Bagel fatigue might have set in by day four and garlic-onion breath was an issue for some, but the Times Review staff soldiered on, eating more than 100 everything, cinnamon raisin, egg and plain bagels to find out which business boils and bakes the meanest doughy rolls on the North Fork.
Bagel cafés from Wading River to Orient were visited, a dozen tubs of cream cheese and butter were devoured and everything was washed down with several containers of OJ.
We stuck to businesses that bake their bagels in-house and each staffer tried to sample at least two varieties from each shop. We ate bagels from a different East End locale every morning, though judges weren’t privy to which café had made that morning’s rolls.
After that, we took a tally of our favorites from the blind taste test and retasted the highest-rated bagels on the final day.
“The standard for Long Island bagels is very high,” said web editor Paul Squire, one of the contest’s toughest judges. “Just because it gets a lower score doesn’t mean its a bad bagel; we’re just picky about our bagels.”
Here were the top three contenders.
First place: Goldberg’s Famous Bagels
The votes were nearly unanimous about this chain’s bagels being a cut above the rest.
Goldberg’s Famous Bagels, which operates eight stores across the East End, is most frequented for its French toast bagel, said co-owner Chris Conlan. That’s likely because it’s made entirely with the same ingredients used in the classic breakfast dish — eggs, cinnamon, butter and vanilla extract.
“The eggs in the dough is really what makes it so good,” Conlan said, adding that plain, everything and cinnamon raisin bagels round out the top four most popular flavors.
And our staff agreed. Reporter Nicole Smith summed it up when she said, “I took a bite of Goldberg’s bagels and I immediately smiled.”
Conlan, who works at the chain’s Mattituck location, said the bagels are hand-rolled every day and left in the refrigerator overnight to proof, or rise. The following morning, they’re removed and placed in a boiling kettle for about 30 seconds.
After that, the bagels are placed in an oven for 15 to 20 minutes. If they’re dipped in seeds, they’re covered on both sides -— making them one of the most heavily seeded bagels in the area.
“It really depends on if they have seeds on them,” Conlan said of the varying bake times. “Some cook faster than others depending on flavors or colors.”
The Mattituck location, which opened in July 2014, makes 200 dozen bagels, or 2,400 per day, in the summer. During holiday weekends, between 300 and 350 dozen — or 3,600 to 4,200 — are made, Conlan said.
In August 2014, the North Fork’s newest Goldberg’s location opened on East Main Street in Riverhead in the old Woolworths building.
The thousands of bagels made daily are only sold the day they are made. Bagels that haven’t been sold by closing time are donated to a nearby homeless shelter, Conlan said. He attributed the freshness of the product, combined with the amount of seeds and high-end products used, as to why their bagels are considered ‘famous.’
“I don’t know, it’s just delicious,” he said. “I eat an egg sandwich on a bagel every morning for the last 10 years and I’m not sick of it. It’s great.”
Goldberg’s Famous Bagels is located at 10095 Main Road in Mattituck and 130 East Main St. in Riverhead. Call (631) 315-5238.
Second place: Bean ‘N Bagel Café, Calverton
Scoring just two points less than Goldberg’s, the large, fresh offerings served at Calverton’s Bean ‘N Bagel Café easily secured the number two spot on our list.
The shop doesn’t open its doors until dawn, but an employee is there every day at 1 a.m. making the Middle Country Road deli’s most popular item.
“There’s a lot of time and effort that go into these bagels,” said Amber Leibold, the daughter of Bean ‘N Bagel Café’s owners John and Joanne Leibold and an employee at the shop. “Each one is carefully crafted.”
Before opening its doors six years ago, John Leibold spent a week in Brooklyn being taught how to make authentic New York bagels, his daughter said. Bean ‘N Bagel makes theirs by boiling the dough and then placing them on a stone grill.
The deli offers 17 varieties of bagels, including popular kid-friendly flavors like churro, which is made with brown sugar and cinnamon, and French toast.
“Those are two bagels people will come here for,” Leibold said.
Bean ‘N Bagel Café is located at 4426 Middle Country Road in Calverton. Call (631) 237-8979 or visit beanandbagelcafe.com.
Third place: East End Bagel Café, Southold
Located the farthest east of our top contenders, the flavorful dough of the chewy rings churned out at East End Bagel Café were standouts among the batch.
A customer favorite is the everything bagel at this Route 48 deli, said owner Vincent Cutrone.
“The most popular is the everything,” he said, adding that East End Bagel Café has been open for more than 25 years. “Then the plain, then the sesame and then the poppy.”
Instead of being boiled, bagels at Cutrone’s shop are placed inside a proofing box, a baking device that warms them up and helps them rise. They’re then placed inside a rack oven capable of baking 20 dozen bagels, which include atypical flavors like jalapeño, spinach, oat bran, and bacon and egg.
“It’s a good bagel,” said Mr. Cutrone, who added that everything is made fresh each morning and that whatever the deli doesn’t sell is donated or thrown out. “We’ve been around a long time and I think people like them.”
East End Bagel Café is located at 46519 Route 48 in Southold. Call (631) 765-1642.