Twenty plus years back I lived in New York, briefly, where I became an aficionado of many NYC customs, habits, foods and proclivities. The one thing I absolutely cannot live without that has stayed with me all these years is a love of really great toasted bagel, preferably onion, with a "schmear" of plain cream cheese. (Although I must secretly confess that I prefer a thin schmear, "like buttah" I used to say, not a thick schmear which is what one normally is served. If I am served too much cream cheese, I just scrape off the excess, which I know is some kind of sacrilege.) Note: only an onion bagel with small caramelized onions on the outside is acceptable; onions on the inside, whether powdered or actual, are wretched and will be sent back with loud exclamations of disgust. If I can't get a good onion bagel I'll eat a plain one or an "everything". I really don't like fruity ones or cinnamon or chocolate - are those really bagels? They seem to me to be verging into some nebulous cross-over world of stale donuts.
Growing up in Dallas in the 1960's-1970's you'd think there were no bagels available locally, but you'd be surprised . I lived in a heavily Jewish north Dallas neighborhood where there were mom and pop delis and restaurants nearby that served decent bagels. When I moved back to north Texas after being away for a long time, suddenly there were chain bagel shops everywhere, and they were all serving pink, purple, blueberry, cinnamon, or chocolate bagels with strawberry, honey whipped, caramel cream cheese or some such crap. These chain bagel stores, (with names that evoke New York or Jewish sounding identities) didn't even toast them for you (an untoasted bagel is a raw bagel, and tastes like chewing on gummy tasteless stale bread.) In spite of the Popsicle colors and "flavors", these bagels have no real tasty bagel kinship. The best bagels have a sort of malted yeasty flavor that is hard to describe but you know it when you eat it. I notice a lot of people buying these bagels and bringing them to parties, and no one is eating them. They just sit there, looking pretty.
The very best bagel I ever had, bar none, came from a tiny Jewish bakery in a Hasidic neighborhood near where I used to teach school in Silver Springs, MD. This bakery was tucked away deep in the neighborhood and next door to the local yeshiva- I only found it accidentally when I took a wrong turn one day to avoid traffic. It had high ceilings, wooden floors, a long glass counter. Old man behind the counter, old fashioned cash register that chinged when they rang you up.You'd wait in line with young men in long black coats, black hats, and ear locks and they'd pretend not to notice you. These bagels were so wonderful that after I started bringing them in to work and eating them, everyone else I worked with wanted one, too, and soon my entire school was eating there - we increased their business about 300 %. There was something magical about those particular bagels - I still dream about them- larger than usual, a bit softer/chewier, not as hard, more malty/yeasty. Aaaaaaahhhhhhh, the memories.......
I've spent a lot of time lately- god knows why, it's not like I don't have enough things to do- looking for a better bagel in the DFW area. Why do we develop these ridiculous time-consuming quests for seemingly trivial things ? They give us pleasure, sure, distract us from our real life problems.....and I think I've found it. Ironically, it's from a neighborhood deli, just a few blocks from where I grew up, and it may have even been around when I was a kid living in the old neighborhood (the name seems familiar, although I had never been there). Deli News, below is their website. Some neighbors of ours, recently moved here from the northeast and hungry for the tastes of home, discovered it in Zagats and highly recommend it. I've started eating there- fabulous sandwiches and other deli foods as well. Yum! I buy a dozen bagels at a time, bring them home, freeze them, then pull one out at a time. Zap in microwave for about 10 seconds, slice, then toast . I'm having one right now.