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February 04, 2009



What can be said of bagels when they broke from their ethnic/geographic origins can be said of pizza - so much of the good was lost in translation. The midwest stuck hamburger meat on the pie and created the artery-clogging slop that is deep-dish pizza. Californians put pineapple on it. Sauce got bland and sweet, dough lost its proper density and plasticity.

Let us shudder for a moment at the horror that was hippie pizza, with its whole wheat crusts and alfalfa sprouts as topping and tomato slices making the whole works sopping wet. Or its obnoxious offspring, the California yuppie 'gourmet' pizza (caviar and french chesses as toppings).

Bad as that all this, though, it doesn't compare to the culinary rape that is the strawberry/cherry/blueberry bagel, which I first encountered in Iowa. I think the midwest owes some kinds of reparation payment for that, or at least a awkward hearing before a truth & reconciliation committee.


Here in the UK, small bagel shops in London and some other cities with a large Jewish population offer the real deal. Bagel and sandwich chains offer tasteless slop. There's a product called New York Bagels that's sold in supermarkets and advertises on TV. I haven't seen any blueberry bagels or the like sold anywhere: the varities so far offered by the imposters include poppyseed, multigrain, onion, and cinnamon and raisin. Apparently in Glasgow bagels and lox is eaten without cheese cheese but with a squeeze of lemon. A few years ago I saw a bagel and lox like this being ordered on a show called "The Fabulous Bagel Boys". It was a pilot about a Glasgow detective who has a brother who runs a kosher deli. It was very good and it was a pity it didn't get commisioned.


For the best bagel and bialy in the Chicago area:

New York Bagel & Bialy Corp
4714 W Touhy Ave
(between Keating Ave & Kilpatrick Ave)
Lincolnwood, IL 60712
(847) 677-9388

I've been going there for over 30 years and they have never disappointed me.


Midwesterners cannot help it. They think "crappy food" is "normal food." However, they have mastered the Art of The Bratwurst. I will give them that much.

It would take well over 3 trillion Dollars in stimulus funds to make any noticeable dent in either eating habits or food quality in that region of our Once-Great Land.


G is right. The one in Lincolnwood is the best in the area. Also, 365-24-7

fatty jubbo

thanks, G- I will definitely try it if I'm ever out that way.

wapsie- midwest pizza! another abomination! I was quite perplexed when someone ordered pizza and it came cut into squares and the crust tasted like a buttery croissant and the scab of cheese came sliding off on the first bite. while in St. Louis, someone brought me to a St. Louis style pizza place (???) which consisted of a sludge of cheddar and swiss on a big saltine cracker. yum!


Midwestern bagels do generally suck, so get some real bread from a nice Italian/German/Polish bakery. There are plenty of them in Chicago. Bagels are pretty much overrated anyway. Put a quality New York bagel next to a hunk of olive or rosemary bread from an Italian bakery and...well, I know what I will be eating.


I third the vote for New York Bagel & Bialy. I've never tried NY Style Bagels, but I'd be surprised if they're better or even as good as NYB&B. It's right near the highway, so you can get up there pretty fast. And I think they're open all night.

Big A: not all midwesteners are without taste. Toober: good bagels are not overrated.


As with Bagels you can get good pizza in Chicago, you just have to know where to go. Spacca Napoli serves a great Neapolitan style pizza, and Coalfire has an somewhat Americanized version that's also excellent. I've heard that Vito and Nick's on the southside is the best thin crust but haven't gotten there yet. Burt's Place in Morton Grove has a unique style that was recently featured in Saveur magazine, and is truly wonderful.

fatty jubbo

coalfire is good.

but the thing with pizza here is that it's always a goddamn ordeal- like they are serving me a meal. I just was a greasy slice for cheap and not have it served with a fork and knife. Luigi's in Lincoln Park is good!


The best thing about Chicago food is the Mexican restaurants here. Of course Rick Bayless has the famous one, but there are a number of others just as good, and less crowded with tourists. Maiz and it's sister place Tamalli are delicious and really authentic. Sol de Mexico is also outstanding. Mixteco Grill is both sublime and near where I live/work, in fact maybe I'll go there for lunch and get some uchepos gratinados. LTH Forum is the best resource for information on Chicago area restaurants, a little browsing of the expert opinions there totally disproves BigA's claim "Midwesterners cannot help it. They think 'crappy food' is 'normal food.'"

E.O. Smonk

The #1 oasis of authentic bagels in the Midwest is Common Roots Cafe in Minneapolis. Legit as hell.


Standard East-coast jingoism. NYC itself has fully converted to "bagel sandwiches," as if such a thing were possible. No, long before midwestern shops were selling tasteless rolls with holes, New York was pioneering the 'bloated bread dressed as bagel' (e.g. H&H, Essa). It's not the spread to the midwest that destroyed the bagel (in fact there have long been amazing bagelries in Detroit that serve better traditional bagels than anywhere in the NYC area). It was instead the spread through NYC itself that destroyed it, and the international fake-bagel chains have merely copied what New Yorkers now hold so dear.

Anyway, you'd never expect to find a reasonable bagel at any of the highly esteemed NYC bagel shops, so you shouldn't expect any more from a random midwest shop.


You write very well - I could smell the bagels and was salivating along with you... I'm on a mostly wheat-free / gluten-free diet too. Have reached that time in life when almost anything makes me put on fat weight and water weight!
One tip I use for cravings: if your cravings get too bad and you eat too many bagels, try to buy them only from somewhere you have to travel to quite a long way, so that you'll never buy more than a couple a week. Then you can spend the rest of the week looking forward to them!

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