Bagels galore

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WJW and Washington Family staff taste and rate bagels from four popular DMV spots

From left, Jacqueline Hyman, Britni Petersen and Samantha Cooper tasted and rated four bagels from the DMV-area on Sunday, Aug. 18.

On Sunday, the three of us – Washington Jewish Week staff writers Jacqueline Hyman and Samantha Cooper and Washington Family managing editor Britni Petersen – each sampled plain-flavored bagels from four DMV-area shops.

We tried Goldberg’s (Rockville), Bullfrog (Washington), Tysons Market Bagels (Vienna), and The Bagelry (Silver Spring). We wanted to get Call Your Mother, also D.C., but unfortunately the traffic made this impossible for our required time slot. We ran a Facebook Live video showing our reactions to each bagel – with and without cream cheese.


We rated each bagel based on a five-point scale the following factors: First Look; Texture; Taste; and finally, Would you wait in line for this bagel?

Goldberg’s

First Look

JH: This bagel looks pretty standard, and looks flat, but seems like a good bagel.

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SC: This is a solid-looking bagel. It’s even and nicely golden brown. The cut is a little too flat and kind of makes it look unnatural, but the inside is flawless.

BP: The bagel is a good size and has a nice color, but it also looks a bit flat in comparison to other bagels I’m used to.


Texture

JH: The inside of the bagel is very flat, and isn’t very fluffy.  It reminds me the most of a grocery store bagel.

SC: The inside has a nice amount of give and contrasts well with the outside. It’s good and chewy. It works well on its own and would be good in a sandwich.

BP: There’s not much texture. Once again, it’s flat, so there’s not much give or softness when touching the inside of the bagel.

Taste

JH: I would eat this bagel with a sandwich, but don’t like the taste enough to eat on its own.

SC: It’s good. It tastes exactly as a bagel should taste. I eat at Goldberg’s fairly often and I usually go for a salt bagel, so I guess I was kind of thinking about that while eating. But there’s enough contrast between the outside and inside, and it’s especially good with cream cheese.

BP: The taste is pretty standard; nothing stands out. The bagel did, however, taste better with cream cheese. It seemed to compliment it well. But then again, maybe I just really liked the cream cheese?

Would you wait?

JH: No, I would not wait in a long line for this bagel. It was a pretty standard bagel that I feel I could get anywhere.

SC: Definitely. Especially if I can get one right out of the oven.

BP: I definitely wouldn’t wait longer than five minutes for this bagel. It’s OK, and if limited on options, it’s not the worst.

Jacqueline’s Score: 2.5/5

Sam’s Score: 4.5/5

Britni’s Score: 2.5/5

Bullfrog

First Look

JH: Bullfrog’s bagel is a little bit smaller, and has a slight yellowish tint. Even though it’s smaller, it’s thicker, which makes it look promising.

SC: It’s smaller than the other bagels and kind of even. It’s very obviously handmade, which is nice, but it’s not the type of bagel I’m used to.

BP: The bagel is smaller and has a more distinct color than the rest of the bagels. Also, it looks freshly-baked, which is always appealing.

Texture

JH: The bottom of the bagel has a sort of grainy or seedy feel. I don’t mind this, and think it makes the bagel unique. It’s a very fluffy bagel, and both the inside and outside of this bagel were chewy.

SC: The inside has a nice amount of give and contrasts well with the outside. It’s good and chewy. It works well on its own and would be good in a sandwich.

BP:The bagel is both dense and fluffy. It kind of has a muffin meets bagel feel to it. The bottom half of the bagel reminded me very much of a seeded English muffin.

Taste

JH: This bagel is a bit saltier and eggier than the other bagels we tried. I like egg bagels, so I was happy with that taste – and who doesn’t like a little saltiness?

SC: It has kind of a sourdough-y taste which is not something I really look for in a bagel and it over powers the cream cheese, when I put it on.

BP: It’s delicious, and has just the right amount of saltiness. Although it tastes good with cream cheese, I think it would be ideal as a sandwich. It also has a more buttery flavor than the other bagels, which I particularly liked.

Would you wait?

JH: I could see waiting for maybe 20 to 30 minutes for this bagel, because it was the most unique bagel we sampled. I didn’t love that the outside was so chewy, even though the inside was delicious.

SC: No, this is bagel I could easily live without. If it was offered to me at a reception I’d turn it down unless I was starving or there was nothing else to eat.

BP: Yes. It has a unique enough taste that makes it stand out. But, the texture and overall fluffiness for me is what makes it special and worthy of a longer wait time.

Jacqueline’s Score: 4.25/5

Sam’s Score: 2/5

Britni’s Score: 4/5

Bullfrog, Goldberg’s, and Tysons Bagel Market plain bagels. Not pictured: The Bagelry bagel. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

Tysons Bagel Market

First Look

JH: Tall, fluffy, and very plump looking. This looks like a dream bagel. Bonus: It smells really good.

SC: This is a pretty bagel and very squishy. I like the way it feels in my hands, and it’s also a pretty decent size. I also like how the top is very fluffy.

BP: It’s the most Instagram-worthy of all of the bagels. It’s the largest in size, perfectly rounded and has an overall beautiful shine to it.

Texture

JH: As was evident from the first look, the texture of this bagel was very dense, fluffy, with great bounce-back if you press into the bagel. The outside wasn’t too chewy.

