Bag a Bunch of Bagels

Twin Cities bagels, revealed, celebrated, or mocked mercilessly, depending on which paragraph you read

Offenses against humanity: None. Except that it's going to be impossible to drive through Uptown once they put up those huge condo towers behind Zeno. What? I know it has nothing to do with Zeno, I'm just saying. I also think things from the Design Within Reach store look a lot better in the catalog then they do in person. Yes, I'm done now.


The Brothers' Deli, 50 S. Sixth St., Skyway Level, Minneapolis; 612.341.8007
Bagels: Brothers' also air-freights bagels in from H&H, so everything I said about Zeno's bagels also holds for Brothers'.

Weight: Excellent, especially if you get your bagel toasted with lox and cream cheese for $5.39, or extra-extra stuffed for $9.09, which grants you an all-access-pass to the pickle bar filled with New York deli classics like pickled beets, three-bean salad, half-sour pickles, and the works.

Extra points: I saw a trio of sexy business blondes, you know the type, with the $300-an-hour colorists and the Tahari suits? Anyhoo, each and every one of these well-Pilates'd beauties was lustily tearing into an overstuffed New York deli sandwich. Is there a secret rebellion brewing against the anorexic twerps of InStyle, and In Touch? Oh Lord, please make it so.

Offenses against humanity: None.


Cecil's Delicatessen, 651 S. Cleveland Ave. S.,
St Paul; 651.698.0334
Bagels: Really awful. I called up St. Paul's most venerable and beloved deli just to check whether they made their own bagels, although I was quite sure they didn't. They do. And I wish I'd never asked. When I visited I got pale, Wonder Bread-like bagels. If you take one between thumb and forefinger, and slowly pinch, your fingers will readily meet and have only a millimeter or two of bagel between them. That just ain't right. They also taste floury and uncooked.

Weight: Marshmallowlike.

Extra points: Nice blintzes, excellent grilled sandwiches, fresh, hot potato latkes whenever you want them. A St. Paul institution.

Crime against humanity: I feel like I'm kicking puppies, saying something bad about Cecil's. Whatever possessed me to write about bagels, anyway? And all I had to do to not make trouble for myself was shut up and stay home. Will I never learn?


Bruegger's Bagels; multiple locations
Bagels: Good, especially when compared with the other chains. A few years ago when I did my last bagel roundup, I found Bruegger's to be the absolute bottom of the barrel, making bagels I remember as floury pucklike objects. I don't think I'd been there since, but in 2004 the Vermont-based chain went through an ownership change and reinvigorated itself, and it's now much improved.

Weight: Good. The Bruegger's bagels I tried had telltale teensy blisters on the outside, meaning that they were misted with water before baking to give the crust a nice chew, an extra effort that I both recognize and appreciate. They're not as distinct and personality-plus as the St. Paul Bagelry bagels or the H&H imports, but in my roundup I found Bruegger's to be the best of the chain-bagel bagels.

Extra points: Spend as much time in bagel chains as I have, and it becomes clear that these businesses are at war with their product. You can almost hear the focus groups whining, "Bagels are too hard, and they hurt my teeth. I would like them to be more like toaster strudel. Without carbs." Kudos to Bruegger's for making their super-soft non-bagels a different product line: the puffy, pouffy, balloonlike square bagel.

Crime against humanity: What is xanthan? Why is it in so many things, including my tub of Bruegger's onion and chive cream cheese? It sounds like a place Klingons live, or possibly a musical instrument from the Caucasus. Oh, don't tell me xanthan gum is a microbial desiccation-resistant polymer prepared commercially by aerobic submerged fermentation, I can Google things too. I just don't want to.


Chesapeake Bagel Bakery, 7230 Valley Creek Rd., Woodbury; 651.578.1922
Bagels: Puffy, soft, and flaccid.

Weight: Just hefty enough to be recognizable as a bagel.

Extra points: A friend of mine dropped by while I was examining some bagels and, misreading the bag, asked, "What's Cheesy Peak?" at which point I replied: "It's pronounced Cheesy Low." Hoo boy! That was a good one.

Crimes against humanity: Numerous. First, Chesapeake is the number-one bagel source for bagels with glossy frosting and multicolored sprinkles. You could get a chocolate-frosted bagel bite ($.59) that looks like an éclair. You could get a blueberry bagel topped with frosting and purpleish candy doohickeys. Or, if you're completely insane, you can pay $1.89 for a cranberry-orange frosted bagel knot, a Big Mac-sized knot of bready, underdone bagel dough topped with a greasy lid of sugar icing. I did this. It kind of reminded me of getting one of those pans of cinnamon rolls from the grocery store and spreading the icing on a cold pizza crust, and it kind of reminded me of the last time I got shocked by a light fixture and fell off my ladder.

The second major problem at Chesapeake is that far too many bad, cafeteria-trendy ideas from the last 20 years live on here. I mean, don't even think of going to another restaurant on earth when you want a Cordon Bleu melt on a croissant, your date craves a Baja chicken wrap with ranch dressing, and you both want to wash it down with some Cheeseburger Deluxe soup. I think the highlight of my visit was the Fargo-like moment when, at the only other occupied table, a woman suddenly shrieked, "Jeez, you got a lotta friends with problems!" Or, it might have been when I threw out the iced knot.

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