2650 Jamacha Road, Rancho San Diego
Aside from fresh-baked bagels, I wouldn’t say I had specific expectations going into Memo’s Bagel Café. It’s in a boxy shopping center storefront in Rancho San Diego surrounded by a litany of corporate food chains. I knew it would offer a different experience than the Subway, Denny’s, Starbucks, or Applebee’s, but whatever notion I had about its concept went out the window the moment I walked in.
First of all, “Memo” is not pronounced like the intra-office correspondence — it rhymes with “Nemo.” Memo is a young entrepreneur with an interesting idea how to complement the many bagel offerings in her shop by offering a glass case filled with Turkish Delights and savory Mediterranean pastries.
Those distracted me on the way to the bagel counter. The delicate Turkish entries incorporate ingredients such as rosewater, nuts, and sour raisins. Several racks of the jelly-like candies gave way to different takes on baklava, then Bavarian cream-filled, pistachio-encrusted scones and meat-, cheese-, and spinach-filled pastries. It all looked good.
But I’ve been burned in suburban bagel shops before, so I wanted a good examination of the shop’s featured offering. Large holes give these bagels a skinnier appearance than the puffy looking New York style. Nearly two dozen different flavors are available, including the usual suspects — poppy seed, cinnamon raisin, and several topped by melted cheese. This being a couple days before Easter, there was even a motley rainbow-colored plain in the case to mark the occasion.
There was also a spinach bagel. I haven’t seen this before, so it immediately stoked my curiosity. However, I didn’t want to judge the bagel quality on the merits of a creative outlier, so I opted for my go-to sesame. I asked for it toasted with one of the house-made cream cheese spreads. Memo was out of the lox schmear, so I settled for a satisfying backup, bacon. And since I had thwarted my spinach craving, I ordered a spinach pie to go with it.
The bagel dough was dense and chewy — pretty well done, and not just in the context of East County. The sesame flavor shone through, even with the spread, which possessed a subtle bacon-ness that paired well with the cream cheese tang. The spinach pie didn’t offer much seasoning other than boiled spinach, but the bread around it turned out way softer than I’d anticipated — less empanada and more like a stuffed dinner roll.
There’s not much to Memo’s little shop, but it’s interesting, enticing, and at least a dozen kinds of tasty. Ten bucks here covers a lot of ground, and bagels are just the beginning.