|The Real Thing at bagels and
Sometimes in life we overlook the obvious, as I remembered while gathering material for future Bay Bites. In keeping up with restaurants Solomons to Pasadena, I often find myself charting unfamiliar territories. Whats new, whats hot, where are people going, whats yet to be discovered? Yet I was discounting the one eatery I visit regularly, bagels and
doesnt fit traditional review criteria (never open past 3pm, no wine list, and no waitstaff), but it dominates a competitive food class.
As you may gather from its name, bagels and
specializes in bagels and a tasty array of related baked goods and accouterments.
The unassuming location in the shopping center at the intersection of West Street and Route 2 provides sit-down convenience while a sister site in the Grauls strip in West Annapolis offers take-out orders only.
With bagels homogenized and commercialized in recent years, it is a treat to find a family run business that takes pride in their baked fresh quality and secret recipes. Having lived in New York and New Jersey, I can assure you this is the closest youll get to the real thing with out a three-hour drive north.
Authenticity should not be doubted, for owners Charlie Cea, a former civil engineer, and his wife Eileen learned the business in New York from Mrs. Ceas family, who run nearly a dozen bagel shops in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. They opened the Parole location in 1983.
With two full-time bakers on premise, you are guaranteed freshness. Varieties of bagels number 20, with the most popular cinnamon raisin and plain. Cream cheese is also made in-house and in many different varieties. Choose a traditional plain or scallion; veggie or lox; horseradish bacon or olive; or sweet spread of blueberry, strawberry, chocolate chip or walnut raisin. Cea estimates they go through 300 pounds of cream cheese per week.
Business starts early, with doors open at 6:30am. Table space is limited, and if you want to eat in you may have to wait on a busy weekend. Weekday mornings (except Monday when they are closed) youre apt to find groups of regulars talking politics, sports or local events in open discussion with personal opinions freely expressed. Weekends see an increase in take-out business with bags of bagels and pounds of cream cheese ordered for all-day snacking.
The focal point of the shop is bakery cases displaying cookies, sweets and cream cheese, behind which is the small prep area and hanging baskets full and racks of featured bagels and breads. A large menu board is hung above the counter and additional specials placards adorn the walls. During peak hours, a line leads from entrance to counter. If you dont know what youre ordering, its best to step back and ponder, because the counter help is very efficient and moves people through quickly. Those in the know belly up towards the counter and enjoy a free nibble of bagel pieces and cream cheese, usually offered next to the registers.
offers some unique sandwich combinations. My standard plan on a weekend is to stop in for a sandwich and, before leaving, stock up on some bagels and cheese. My usual request is what is called a tuna luna ($4.89), all-white albacore tuna salad served open face with melted muenster cheese. Tomato is a special request. I vary bagel choice with my mood; however, poppy or everything work well. The plate is completed with a small cup of potato salad and dill kosher pickle (cole slaw and chips are also options).
Other standouts include the Eastsider ($4.39) with chopped liver, hot pastrami and Russian dressing; the Sunday special ($7.55) with your choice of cream cheese and nova lox served open faced with onions, tomatoes and Greek olives. My friend adds Swiss cheese for utter decadence. A special I have yet to try is the owners delight ($4.39) with ham and Swiss cheese served open faced with mounds of cream cheese on a cinnamon raisin bagel. Im waiting for the right day for that one.
For breakfast, Im partial to the Shroom ($2.29) with egg, mushroom and American cheese served on a buttered bagel of choice and the power bagel ($2.95) with veggie cream cheese, tomato, onion, sprouts and muenster cheese.
Of course theres plenty more to choose from, as well as new combinations arrived at through experimentation. With authentic Jewish delicacies like white-fish salad, chopped herring and freshly baked challah bread, the true nature of a classic New York bagel shop comes shining through.
2019 West Street Annapolis
Proprietors: Charlie and Eileen Cea
Reason to go: The best bagels around. Try the jalapeno cheese for a change.
Something to think about: Family run specialty stores are a dying breed. Isnt it worth the extra effort to patronize one versus the potentially more convenient corporate franchise?