SC: It’s good but there’s not a lot of contrast between the inside and the outside. It’s generally very soft and, again, squishy. It reminds a lot of the bagels I used to get back home in New York; it’s kind of comforting.

BP: The bagel has decent texture. There’s a bit of fluffiness, but not as much as the Bullfrog bagel.

Taste

JH: Unfortunately, the taste of this bagel is what brings its score down so low. It really had no taste or flavor at all – it was a very bland bread.

SC: It’s very plain. I think getting a different variety of bagel may change my mind, but there’s nothing quite distinctive about this bagel. Even cream cheese doesn’t help a whole lot.

BP: It’s surprisingly sweet. For a plain bagel, this sugary taste is unexpected and a bit off-putting. Like the Goldberg bagel, it does taster better with the saltiness from the cream cheese.

Would you wait?

JH: I wish I could say yes – this bagel was the biggest letdown of the experiment. Its taste (or lack thereof) did not live up to its smell or look at all. So no, I would not wait for this bagel at all.

SC: I wouldn’t wait for this bagel but I also wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered to me. Even if I don’t love the taste, if I were nearby and it was fresh out of the oven I could justify a short wait, less than 10 minutes.

BP: Unless I was purely trying to get a blog-worthy photo of bagels, I wouldn’t waste my time. Like they always say, don’t judge a book by its cover. The look doesn’t match up to the taste here.

Jacqueline’s Score: 2.5/5

Sam’s Score: 2.5/5

Britni’s Score: 2/5

The Bagelry

First Look

JH: It’s a little more brown and toasted-looking on the outside, even though it wasn’t toasted. It’s a medium-sized bagel, but it is cut very thin.

SC: When I went to pick these bagels up, I got a peek at the oven they were baking them in, and these show it. They’re nice and they got a golden brown crust.

BP:  It’s decently sized and has a sort of rich, darker color than the other bagels. It also looks like it’s going to have a distinct taste.

Texture

JH: The outside of this bagel is very crunchy, which is amazing because the inside is very soft and chewy. I didn’t love the bagel’s thinness, but it was definitely not a deal-breaker — I don’t think the crunchiness could’ve been as successful otherwise.

SC: Wow, I love the outside of this bagel. It’s got this beautiful crackle and crunch to it and the inside is soft. I really like how they complement each other.

BP: It’s pretty crispy on the outside yet fluffy and dense on the inside, which is an ideal bagel combination.

Taste

JH: This bagel was very flavorful, and tastes the most like a classic New York bagel in my opinion. In that same vein, it wasn’t as unique of a flavor as Bullfrog, but it is the most reliable.

SC: It’s got some nice flavor to it, and even the inside and outside have a nice contrast, though I’m not really sure how to describe it. I think this is the ideal sandwich bagel, and would probably work even better that way.

BP: Delicious. And as assumed from the first look, it has a unique taste as well. It tastes particularly great with cream cheese — a delightful complement.

Would you wait?

JH: Absolutely. Biting into this bagel was the most satisfying experience, because of the crunch followed by the immediate softness.

SC: I don’t think I’d wait more than a half hour, considering the place is like a 20-minute drive from me, but if it was closer then definitely.

BP: Definitely. I think this Bagelry bagel has a more classic bagel taste you expect, but better. If I wanted a standalone bagel, not one as a sandwich, this would be my go-to option.

Jacqueline’s Score: 4.75/5

Sam’s Score: 4.25/5

Britni’s Score: 4/5

Final Thoughts

JH: As you can tell from the scores, The Bagelry is definitely at the top of my list. I have most frequently been there before this bagel tasting, but I did try to be very unbiased. I just feel that The Bagelry has the most reliable bagel, which could be eaten both plain and as a sandwich. The dichotomy of the crunchy and the chewy blend perfectly together.

Bullfrog was a close second, though. If their bagel had some crunch to the outer layer, it would’ve tied with The Bagelry. The other two were much lower on my list, for reasons I explained above. They were unfortunately unimpressive relative to the Bullfrog and The Bagelry.

SC: The Bagelry and Goldberg’s came pretty close, and I almost thought about making them a tie. Goldberg’s is closer to me and they’re my go-to bagel, but I still tried to be unbiased. Both Goldberg’s and The Bagelry bagels work well on their own, and cream cheese improves both. But, I think Goldberg’s still works better as a New York Style bagel.

Tyson’s was a perfectly serviceable bagel, but I wouldn’t eat it without some kind of topping. It would serve well in a pinch.

I don’t get the appeal of Bullfrog. It kind of feels more of a hipster bagel to me. Everything kind of feels off about it, like it’s not really a bagel but an English muffin trying to be a bagel. I’m sad that it wasn’t better because I’ve heard a lot about it and how great it was.

BP: I’ve never had any of these local bagels before, so I went in with a fresh view and palette. I thoroughly enjoyed both the Bullfrog and Bagelry bagels equally, but for different reasons. For a tasty bagel sandwich, I’d head to Bullfrog. For some standalone bagels with cream cheese, I’d probably head to Bagelry. Either way, they don’t disappoint.

The disappointment, however, falls on Goldberg’s and Tyson’s. While, once again, not inedible, both bagels didn’t taste particularly great or special in comparison to the other two clear stars of the DMV bagel showdown.

What’s your favorite bagel in the DMV? Tell us in the comments below.

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