No matter what MLB strips from Frank McCourt -- his ego, his baseball team, his dignity (actually, he did that all on his own) -- there's one thing they can never take away: the plaque bearing his name at the Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company. At the recently opened Beverly Hills bagel shop, the dilettante Dodgers owner (not the deceased Irish-American author) shares wall-space with several other Brooklyn-born luminaries, all of whom look like St. Peter compared to McCourt. After all, Neil Sedaka didn't buy an iconic sports franchise and manage it so ineptly you have to wonder how he ever had more responsibility than pushing a broom. Neither did Gene Tierney or Vincent D'Onofrio. Los Angeles deserves better -- better relief pitching, better baseball team owners and better bagels. Brooklyn Water Bagels delivers on one of those counts.
Opened in March and backed by talk show maven Larry King, the gimmick here is the water. It's Brooklynized™! (What, an angry New Yorker spits in it?) The water, and the signs touting it, are everywhere: in the seltzer, sold by the bottle, mixed into the dough. Despite the shtick -- in the rest of the known universe, a water bagel is just a bagel -- the bagels here are good. Better than good. They're thick and chewy, larger than most and with enough daylight in the center to surround a child's eyeglass frame. If you like them dense and intense, these bagels deliver. You chew and chew and chew only to find there's still more dough. Eating an entire one of these things is like doing a math problem with your teeth.
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Here, in a world where Atkins never existed, there are 18 varieties of bagel. We're partial to egg or asiago-Parmesan, though our default is sesame seed or onion. The options, ranging from wraps and salads to muffins the size of Schwarzenegger's bicep, can be confusing, especially beneath the glow of the constantly changing electronic menu. Fuggedabout it. In fact, forget about almost everything except Brooklyn's bagels.
The sandwiches range from lackluster (bland egg salad) to dreadful (a soggy pizza melt coated in oily cheese and bits of meat kibble). The employees are stingy with the cream cheese. And God help you if you dare ask for a modification to any of their "signature" sandwiches.
Their iced coffee isn't strong or complex. It doesn't evoke subtle notes of smoked cinnamon and peaberry, but it does come with free coffee cubes. That's right: frozen cubes of coffee so your drink won't get watered down. Genius! (If only bars would start making bourbon cubes.) As long as you know how to mix them, the DIY egg cream sodas, made with real U-bet chocolate syrup, are a find. If you don't, the helpful clerks will walk you through the process, but don't expect it to stay professionally frothy. That takes some serious wrist action.