Finding a good bagel in the Twin Cities can be somewhat of a challenge, and the topic certainly incites some heated discussion. Some would say you're fighting a losing battle even looking for a tasty bagel in these parts, and that your best bet is to hop on a plane heading east.
If jetting to New York City for a taste of the "real deal" isn't in your future, fear not. You can find a decent bagel at several places right here in the Twin Cities.
While the Bruegger's chain makes a good bagel, we wanted to see what some local, independent bagelries had on offer. We challenged Common Roots Cafe and St. Paul Bagelry & Deli to a throw-down to see who came out on top in a battle of the bagels.
St. Paul Bagelry & Deli
St. Paul Bagelry occupies an odd spot in a Roseville strip mall, sharing its space with Maui Wowi, a Hawaiian smoothie and coffee joint. If you think this might make for an awkward and somewhat confused atmosphere, you're right. Bagels and Hawaiian smoothies don't exactly scream "made for each other."
Despite appearances and ambiance, what we're really here for are the bagels, and St. Paul Bagelry makes them from scratch every day. In terms of flavors and toppings, you'll find everything from chocolate chip bagels to jalapeño cheese to the Hawaiian (perhaps a nod to their neighbors?), which features fresh coconut and dried pineapple and sounds more than a little odd.
The plain bagel with cream cheese costs $2.40 (with tax) and has a great golden color and a crunchy exterior. The chew factor was good too, but sadly the flavor is rather lacking. We couldn't detect anything of the malted flavor one would expect in a classic plain bagel nor any hint of salt, which made for a somewhat lackluster experience.
Common Roots Cafe
The bagels at Common Roots in Uptown are completely straightforward. Options are limited to popular standards like plain, sesame, onion, whole wheat, and poppy seed, and we like it that way. Freakish cream cheese flavors and bagels stuffed with chocolate chips need not apply.
Common Roots' plain bagel with spread will set you back $2.69 (with tax). Bagels are hand-rolled and boiled, giving them an endearing wonky look and a great chew that won't give you jaw-ache. We would have liked more of a crunch to the top crust of these slightly pale bagels, although they scored extra points for the faint dusting of cornmeal on the bottom side that added a hint of different flavor and texture. However, even toasted there was not really enough crunch for our liking.
The chewiness of these bagels is a great vehicle for their thick and salty-sweet plain cream cheese, which is thankfully not plastered on too thick like so many other places do -- there's just the right amount. Overall a great bagel that could have more crunch and more of a malted flavor.
The Winner Common Roots. While St. Paul Bagelry's bagels had a nice crunch and a great chew, their plain bagel was really lacking in the flavor department, and overall their bagels were too soft and bready to taste like the real deal. At Common Roots the quality of ingredients shone through with great flavor in all the bagels we tried. While the bagels there could have offered more of a crunch, they had great chewiness and a subtle malt flavor, essential in giving bagels their unique taste.
St. Paul Bagelry & Deli 1702 Lexington Ave N., Roseville 651.488.1700; St. Paul Bagelry's website
Hours Monday - Friday: 6 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday: 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday: 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Common Roots Cafe 2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis 612.871.2360; Common Roots Cafe's website
Hours Monday -Friday: 7 a.m. - 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: 8 a.m. - 11 p.m.