Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Cafe Fresh Bagel

For the past several months, I've been featuring eating establishments on the East Coast on Tuesdays, as part of my Travelin' Tuesdays series.  I've mostly called out the amazing places I dined in Boston, the failures in New Hampshire, and a few classic east coast institutions.  This one isn't any of those things.  It is just a bagel shop, in Needham, MA.

So, why would I go to Cafe Fresh Bagel in the first place?  Simple: it is located just a few blocks from a friend's parent's house, and I've been hearing his whole family talk about it for years.  I wanted to find out if it was just nostalgia, or if they truly did make fantastic bagels, something we do really lack in San Francisco.

I wasn't impressed when I walked in, it really was sorta a dive.  The furniture was low end, the entire place was really cramped, it wasn't particularly clean.  But wow, was it bustling.  The clientele were a mix of just about everyone in town: high school kids clearly on a break, moms in yoga pants, and working professionals.  This was promising, despite the ridiculous name of the place and the outward appearance.

Service was not particularly friendly, and it was a classic bagel shop, with bins of different bagels behind a register, choice flavors running out early in the day.  Besides classic bagels and cream cheese, they also offer a variety of bagel sandwiches, and, the item my friend so fondly reminisces with his family over, egg and cheese sandwiches, offered all day.  Chips, coffee, and bottled beverages round out the offerings.

Over the course of our recent visit, I was able to try several different items, mostly my friend's picks.  I wouldn't go out of my way to return, but I do admit they they make a much better bagel than any I've had in San Francisco.  So if I was back in town and wanting a bagel, I would return.
Pumpernickel Bagel.
First up, my friend's pick of bagel: pumpernickel.  Like all of their bagels, the outside was shiny, the bagel itself soft.  But, it was loaded up with caraway seeds, which I really don't like.  He really liked these, and got one every day.  He eats a lot of bagels, and I haven't seen him so enthusiastic about a bagel, ever.
Blueberry Bagel, Cinnamon Raisin Cream Cheese.
Next was my pick: blueberry!  And I of course needed to add some flavored cream cheese :)

It was a very good blueberry bagel - absolutely loaded with plump berries.  Again, like all the bagels, the outside was shiny and it had the perfect chew to it, even without toasting.  I preferred it toasted, it developed a nice crust, while staying moist and doughy inside.  It was okay with the cream cheese, but best just with lots of butter slathered on and melted in.  Mmmm.

The cream cheese was housemade, but pretty unremarkable.  It had raisins, and was mildly spiced with cinnamon,  but was not all that interesting.  It also really didn't go well with my bagel choice - whoops!  I'm glad I had it on the side, as I just used it on another type of bagel later.
Egg and Cheddar on Veggie Bagel.
And finally ... the egg and cheese.

If you read reviews for Cafe Fresh Bagel, one item quickly pops out as the thing to get: the egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, served all day.  Everyone loves it, it all its forms.

Available on your choice of bagel, with bacon, sausage, or ham additional.  At most places when you get an egg and cheese, you get a single fried egg.  Or maybe some of that magic egg mix scrambled.  But not here.  A single sandwich contains three whole eggs, and if you order sausage, it is a full sausage, aka, hotdog size, split in half.  Not exactly a light meal!  Imagine decomposing this into a breakfast of 3 eggs, cheese, a full sausage, AND a bagel.  Not entirely unreasonable, but not exactly a small grab 'n go meal.

We stopped in mid-afternoon, and decided to split one, since neither of us were up for such an enormous undertaking, but still wanted to try it out.  This meant we had some compromising to do.  He wanted pumpernickel or marble rye, or even plain, for the bagel.  I didn't like the caraway seeds and think plain is ... well, too plain.  I wanted the fascinating looking spinach, or perhaps sesame or everything seed for some crunch.  We somehow compromised on the veggie bagel.  Like all of their bagels, it was soft, and got a bit crispy on the outside when toasted, but stayed soft inside.  It seemed to have chunks of carrot and peppers, in a slightly hearty base.  I really liked the bagel, although I wish they'd toasted it a tiny bit more.  I think it was also lightly buttered.

No choice is given for how the eggs are cooked, they are just like a thin omelet, folded over a few times.  Not overcooked, but I'm not a big egg fan, so I wasn't into that part.  It tasted ... very eggy.  They also were not seasoned, at all.  No salt and pepper.

For cheese, it normally comes with American.  But, last minute, the cashier asked us if we wanted provolone, swiss, or cheddar instead.  I don't care for provolone, swiss seemed strange for an egg and cheese, and cheddar sounded ... far more interesting, so I suggested it.  My fellow diner agreed.  In retrospect, this was probably the wrong move.  Classic American melts better, as the cheddar just got all stringy.  It also didn't have any aged or smoky flavor, which is what I was picturing, as it is how I like my cheddar.  But the real issue is that the cheese wasn't evenly distributed at all.  I was sitting there kinda gloomily eating my half, tasting only egg, as my friend seemed to like his more (although he was struggling with lots of cheese stringing all over the place).  I gave up and decided I just liked the buttered bagel and not the filling, so I discarded it, and munched away on the tasty bagel.  My friend took one bite of mine and said that my half was way worse, that his actually contained cheese layered with the egg.  He didn't want my part either.

I probably wouldn't get another one of these, as the omelet style egg is just not my thing, and without any seasoning it was really lackluster.  If I was convinced to try another, I'd certainly split it, get American cheese, and add bacon for some more flavor.  But, I'd probably just stick with a bagel, as they do those very well!

[ Not Pictured ]
Whole Wheat Bagel with Oats.

Another decent bagel, earthy from the whole wheat, and I liked the oats on the crust.
Cafe Fresh Bagel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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