved how the egg still felt like it was just part of the bagel itself.

Here’s the bottom view. Egg yolk appropriately cooked through.

And the work in progress. It’s a surprisingly filling breakfast: a monstrous mound of fresh, chewy everything bagel with a fully cooked egg. Salty, nutty. Carbs and protein. If I lived in the neighborhood, this would be my everyday snack.

Of course, we took a baker’s dozen of bagels home with us, and enjoyed every one. If there’s anything I learned on this NY trip, it’s how to appreciate a good everything bagel.

Bergen Bagels on Myrtle on Urbanspoon

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