Bagels have been very much on my mind this week after Food & Wine published a list of the best bagels and America and The New York Times asserted that California is now the nation’s bagel capital. But I was born and raised outside Chicago, which is notorious for its lack of decent bagels (not to mention deli), and although my parents made regular pilgrimages to New York Bagel & Bialy in Lincolnwood in order to keep our home properly stocked, there were times when we would have to resort to the unthinkable: mass-market bagels. Lenders, even. God.
Einstein Bros. Bagels are to a proper New York bagel what Dunkin’ coffee is to a small-batch roaster. They are not the Real Thing. No one would ever argue, especially to someone who knows better, that they are the Real Thing. But they are still satisfying in their own way, if you’re craving a bagel with a bit of schmear. At least someone made the effort to boil them.
Einstein’s has fully embraced its role as the bagel shop of Those Who Do Not Give A Shit About New York. It puts blueberries in its bagels and chocolate chips and dusts them with cinnamon sugar and sprinkles. It would make a purist plotz. But it has respect: now that it’s decided to put brisket on its bagels, it’s gone for the Texas smoked style, not the traditional Jewish braised style.
The Texas Brisket Egg Sandwich features the smoked brisket with a sous vide egg, cheddar, and chipotle aioli, all on a Jalapeño Bacon Gourmet Bagel (capitalizations Einstein’s). It would make any habitue of a New York bodega weep. Possibly a Texas pitmaster also.
But if you take this sandwich for what it is, a mass-market attempt to satisfy hunger, it fares fairly well. I had mine delivered, so the bagel was a bit steamed, but still solid: the sandwich didn’t fall apart in my hand. The brisket was, indeed, smokey, and the aioli provided a nice tang that cut through the fat and salt of the meat and cheese. The egg was... there. It varied the texture of the whole thing a little bit. That’s perhaps the kindest thing that can be said.
I devoured the damned thing. Maybe that’s because I was really hungry when it showed up, but if it had been terrible, I would have thrown it away and scrounged up something else from the refrigerator. And unlike a lot of carb bombs that leave you hungry again an hour later, I was still feeling full and ready to work through the afternoon.
Later in the afternoon, though, a friend sent me a picture of an egg sandwich from a recently opened deli here. The bagel was fresh. The egg was fried so the yolk was liquid. And there was bacon. Beside that, the Einstein’s sandwich looked a little, well, sad. It’s not a sandwich that will make you see the bagel gods. But sandwiches like that, as we know, are rare in most parts of the world. And in that case, you could do worse than the Texas Brisket Egg Sandwich.