A bagel is nothing more than a dense ring of flour, water, yeast and salt - simple. But in my opinion, there is no better compliment to a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper than a good, hot bagel. Judging by the long lines outside bagel shops on weekend mornings, I’m not alone in this conviction.
At the request of a reader, I endeavored to find the best bagel in Montclair – only to determine that -- in this reviewer's opinion --it’s actually in Bloomfield! I purchased one "everything" style bagel from nine different bagel shops and delis across Montclair and, at the insistence of several Montclair residents, one shop in Bloomfield. I tasted each everything-style bagel without butter or spreads, and evaluated each bagel based on flavor, texture, how well each bagel was cooked, and presentation.
Here are my findings:
Coming in at clear number 1, is Hot Bagels Abroad (HBA), 1129 Broad Street, Bloomfield. There I bumped into several Montclair residents, who all agreed with my opinion that HBA Bloomfield is, without a doubt, the best bagel around.
The bagel at HBA Bloomfiled costs $0.90, which seems to be the going rate for a bagel without any butter, cream cheese, etc. A great bagel should be light and fluffy, never bready. Difficult to achieve from a baker's standpoint, but HBA Bloomfield has perfected it. The bagel at HBA Bloomfield was crisp on the outside, expertly toasted and golden. On the inside, it was soft and light. There was a plentiful crust of seeds and seasoning and the onion and garlic were toasted to the perfect extraction of flavor. It was the bomb!
Tied for second place are two favorite Montclair shops: Sunrise Bagel, in Watchung Plaza ($0.90) and Hot Bagels Abroad (also HBA) ($0.99) at 150 Valley Road, Montclair. The Sunrise bagel was big and delightfully light. However it lacked the supreme flavor extraction of HBA Bloomfield. HBA Montclair, which is separately owned from the location in Bloomfield by the same name, was also light, and had particularly flavorful toasted garlic, but lacked a quantity of seeds and the divine, crisp, crust of HBA Bloomfield.
At number three, Beyond the Bagel, located in Upper Montclair at 219 Bellevue Avenue, offers a soft but somewhat dense and heavy bagel.
Other Montclair bakeries/cafes/delis that I included in my survey are Bluestone Cafe (where one bagel costs a whopping $1.95!), Watchung Deli, Cafe Clair and Jackie's Grillette. The bagels at these establishments are not baked on premises, which may be why they were not as desirable, in my estimation. Most os the bagels were not fresh and were often wrapped in plastic wrap. They were over-priced, not well cooked, and I found them wanting in flavor – something that should never be lacking in an "everything" style bagel!
The only Montclair bagels that were as good as the ones at HBA Bloomfield were found at 7 Park Street -- The Park St. Gourmet. They were delicious! And then I found out -- they get their bagels from HBA Bloomfield!