16588 Bernardo Center Drive, Rancho Bernardo
A small-but-vocal contingent of bagel fanciers like to raise their common battle cry: that San Diego has no delicious bagels, and that, if only they were back in NY/DC/Kalamazoo/Boston/Walla Walla/Philly, or wherever their favorite bagel shop of yesteryear lies, they would be surrounded by an inexhaustible supply of toroidal breads.
Bagel shops are few and far between in SD, because there is no real demand for them. In part, being generally healthy people, Californians aren’t that into eating mega-doses of bread for breakfast. Since bagels aren’t a big cultural institution, there’s no competitive market for bagel shops, ergo, not that many choices.
Of those few choices, New York Bagels & Cafe is a safe bet.
Rancho Bernardo seems an unlikely location to hide delicious bagels from the general populace, but NYBC has the equipment and the desire to make them right. A huge oven looms at one corner of the shop, and the kettle for boiling the bagels sits right on the other side of a plexiglass divider. Lucky buyers might get to see the operation in progress if they come at the right part of the day.
NYBC’s bagels get a crispy crust and a tender, chewy texture that resists tearing at first but ultimately yields without undue effort. It’s almost pretzel-like, which raises the question of whether or not NYBC’s bakers treat the water with an alkaline solution before boiling the bagels. The light color of the finished product suggests that’s not the case, but, either way, the bagels are unexpectedly good.
Opening at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays doesn’t hurt the bagelry’s cause at all. Neither does fair pricing. Ninety-nine cents for a bagel doesn’t break the bank. $6.49 for a bagel with salmon and cream cheese seems fair enough considering other cafés get away with charging over $8 for the same thing.
Sure, R.B. is a heck of a drive for a bagel, but if you’ve got to be there or if you live there, there’s a chance to sample one of SD’s better bagels. Bagel nuts might find it worthwhile to make the trip once a week and stock up. After all, a three-day-old bagel that you like is a heck of a lot better than longing wistfully for all the bagels you don’t have!