Now I care far less than Ruggieri about the decor of my bagel purveyors. I’m not sure what background (and I don’t mean to doubt it) makes her a “bagel snob” and I don’t want to sound contrarian, but nearly every worthy bagel shop I’ve entered from Delaware to Manhattan is a little on the plain and utilitarian side. Sometimes even hole-in-the-wall. What matters is the bagels, and here’s where things started to disappoint.
Having tasted Cupertino’s wares a number of times, I’m doubtful these bagels were their work. While the West End deli and bagel shop isn’t quite like the Tri-State area, they at least have that slightly crispy skin on the outside with a slightly chewy interior. The Bagel Czar, on the other hand, was a bit too chewy for my taste the whole way through. It’s not simply the subjective evidence that makes me question the origin of these bagels, though. Their own website has the following message in the title bar of the browser: “Bagel Czar: serving authentic NY H&H bagels to the greater Richmond community.” So I asked the gent behind the bar this morning where they procured their dough and he told me that it’s not even H&H anymore. The bagels were apparently too small and – surprise – couldn’t stay fresh that long coming all the way from NYC. So they switched to some distributor whose name he couldn’t quite recall for sure; either “Walther” or “Walter” or some such place, and he didn’t know where they were located.
Is it possible that at 7:30 AM the wage employee didn’t really know who dropped off the food? Sure. Is it possible Cupertino’s owns a truck with some other name on the side? Sure. But if these are indeed their bagels, then I have greater cause for disappointment since it would mean the quality is slipping.
Granted, the bagel I had wasn’t terrible. I like to test a new place by trying a plain bagel with butter (or an egg bagel if they make them – sadly, not at the Bagel Czar, but available at Cupertino’s), and this was decent. Look, if you’re a student who can’t hoof it out to Cox Road for a worthwhile bagel, this place beats the crap out of whatever Kroger has to offer. But if you can and are willing to drive a little, the Bagel Czar isn’t worth your time.
UPDATE: The proprietor of Cupertino’s told me that the Bagel Czar does, indeed, carry his bagels. I dunno if perhaps they don’t always have fresh stock (and I haven’t exactly returned), but unless I’m desperate for time, I’d rather make the trek to the Far West End and get them from the man himself.