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How to place my order like a local at Ess-A-Bagel?

pizzajunkie Nov 4, 2013 11:53 AM

Every year for about the past six years, I make a trip to Ess-A-Bagel as part of my annual trip to NYC. I eat a bagel there and get bagels to take on the plane home. I know that there is a separate line for the to-go bagels. But how can I walk up and order my bagel (I am a purist, I just want a plain bagel, cream cheese, not toasted) and coffee and look/sound like I know what I'm doing? Do locals say "schmear"?

One employee in particular named Monte has good-naturedly given me a hard time more than once (ordering bottled water: "You want that wet?"). Please help me sound like I know what I'm doing when I place my order!

  1. d
    dyrewolf Nov 4, 2013 12:12 PM

    the key to sounding local is to refer to everyone else as "yewz guyz" i.e. "Can yewz guyz make me a regula wit a schmear and gimme anodda dozen to go"

    Or don't sweat it... and break out a little, get an everything with lox spread.. locals don't order plain.

    And Ess a in midtown is quite accustomed to the tourist trade and likes your $$ just fine so take the ribbing and be your hayseed self.

    1. t
      tex.s.toast Nov 4, 2013 12:29 PM

      the two keys to ordering (anything) like a NYer are to make endless specific request to differentiate it (a bagel example would be asking for your everything bagel "scooped out" - that is with some of the innards removed - toasted, "but lightly" with cream cheese "not too much" and bacon "extra crispy"). the second key is taking enough paper napkins to supply a medium sized developing nation for a year even though the item you are eating will be consumed within four bites.

      in all seriousness, though, one local vs tourist shibboleth ive discovered is that NYers love the use of the term "regular" to describe what others might call plain. its not a cheese slice, or a plain slice, its a regular slice. its not a plain bagel, its a regular bagel, with regular cream cheese.

      3 Replies
      1. re: tex.s.toast
        LNG212 Nov 4, 2013 01:03 PM

        My god you've just totally described my husband with that napkin thing! Thanks for the laugh.

        The exception to the "regular" rule would be at a coffee cart where regular usually denotes cream and sugar. Not that anybody on this board buys that type of coffee anymore. :-)

        And I totally agree with the "endless specifications". We NYers just like things the way we like 'em! I prefer my everything bagel lightly toasted buttered on only one half.

        Enjoy your bagels!

        1. re: tex.s.toast
          Monica Nov 4, 2013 01:38 PM

          You are making me hungry. I am having toasted bagel with cream cheese for breakfast tomorrow.

          1. re: tex.s.toast
            Ttrockwood Nov 4, 2013 03:49 PM

            Ha!! You are sooooo right! (No, not that one, the bagel next to it!) hyper specificity is key.

          2. Monica Nov 4, 2013 12:42 PM


            1. t
              thegforceny Nov 4, 2013 01:05 PM

              These comments are silly. Don't try to talk like you're in some cliche 1940s film. Just think about how a bagel sandwich is made, the steps the person behind the counter is taking, and order logically.

              Have your order ready when you're up and say: "Plain, untoasted with plain cream cheese, for here/or 'to go'"

              That's it.

              8 Replies
              1. re: thegforceny
                tex.s.toast Nov 4, 2013 01:21 PM

                FAIL - if youre not taking it "to-go" you are having it "to-stay" another NY shibboleth that sounded weird at first and ive now gotten used to (still refusing to abide standing "on-line" unless im using my internet enabled smart phone)

                1. re: tex.s.toast
                  LNG212 Nov 4, 2013 01:23 PM

                  If you're not on line, how do you say it? (Not a smart ass, just a native NYer.)

                  1. re: LNG212
                    Hobbert Nov 4, 2013 01:28 PM

                    The rest of us are "in line" :)

                    1. re: Hobbert
                      LNG212 Nov 4, 2013 01:43 PM

                      Huh okay. I'll have to pay attention for that next time I'm out of town. Thanks.

                  2. re: tex.s.toast
                    thegforceny Nov 4, 2013 01:26 PM

                    I bet if OP says "to stay" or "for here", he'll be fine. There will be no great misunderstanding.

                  3. re: thegforceny
                    kurtt Nov 4, 2013 01:38 PM

                    What's a "bagel sandwich'?

                    1. re: kurtt
                      thegforceny Nov 4, 2013 01:55 PM

                      A bagel between two bagels.

                      (Rolls eyes)

                    2. re: thegforceny
                      dyrewolf Nov 5, 2013 05:36 AM

                      So wait, we don't all sound like James Cagney??? Thanks for pointing that out...

