If you’ve visited New York City, you probably returned with a single question burning in your thoughts. No, not, “How do New Yorkers grocery shop?” or, “Do New Yorkers really meet and fall in love at art galleries?” but “Why does the pizza there taste better than anywhere else?”
This mystery has baffled Big Apple visitors for over a century. And it doesn’t end with the city’s pizza. It extends to its bagels, which a friend who grew up in the Bronx claimed easily trump any bagel she’s eaten since moving to the South.
I pondered this puzzle after visiting New York in 2007 and sampling the local fare. (”Indulging” would be a better word; I might still be jogging off my breakfasts at Riverdale Bagels.) Common wisdom suggests the water used to make the dough is the answer, but my friend says New Yorkers simply excel at making pizza and bagels after decades of practice.
When pressed, she says the chefs there probably know a thing or two about fermentation, too, but she refused to say more, as if she’d be breaking a code of silence.
Fortunately, Chattanoogans who can’t get the pizza and bagels they consumed up north can satisfy their cravings at one of the local pizzerias, delis or bagel shops that offer New York-style food, right?
Nothing against our city’s outstanding eateries, but a New York-style pizza or bagel is not a New York pizza or bagel. Even when it’s good, it’s still an emulation.
Fortunately, there is one place where a Scenic City resident can buy a New York bagel without shelling out a small fortune for an airline ticket and cab fare: Eggman Bagelry.
Tucked almost invisibly within Five Wits Brewing Company at 1501 Long Street, Eggman can claim to sell genuine New York bagels because that’s precisely where they get their dough.
And it’s precisely where I’m getting bagels from now on.
I ate my first Eggman bagel while sitting at the bar at Five Wits on a tranquil Sunday morning. Although the place eventually began to fill, my thoughts and I had the place to ourselves as we looked over the menu.
As I scanned the spreads, which Eggman will smear across a plain, French toast, blueberry or everything bagel, I did not yet know their dough is made in New York. Even so, I liked the idea of biting into an everything bagel covered with scallion cream cheese or nova lox spread.
I was still clueless when I spotted the avocado, egg and cheese breakfast bagel and decided it would make a good meal.
My ignorance continued right up to the moment when I first bit into the bagel I ordered and told the server I could close my eyes and imagine I was at Riverdale in New York.
“We buy our dough from New York City,” she smiled, as if she liked revealing that vital bit of information only after seeing her customers’ eyes light up.
Eggman doesn’t just ship in their dough from New York, they toast their bagels perfectly, which means they’re crunchy and tan on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Pair this with any of the toppings I mentioned earlier and you’ll be singing “New York, New York” after one bite.
OK, that’s silly, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the city’s bagels inspired the song.
Eggman doesn’t stop there. Rather, everything they slip within the two halves of their bagels match the breadstuff bite for bite. After enjoying my breakfast bagel, I ordered a Classic Smoked Salmon to go, knowing I’d be missing the freshly toasted warmth but wanting to taste the combination of lox, cream cheese, tomato, onions and capers after my appetite returned.
And, yeah, it was delicious, too – not to mention piled thick with generous slices of lox.
The Classic Smoked Salmon is just one of several specialty bagel sandwiches available at Eggman, all of which stir the imagination. Meat lovers might prefer the Breakfast Bagel, for example, which consists of a cheeseburger, a fried egg, griddle onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and a special sauce.
Pastrami and chicken are also on the menu, while people who eschew animal products might appreciate the Freakin’ Vegan, which comes with roasted red pepper hummus, avocado, tomato, red onion and artichoke.
If you’re watching your carbs but your breakfast or lunch companion is crying for a bagel, Eggman also serves a variety of three-egg omelets.
Local foodies will understand the significance of Eggman being a Monen Family Restaurant Group original, which means it’s locally owned and operated and is riding on the same mothership as Urban Stack, Community Pie, Taco Mamacita and other superb local establishments.
Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Eggman is worth the drive to the city, as well as the minute or two cruising up and down Long Street looking for the sign.
Buying local is important because the food can be fresher and it keeps your dollars in the city, but when it comes to bagels, don’t feel bad if you have a craving no New York-style bagel shop can satisfy.