I love a good bagel. Most people will agree that the Capital District isn’t exactly a hotspot for quality bagels, especially if you’re comparing them to something you’ve had downstate. But I refuse to accept that we’re doomed to eat the sad cardboard offerings at Dunkin’ Donuts every time we get a craving for some breakfast carbs.
So we set out to try some of the independent bagel offerings in the area, starting with Rensselaer County and northern Columbia County. At each place we ordered an everything bagel (in order to get a good feel for the toppings) served with veggie cream cheese (in order to get a feel for the quality of the flavored spreads).
First up was Bagel Tyme on Route 9 in Valatie. At first glance, the storefront and the location were a bit bland, but we quickly discovered that Bagel Tyme has a drive-through window! If I commuted through Valatie, that would definitely be a plus for me. And being situated near 9 and 9h most likely brings these folks some traffic. They apparently also have a couple more locations near Hudson.
This bagel scored high marks for toppings. There was a fairly even distribution of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion, and salt, and they stayed neatly on the shell of the bagel. I also liked the proportion of cream cheese to bagel. The cream cheese had a nice smooth consistency, but it lacked much of a strong veggie presence. There were only a few scattered speckles of something vaguely vegetable-like mixed throughout.
The bagel itself was good, but nothing really remarkable. It was a good size, there was a decent crust to it, and the inside was soft. But it was a little on the plain side.
Broad Street Bagel Co.
Interestingly, this bagel pace is located in the previous location of Bagel Tyme, which moved somewhat recently to its Route 9 location. Broad Street Bagel Co. has a much more pedestrian friendly location on the main drag of Kinderhook, and the inside had a charming coffee shop vibe to it with lots of exposed brick and artwork featuring bagels.
This bagel had a pretty generous coating of toppings, and the outside was slightly browned. I found it to be too heavy with onion and salt in the toppings, so much so that it overpowered most of the other flavors. A fellow bagel taster liked that aspect of it, finding this bagel to be the most flavorful of the bunch.
I also enjoyed the cream cheese, which had nice big chunks of vegetables in it, although there was perhaps too much cream cheese. It completely filled up the hole in the middle of the bagel, and I found myself wiping some off before eating anything. The bagel itself had a great crisp outer shell and a soft inside with a hint of sweetness to it.
A bit further out in the far reaches of Columbia County, almost to the Massachusetts border, we found a little bagel joint in New Lebanon (that oddly also serves pizza). Bucky’s Bagels is pretty unassuming from the outside, but it had a great hometown feel. The staff seemed to know most customers by name, and there was a nice selection of homemade pastries in addition to the bagels.
For what it’s worth, this was the biggest bagel and also the cheapest that we sampled this weekend, making it the best value. Most of our other notes were less flattering. The toppings were sparse, almost non existent. The bagel was dense and puffy, with a very plain taste and an almost spongy consistency. There wasn’t quite enough cream cheese, especially considering the large size of the bagel, and there wasn’t a very strong veggie taste.
I felt like this bagel was pretty forgettable, and it almost reminded me of something that you would buy at a gas station or a grocery store. Perfectly acceptable and edible if you’re in a rush, but not something that you would go out of your way to seek out.
Last but not least, we also included Pyschedelicatessen, the relatively new bagel spot in downtown Troy. Psychedelicatessen has a really unique vibe – sort of a tie-dye hippie coffee shop. They get points for a strong emphasis on supporting local food vendors.
This bagel was the smallest of the bunch, and it was a little pale and sad looking next to the others. Part of this was because of the rather light coating of toppings. I think half of them fell off in the wrapping, and quite a few more fell off every time I took a bite. The actual bagel was kind of dense and one-note in terms of flavor and consistency. I tend to like a bagel with more distinction between the outer crust and a softer inside.
Where Psychedelicatessen really scored high marks was its cream cheese. It had a really interesting and original vegetable taste. With each bite I felt like I tasted a different flavor, with hints of what might have been tomato, carrot, and cucumber and some nice crunchy vegetable pieces. There were also some vibrant fresh herb undertones.
Best Toppings – Split decision between Bagel Tyme and Broad Street Bagel Co. I think this ultimately comes down to how zesty one thinks an everything bagel should be.
Best Cream Cheese – Psychedelicatessen. Their veggie offering tasted the most unique and homemade, with the strongest vegetable flavor profile.
Best Bagel – Broad Street Bagel Co. We liked the crisp outer shell of this bagel, and it was flavorful and soft inside.
Best Overall – Broad Street Bagel Co. Although I found the toppings to be overwhelming, the cream cheese and bagel dough were both on the higher end of our ratings. I think if we had ordered a different bagel variety I would have had no hesitation about this decision. A close second place goes to Bagel Tyme, which was respectable in most regards but just didn’t really stand out above the pack in any of the criteria.