                    3. d
                      debinqueens Nov 4, 2013 01:30 PM

                      the real key?

                      never order a blueberry bagel. ever.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: debinqueens
                        City Kid Nov 4, 2013 03:23 PM

                        Blueberry bagel-- an abomination!

                        1. re: debinqueens
                          tex.s.toast Nov 4, 2013 04:01 PM

                          and yet as a not-from-here type, the acceptance/popularity of green bagels on st patricks day seem very odd.

                          1. re: tex.s.toast
                            debinqueens Nov 4, 2013 07:31 PM

                            green bagels are acceptable when mold is involved. if not, only mcdonald's shamrock bagels with corned beef cream cheese will do.

                        2. Ttrockwood Nov 4, 2013 04:01 PM

                          "Hey. What kind is warm?" (Always get the warm ones!!) "ok, yeah- so lemme get that with regulah cream cheese. Not too much. And a small coffee- light milk, regular."
                          Get the dozen first, and please try their pumpernickle.

                          1. Motosport Nov 5, 2013 07:50 AM

                            The countermen at Ess-a-bagel are comedians. I love it.
                            Just order a plain with cream cheese, NOT toasted. When he starts making it say "Yo, I want the cream cheese on the inside this time!" You'll stop him in his tracks and give him some new material for the next client from Boise.
                            When he is done, order your coffee. SM, MED, LG- Don't say "Tall or Vente" A "regular" coffee has some sugar and milk.
                            I should start a new business giving lessons in ordering in NYC!!!! Yeah, that's the ticket!!

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Motosport
                              Monica Nov 5, 2013 07:53 AM

                              First one's gotta be Shopsin's...

                              1. re: Monica
                                Motosport Nov 5, 2013 08:01 AM

                                Never been to Shopsin's. After seeing his movie we took it off our list.

                                1. re: Motosport
                                  Monica Nov 5, 2013 10:23 AM

                                  I never saw the movie but my experience was wonderful...I was very impressed with 2 sandwiches we ordered.

                              2. re: Motosport
                                coll Nov 5, 2013 10:26 AM

                                Don't forget, besides "regular" coffee, you have "light" (milk only) or "sweet" (sugar only). You don't usually specify the amounts of these add-ins though.

                                1. re: Motosport
                                  dyrewolf Nov 5, 2013 11:38 AM

                                  Funny, I rememer their schtick from back when I worked in the 'hood and they saw me a lot. That would be a funny retort.

                                  And not all NYers are super specific...

                                  1. re: dyrewolf
                                    Motosport Nov 5, 2013 11:44 AM

                                    I like that they have a laminated foreign language menu.
                                    It can be quite a sideshow watching a group of Japanese women ordering. I do my best to offer guidance.

                                    1. re: Motosport
                                      Monica Nov 5, 2013 11:55 AM

                                      I am sure you don't really pay attention to Japanese men ordering. =p

                                      1. re: Monica
                                        Motosport Nov 5, 2013 12:30 PM

                                        For some reason the women seemed so much more totally animated than their male companions.
                                        The counterman was being very solicitous while showing them the menu then pointing out all of the different smoked fish.
                                        I was recalling a personal experience but it would have applied to most any nationality or gender.

                                        1. re: Motosport
                                          Monica Nov 5, 2013 12:43 PM

                                          I remember sitting on a bench at one of the shrines in Kyoto with my husband hearing Japanese women conversing near us. All that animated ohhhs and ahhhs with slighthly exaggerated voices. It was so funny that we had a hard time not laughing out loud...we just sat there listening to their ahhhhs and ohhhhs...we still talk about it and mimic their voices time to time.

                                          1. re: Monica
                                            Motosport Nov 5, 2013 12:48 PM

                                            monica, send me an email so we may organize a ch lunch.

                                2. v
                                  vinouspleasure Nov 5, 2013 10:14 AM

                                  politeness and a smile are a universal language. Don't worry about how NYers do it, which, for most of us, is no different than how you do order at home.

                                  1. pizzajunkie Nov 5, 2013 10:25 AM

                                    I am totally cracking up at these replies - thank you so much!! This helps a lot - I think I will order with the lox spread, definitely. I am counting down the days - Ess-A-Bagel is the best!!!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: pizzajunkie
                                      Monica Nov 5, 2013 10:30 AM

                                      They are not the best. I work a few blocks from Ess A bagel but I never buy their bagels. there are at least 2 bagel shops in NJ who bakes better bagels than Ess a bagel but that's a whole different topic.

