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

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!

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  1. 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. 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

        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

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

          1. re: tex.s.toast

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

            1. 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

                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

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

                  1. re: LNG212

                    The rest of us are "in line" :)

                    1. re: Hobbert

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

                  2. re: tex.s.toast

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

                    1. re: kurtt

                      A bagel between two bagels.

                      (Rolls eyes)

                    2. re: thegforceny

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

                        1. re: debinqueens

                          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

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

                        2. "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. 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

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

                              1. re: Monica

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

                                1. re: Motosport

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

                              2. re: Motosport

                                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

                                  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

                                    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

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

                                      1. re: Monica

                                        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

                                          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

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

                                2. 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. 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

                                      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

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

                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

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

                                      2. 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. "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

                                            "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. 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

                                              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. 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

                                                  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

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

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