Pizza and bagels — two of culinary history's greatest bready triumphs. And while an abomination to connoisseurs of both of these carby creations, their hybrid child, the pizza bagel holds a special place in our childhood memories as a comforting, if slightly gummy snack — the kind you eat alone with a side of shame. We'll admit to having fond recollections of the microwavable Bagel Bites from the 90s. And given the elevation of so many other snacks of our salad days, from s'mores to mac and cheese, we were certain that L.A.'s bagelries were giving similar treatment to the old pizza bagel. So in honor of our youthful cravings, we waged today's food fight.
The first stop was the La Canada branch of Goldstein's Bagel Bakery, a 20-year old establishment that, judging by its menu, believes the bagel should be part of every meal. There is a blueberry bagel Danish, a bagel burger, a bagel-wrapped hot dog, and of course the pizza bagel, which comes in meat, cheese, and Hawaiian. On our visit, at 12:30 on a Monday afternoon (which would seem prime time for the pizza bagel), there was but one solitary meat pizza bagel available ($4.79.) With no other choice, we opted for that (yes, thank you, we would like it heated) and waited while the pleasant man behind the counter nuked it. What appeared before us bore little resemblance to either of its carby parents, looking more like a giant doughy sunny-side up egg, with a slab of salami as its yolk. Further examination revealed four slices of the slightly limp deli meat, piled atop a smattering of undercooked mushrooms, pockets of garlicy tomato sauce, and globs of gelatinous cheese. The saving grace of this competitor was the bread, particularly the crusty outer ring, which held up well in the microwave, retaining a hearty, buoyant chew. It is worth noting, this bagel had no hole.
Conversely, over at the Burbank branch of the mini-chain Western Bagel, the pizza bagel, if flipped upside down, exhibited signs of a vestigial hole, though it was puckered underneath the weight of cheese and tomato sauce. Here, the bready hybrid ($1.30) was a flatter affair, the thin crust version of the pizza bagel, with a rectangular slice of cheese melted on top. It too was reheated in the microwave, and the leaner crust did not withstand the zapping as well. However, the tomato sauce was sweet and a little tangy, charmingly reminiscent of the saccharine red sauce of the original pizza bagel bites from your grocer's freezer. The thin slice of cheese, which must have become crispy in its first cooking, had some good bubbly charred bits on top, but had become a rubbery mess on the bottom.
After tallying the points for each of the feeble competitors, it became clear that the pizza bagel was one childhood snack left best to our memories. Here's hoping Dunkaroos have held up better.