My first trip to Cambridge’s Bagelsaurus, in 2014, left me proselytizing so passionately for its fresh-baked wonders that the visit felt less like breakfast and more like a conversion experience. As a food writer, I’d had pretty good bagels before, hitting all the go-to spots in New York and Montreal. And I had heard that founder Mary Ting Hyatt was making noteworthy bagels — so good that her initial weekends-only pop-up concept at the Brookline Sandwich shop, Cutty’s, had spawned this stand-alone bakery. But these bagels were in a completely different category: bubbled and crisp outside, seriously chewy inside, rich with flavor developed over a long (24-hour) fermentation using a decades-old sourdough culture.
Inspired, I named Bagelsaurus the 2015 Yankee Editors’ Choice Award recipient for “Best Bagel,” writing, “One bite of the cracklingly crisp exterior and the moist, chewy center will remind you that all those so-called bagels you’ve been eating are really just sandwich rolls with holes.”
Since then, I’ve continued to consider it a blessing to live a short Saturday-bagel-run’s distance from Bagelsaurus. But if you grew up on the classic New York–style bagel shop, consider yourself warned: This is not a conventional operation. They don’t serve lox, so the usual lox/onion/tomato/capers sando is not on offer. There is, however, the Hot Smoked sandwich, which layers cream cheese, dill, pickled cabbage and onion, and hot-smoked salmon from the Boston Smoked Fish Co. (a Yankee Editors’ Choice Food Award winner).
There are 10 flavors of bagels and four types of cream cheese, including a don’t-knock-it-till-you-try-it honey-rosemary blend. And these are not cheap eats. A single bagel with cream cheese costs $4; a baker’s dozen of bagels will set you back $25. The price point puts them more in the league of artisan bread and gourmet doughnuts, two other carb-happy categories that have challenged our ideas of what once-cheap foods should cost. Lender’s or Bagelsaurus? Dunkin’ Donuts or Blackbird? Your pick. (It’s worth noting that the store often sells day-old bagels at a reasonable discount, which allows me to buy in bulk and freeze the extras.)
A graduate of the Cambridge Culinary Institute and a former test cook at America’s Test Kitchen, Hyatt spent years perfecting her idea of the ultimate bagel, inspired in part by the sourdough beauties at Scratch Baking Company in Portland. She punches the holes by hand, then lets the dough ferment overnight in a refrigerator. Next morning, the rounds are boiled and baked and turned out into the display baskets. Served on the day they’re made, the bagels truly don’t need toasting, but day-olds are better after a quick blast of heat, preferably toasted at 250º, unsliced, in the oven.
Two other menu items are worth noting. The Classic Jumbo (my personal favorite) sandwiches an oozing egg with mustard butter, cheddar, and optional roasted tomatoes, bacon, or ham (I prefer the first two). The T-Rex is another crowd favorite, with homemade almond butter, banana, honey, and (optional) bacon.
And now, the question: Would you pay $4 for a truly great bagel? Let us know in the comments!