What’s it like to have baked onion bits on your face, stuck to your fingers, down your shirt and all over your kitchen counter? If you’re an onion bagel fan like myself, it’s glorious. And, well, that’s the price to pay for conducting a thorough bagel taste test.
In an attempt to find a few of DC’s best bagels, I traveled far and wide (okay, not that far or wide) to four stops. Unfortunately, Palena Cafe was sold out of bagels on this particular morning, so that left three: Bethesda Bagels, So’s Your Mom, and Pumpernickels.
To make a fair comparison, I ordered onion bagels across the board. Here are my thoughts, and a rating — a “five bagel” rating being the best.
1718 Connecticut Ave. NW
One of the best in the area, but also the toughest stop on the tour, only because it has by far the longest wait. Expect long lines; the place gets extremely crowded, so you need to know that going in. And this being Dupont Circle, you’ll see plenty of ladies in yoga pants. Not that I’m complaining.
Bagels are $1.10 apiece. There’s a wide selection of flavors to select from, including “sport-energy,” whatever that means.
Size-wise they’re the biggest of the three I tried, with the familiar puffed-up shape resembling an inner tube. The crust has a nice sheen with a decent crunch, and a generous sprinkling of onion bits dot both sides.
Good chewiness and bite. Toasts up nicely. Of the bagels I’ve tried in DC, I’d say Bethesda Bagels gets the closest to the New York standard.
Rating: 4 out of 5 bagels
So’s Your Mom
1831 Columbia Rd. NW
Adams Morgan’s bagel and sandwich shop is family-run with fast, efficient and friendly service. Compared to the 15 minute wait at Bethesda Bagels, I was in and out of So’s Your Mom in about three minutes. That’s hard to beat.
Bagels run $.95 apiece. They’re fat like Bethesda’s, but slightly smaller. Again, a substantial heaping of tasty onion bits cling to both sides.
The crust isn’t quite as crispy as Bethesda’s, and there’s a little less overall chewiness, but still a very solid bagel.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 bagels
Pumpernickels Bagelry & Delicatessen
5504 Connecticut Ave. NW
An employee at my neighborhood running store made a strong statement: “Pumpernickels makes by FAR the best bagels in DC.”
Whoa now, that got my attention. She said it with such conviction that either she was right, or her family owned the place.
$.95 per bagel here. As you can see, it’s smaller, flatter and denser than the first two. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer a fuller shape. Not much crust to speak of, and the inside’s not especially chewy. This was the saltiest bagel of the three, and here’s the rub: onions on one side only. The bottom was onion-free.
The Pumpernickels bagel also fared the worst after toasting. It just didn’t have the volume or crunch/chew of the other two.
Rating: 3 out of 5 bagels
The overall winner of this round of taste tasting: Bethesda Bagels.
What to do with your extra bagels? Throw them in a Ziploc gallon bag, press the air out and toss the bag in the freezer. When you want to eat one, microwave it for about 20 seconds and it’s ready to be toasted or thrown in the oven.