Bagels in Columbia, SC
Gotham Bagel (on Main Street, a little north of the State House) just opened up today. Given how lousy the bagel scene is here I had been looking forward to the opening of this shop, which appears to be a small chain.
I popped in this morning and had a plain bagel to test things out. How hard is it to make a real bagel, folks? It must be really hard, because as far as I know, no one in Columbia is doing it. Gotham seems to embrace the "roll with a hole" definition of a bagel, so their bagels are mushy with insubstantial crusts.
Now it would be unfair to make a final judgment on the place based on one visit on their first day, so I will try them again, but I am not very optimistic.
What else is there? The Holey Dough up at Trenholm Plaza was okay, but they are now closed and as far as I can tell their downtown branch is, too (correct me if I'm wrong). Is it really true that the best bet for picking up a dozen bagels in this town is Bruegger's?
The re-emergence of this thread put me in the mood for a bagel and I thought to myself, why not try that Gotham Bagel place just one more time? "Sure, the previous visit was so bad that I haven't been back in five months," I thought to myself, "but that was not long after they opened, and places do improve." So this morning I went to pick up half a dozen bagels. I found the entire experience depressing. The bagels look so sad there. Dull, not shiny, with some rough edges, often linked siamese-twin style with another carelessly crafted sibling. Their mere appearance made me want to leave, but I had already made the trip. "Anything hot, or still warm?" I asked. Nope. Alright. "What's this Glenforest Bagel I heard about?" Answer: "A blueberry bagel with cream cheese with sprinkles on the cream cheese." "What?" A blueberry bagel is bad enough, but sprinkles? SPRINKLES? Why not just go to the supermarket and buy a bag of sugar and be done with it folks? I'm not Ed Levine (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/31/din...), but I do have some standards.
I got my bagels and departed. They have not changed. They are big airy toroidal rolls. They are AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL. And what makes it worse is the "New York" connotations that the name of this establishment evokes. We are one step closer to the death of the bagel. The owners of this business should be ashamed.
I have to say this place was a total disappointment. Not only were the bagels underwhelming but the worse part about the place was the service.
On my first visit I ordered a Salt bagel with lox spread. When I went up to the counter a lady came up and took my order but informed me that she "didn't know when my order would be ready" since most of the staff were just hanging out outside the building. To make it worse, the place wasn't busy at all. I was the only person waiting on an order. 10 minutes later I got my bagel. This wasn’t a big deal and didn't really bother me since I'm not really one to judge a place on one visit. So I just ignored it and looked at it just one of those days that is bound to happen.
As to the bagel, wow what a disappointment. The bagel didn't have ANY crunch to it and as to the chewiness? Forget about it. There was barely any chew to it, it was closer to a roll than a bagel. Is it that hard to boil a bagel before baking it? The boiling step is really needed on these bagels.The spread wasn't any better, much of the lox in the spread had the consistency of mush. However on my second visit the spread was MUCH better with nice large chunks of lox.
Today I decided to give the place another shot and try a different bagel. When I went up to the counter and gave my order of "Two everything bagels, 1 untoasted and 1 toasted with lox spread" she just gave me this blank look on her face like I was stupid for a few seconds and blurted out "What?" Seems like no big deal, right? Maybe she didn't hear me. No... The reason was because she didn't want to write down my order. Yes she casually said this to the employee next to her.
As to the bagel, same experience as my first visit though as mentioned before the spread but much better this time around.
I REALLY wanted to like this place, I absolutely love bagels and the fact the only places to get one in Cola. are from grocery stores and chains like Brueggers, Einstein, and DD sucks. However this place needs a lot of work.
I just tried Gotham for the first time this morning myself, and, I must say, I really enjoyed the salt bagel I had with plain cream cheese. It was fresh, with a crunchy crust and an airy center.
And, for Columbia, I must say that the service was excellent. Three separate employees were friendly and attentive, and i LOVED not having to spread my own cream cheese!
I'll definitely try it again, next time for coffee.
Panera's Asiago bagel is very good, too...
Early in January I stopped in and was told by Mr. Finkelstein (owner's husband?) that they would open on Jan. 12 (which they did not) and make great bagels that wouldn't go stale quickly (real bagels always go stale very fast) even though, he admitted, they would not be boiled. I will give them a try but until proven otherwise, my vote here in Columbia or Lexington, is Brueggers. Holey Dough used to be a Manhattan franchise and thus quite good, but he decided to drop the franchise and buy frozen unbaked bagels from a supplier in NJ. Good roots, perhaps, but poor marketing, so now he is out of business.
You have solved a mystery for me, hn2201! A while back , before it closed, it seemed like Holey Dough's bagels changed, for the worse. I even asked an employee once whether they had changed the recipe. She said "no." I was left puzzled, thinking I had earlier misjudged their quality. Thanks for the info.
Here is an article in a local paper about the owner of this place. See http://www.thecolumbiastar.net/news/2.... If you read it, you will see why I had such high hopes.
She lived in Rockville Centre, NY! That means she was no more than 15 minutes away from what, in my opinion, are among the best bagels in the world: Stuff N' Bagels, in Oceanside, the next town over.
She was born in Montclair, NJ. They have really good bagels in Montclair, too, or at least they did way back when I was familiar with the area. When I was a boy the guys at the local bagel place in Montclair would sometimes show me and my brother around behind the counter, and we'd see the big vats in which the bagels were boiled, and the big ovens in which they were baked.
She went to Queens College, for goodness sake! In Queens. The woman must know what a bagel is.
I am going to have to go back to this Gotham place. The first visit must have been a one-off. Right? Right? Anyone?