Devoted fans of the Hillcrest bagelry Big City Bagel Cafe had to go about two months without this spring as a fire forced the 24-year-old breakfast and lunch spot to close temporarily. I don’t know what its regulars did in the interim, but when I dropped by on a recent morning, the perpetual line told me they weren’t entirely satisfied with their plans B.
1010 University Avenue, Hillcrest
It’s the kind of shop that opens at 6 am and sees its biggest crowds prior to 10, so when I showed up at 9:30, it had already long sold out of sesame bagels. Sesame is always my first choice, and often my second as well, and clearly, I’m not alone in this thinking.
Not to worry, BCB (as it refers to itself) offers plenty of worthy alternatives, from sweet bagels such as chocolate chip, cinnamon crumb, and blueberry to whole grain, jalapeño cheddar, and sun-dried tomato. My sesame-starved palate went for the everything bagel, but there was still a matter of choosing how I’d like it served.
Toasted with cream cheese would do, or any one of 15 spreadable options including tofutti, hummus, and lox. Or I might have enjoyed an egg sandwich, served with a choice of cheese, bacon, sausage, or customizable list of vegetables.
But I went for the café’s signature sandwich, dubbed the 5th Avenue: garlic herb cream cheese, turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, and melted muenster. At $9.49, it costs about five bucks more than the breakfast sandwich, but I was hungry, and there’s no rule saying you can’t eat a sandwich without egg on it before noon.
The melt is served open-faced, and I wondered this might diminish some of the bagelness I craved. I needn’t have worried: BCB prides itself on following hallowed East Coast bagel traditions, giving its hand-rolled and shaped dough a 30-second boil prior to a 500-degree bake. The inside is just the right shade of dense and chewy, and the crust is nice and chewier.
The ubiquitous combination of turkey, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, and cheese on a sandwich offers a low floor, meaning it’s almost always going to be kind of good, and rarely terrible. This one turned out way better than I expected. Every element proved tasty — even the tomatoes contributed great flavor — and the cheese left me wondering why muenster doesn’t get more play on melted sandwiches.
Even if you didn’t miss it while it was gone, take my word you’re glad it’s back.