I am a New Yorker through and through and there is nothing more “New York” than bagels. I miss my days in the film industry eating a still-warm-from-the-bag H&H bagel with the crew while waiting for filming to start. I loved being able to run into my favorite bagel place on the Lower East Side or the Jewish bakery run by members of the Hasidic community who would slather my onion bagel with enough butter to harden my arteries on the spot.
When I stumbled onto Bagels ‘n Cream, I was transported into one of my old bagel haunts. Even though it’s in a strip mall, like everything else in New Jersey, when I walked through the door it felt like I was in a corner bodega on 153 and Broadway. People were cueing in a nice sized line for a Saturday after 1pm. Three men were busy filling orders with bagels going in and coming out of the oven at almost the same rate as people were coming in and out of the doors. The fluorescent lights buzzed overhead a little as I went to see what kind of bagels were in the wire bins behind the glass. The bagels here were fat and quite round with a less pronounced hole in the middle. They looked soft and chewy like they could give your taste buds and your jaw a nice satisfying workout.
Naturally, I saw what I expected to see with a few interesting surprises. First of all, I saw bialys. I have not seen bialys* in these parts that I can recall and they looked so good. There were only a few left and I took that to be a good sign.
Not far from those bialys, there was a bagel that really caught my eye. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, and from what I could tell it was probably some kind blueberry with some blue crunchies on it. There was a quick break in all the bagelmania and I was able to ask the young man behind the counter if I could speak to the manager or owner.
A few moments later, I was sitting at a table with Nadir “Mike” Dural, the owner, surrounded by photos of old New York skyscrapers being erected with men eating lunch at perilous heights.
“We boil and then bake our bagels, the way it is traditionally done.”
“And we do everything here,” he stated proudly, his Turkish lilt gently painting every word. From omelettes to breakfast sandwiches to breakfast platters to bagel trays and salad platters. “We make all our spreads for the bagels and salads here and many times people say how much they love them.”
Mike told me he had been working in restaurants and making bagels for a long time, in the New York City boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. When he left the city and moved out here, there were some people looking for bakers and, after partnering with the previous owner, he became the sole owner in 1999.
The hum of the store never seemed to let up even as the afternoon went on and the questions about that blue crunchy bagel needed answers. Looking at the case, I saw an array of spreads and various salads but was curious about their gourmet sandwich menu. Smiling shyly, Mike pointed out that, “These sandwiches are very popular.” Reminiscent of famous New York delis, Bagels ‘n Cream offers sandwiches like the “Julia Roberts”(ham), the “Goldie Hawn” (turkey) and the popular “Robin Williams” (roast beef), all with a little something extra that sets it apart from the everyday.
Patron Lisa Giancarli was indulging in a tuna sandwich on an everything bagel while Stacey Wasserman and her friend Ian looked on. A self-described foodie, Lisa opined that “It was good. Just what I needed.”
As I wrapped up my trip, I finally got my curiosity satisfied: “It’s a blueberry crunch bagel.” When I got home, I promptly toasted that blue wonder of a bagel and slathered it with butter. I had never tasted anything like it in all of bageldom. Well worth the trip. Thanks Mike! Bagels ‘n Cream as The Shoppes At Foxmoor 1051 Washington BLVD, Robbinsville, NJ 08691: 609-426-1141.
Yum it up. Tell all your friends.
*Editor footnote: A bialy is basically a flat baked (rather than boiled) bagel that has a depressed center often filled with onion. It’s a New York thing. Or a Jewish thing. Or both.