                                      1. re: pizzajunkie
                                        Ttrockwood Nov 5, 2013 01:04 PM

                                        Lox "spread"? (((Cringe))) you mean cream cheese and lox i hope? ;)

                                        1. re: Ttrockwood
                                          dyrewolf Nov 5, 2013 01:19 PM

                                          Actually, while fresh sliced nova is better, the lox spread at essa is surprisingly good..

                                      2. jon Nov 5, 2013 12:43 PM

                                        you know that you can go to the line in the back, get a single bagel and a side of cream cheese and make it yourself, right? that's what i normally do.

                                        1. iluvcookies Nov 5, 2013 01:44 PM

                                          "Plain with cream cheese, regular coffee."

                                          You will get a plain bagel, not toasted, with cream cheese and a coffee with milk and a little sugar.

                                          It's not that hard.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: iluvcookies
                                            Motosport Nov 6, 2013 07:38 AM

                                            "Plain with cream cheese, regular coffee."
                                            Place the same order at Zucker's and you'll get a Poppy seed bagel, toasted, with butter and a large tea!!

                                          2. pizzajunkie Nov 13, 2013 10:55 AM

                                            So here's what happened Monday as my friends and I made our stop at Ess A Bagel before flying out. We split up and had one friend order the to-go bagels. I watched carefully the people in front of me and had already observed a "Don't get fancy, just tell me your order!" And a "Which one?! That one or THAT ONE?!" so I was already nervous. I believe I said, "one plain bagel, not toasted, lox spread, and one blueberry bagel [sorry CHs, my friend wanted blueberry], not toasted, with butter."

                                            The guy looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "We don't DO blueberry bagels." Oops. I know I've gotten my friend one there before. "Okay, a plain bagel then, with butter." He walked away and came back. "Just tell me how many plain bagels you want!!" I thought I'd been clear. "Two, please." Then I repeated the lox spread on the first and butter on the second, which ulimately proved to be a mistake on an untoasted bagel as it was not hot like it usually is. But the rest of the process went smoothly. We had decided to bring them back to the hotel to eat so I didn't have the stress of ordering coffee, LOL.

                                            Ironically, the person who had the most trouble was my friend who was trying to order bagels from the to-go/plain line. She asked for pumpernickel and plain and was advised that there would be a wait for both. Then the woman put a few plain bagels in a bag, disappeared, and never returned. Over five minutes passed. My other friend and I had already gotten our bagel orders and paid for them. Finally a new person appeared, just as a batch of plain bagels were being dumped into the bin, and my friend again placed her order, letting him know there was a bag somewhere with a few plain bagels in it. Geez!

                                            I really do love the bagels at Ess A Bagel, but their system is so weird to me! There was also a very pleasant older man urging everyone to "keep the line moving" which I found really odd because we have no control over how fast the line moves. Having said that, I will still go back every year for my bagels. ;)

                                            Thanks again to everyone for your very humorous and helpful advice! Had a blast in NY and can't wait to come back.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: pizzajunkie
                                              Motosport Nov 13, 2013 11:20 AM

                                              It's like a non plumber going to a plumbing supply place and ordering a 4 inch by 1 inch black gas line pipe with a reduction bushing and a 3/4 inch elbow.
                                              Somehow the counterman senses you don't know what's going on and makes a game out of it.
                                              Persevere!!!! It's all good!!!

                                              1. re: pizzajunkie
                                                Monica Nov 14, 2013 05:52 AM

                                                Hilarious..thanks for the laugh.

                                              2. p
                                                porkpa Nov 14, 2013 04:46 AM

                                                Why let yourself be intimidated? You are the customer. Order in a manner in which you are comfortable. If the counter person isn't happy with your order, then that's his problem. If he is a smarts, then answer him the same way.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: porkpa
                                                  dyrewolf Nov 14, 2013 05:06 AM

                                                  And the guys at Ess-a are just wise crackers... not a-holes If you can barely order in broken English or order just fine in a southern drawl... they will make your bagel just fine and hope you enjoy it

                                                  1. re: dyrewolf
                                                    Motosport Nov 14, 2013 07:26 AM

                                                    It's a non stop comedy routine. Welcome to NYC, enjoy!!

                                                2. Monica Nov 14, 2013 07:35 AM

                                                  Now, you need to go to Shopsin's and tell us how it went.

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