In the 90 minutes I spent at a promotional event for Einstein Bros. Bagels’ new 2020 menu offerings last night, I heard the word “quirky” used three separate times to describe the restaurant’s approach to its menu. After leaving said event with a stomach full of bagels, cheese, chocolate, coffee, another type of cheese, four different meats, one more type of cheese, cinnamon sugar, and two varieties of aioli, I am inclined to agree.
There is perhaps no better marketing ploy than to pique our curiosities, and Einstein understands this fundamentally. To wit, I went to represent The Takeout at the official unveiling of the Bagelrito, a product that launches nationwide today, and which can only be described via block quote.
The Bagelrito is the latest breakfast innovation from Einstein Bros. Bagels. Substantial in size and high in flavor, it’s loaded with two cage-free eggs, thick-cut bacon, turkey sausage, three cheeses, hash browns, salsa and green chilies in a flour tortilla, all hand-wrapped in Asiago bagel dough and baked fresh. Its substantial size, high flavor and portability has earned it its slogan: “big, bold and easy to hold.”
Tell me you don’t want that to be your personal slogan. (The employees even sport it on their T-shirts.)
Beyond a laundry list of ingredients, there’s so much more I can tell you about the Bagelrito. I can clarify, for example, that one of the “three cheeses” mentioned is cream cheese, because this is still an Einstein bagel product we’re talking about. I thought the cream cheese would occupy the space between the bagel and tortilla layers, but instead it’s nestled inside the tortilla right along with everything else.
The Bagelrito will retail for $6.99, and in some sense, it seems like you’re paying for ingredient variety as much as heft (and this product has plenty of heft). It has more discrete elements than a Taco Bell Nachos Bell Grande with all the add-ons. And while some of those ingredients get lost deep in the caverns of tubular bagel that swaddle them, they each dance to the surface at unexpected intervals, making each bite vary in flavor, spice, acidity, and overall richness. One bite will leave you pulling at cartoonish strings of ooey-gooey cheese, and the next will deceive you with a rather dry-looking nugget of turkey sausage that packs an impressive wallop of green chile spice. (Is it any surprise that Einstein HQ is in Denver?) The third bite will be a fresh burst of red salsa blended with a greasy dribble of cream cheese, and while you might never have had these two items together before, you welcome their marriage, because this is the Bagelrito, and all condiments are welcome to mingle in this 12-lb. brick of a meal.
The bagel portion of a Bagelrito is not an afterthought, per se, but its inclusion feels perfunctory. Einstein isn’t interested in straying too far from its wheelhouse. And the bagel isn’t bad, or even dry, as the promotional photos made it look. It’s actually a nice bit of crunch; where your teeth would sink into the tortilla of a normal breakfast burrito, you have to work at this layer a bit to hit paydirt. And the added structural integrity of the bagel really does make this big, bold thing pretty easy to hold. If I had to choose the worst part of the Bagelrito, it might be the eggs, but only because they share the odd springy quality of fast food eggs everywhere. Eggs just need a bit more time and care than a Bagelrito can afford, because there are over 75 other ingredients that must be attended to.
I had to keep taking more bites to see if the Bagelrito—sorry, I just love saying it—really worked as well as my brain’s reward centers kept telling me it did. And I performed this audit again and again until the Bagelrito was gone, save for the cheese still clinging to the edges of my mouth. If my empty plate wasn’t enough of an endorsement, the reflexive response of the influencer beside me was:
“Oh… this Bagelrito is the shiiiiit.” She was speaking to no one. It was almost a whisper. Einstein had won two more customers.
Not everyone was a fan. One influencer asked the chef, “Is there any sort of sauce I can dip this into?” The chef explained that, because portability was a key consideration in its design, the Bagelrito has everything it needs right inside the bread. “I just need sauce when I eat,” the woman persisted. “It needs Sriracha.”
“Yeah,” piped up another attendee. “This definitely needs a cup of Sriracha.”
A third soon piled on. “I have a lot of vegetarian friends. I think that if you don’t make a vegetarian version…” she trailed off, implying doom for the future of the business.
Hearing this, I found myself growing defensive of the fledgling Bagelrito. Ridiculous as it is (or “quirky,” to use Einstein nomenclature), the Bagelrito isn’t dumb, and it definitely doesn’t need Sriracha. It doesn’t come across as gimmicky for the sake of garnering quick and easy industry buzz, or for beckoning influencers to snap the prettiest social media photos. It’s a goopy pile of meat and cheese within two distinct breading cradles, and it seems determined to earn its place on the menu through sheer integrity. You can’t change its spice level, you can’t have a plant-based one, you can’t select from a suite of multiple bagel flavors. At least not right now; reps confirmed the company is working on further Bagelrito innovations. But until then, there is only this: the pioneering matrimony of breakfast burrito and fully dressed Asiago bagel, nothing more and nothing less. I like a fast food Frankenstein that sticks to its principles. And I like that I just got to say “Bagelrito” 18 times.