Bagels: a classic, beloved culinary icon. I know for myself, these iconic baked goods hold a special place in my heart. But here’s the dilemma: in Mountain View, Los Altos and Palo Alto alone, there are well over 40 bagel shops to choose from. It seems like around every corner, there is another place for me to grab one.
But what differentiates a bagel from one shop to the next? How does the average bagel enthusiast decide where to make a stop for a delicious, bready treat? To answer these questions, I set out on a bagel expedition to see for myself what each shop had to offer.
I visited three of the area’s most popular bagel spots: Mountain View’s House of Bagels, Los Altos’s Posh Bagel and Palo Alto’s Boichik Bagels. I ordered a toasted plain bagel with cream cheese at each shop. A bit boring, I know, but the plain order provided me with a way to keep my experience consistent.
House of Bagels
House of Bagels — or Ho-bags, as some call it — is a hot and well-known bagel franchise. The Mountain View location especially is popular during weekdays, due to its close proximity to multiple middle and high schools.
Given how I mostly visit this shop on school days, I’d forgotten that Sunday mornings are key sales times for breakfast spots. I noticed there was a bit of a line, but to my surprise, there wasn’t a long wait. The instant I walked through the door, an employee greeted me and asked for my order. By the time I was at the front of the line, my bagel was already ready. I paid $4.10 for my bagel and was on my way, all in about two minutes.
The bagel itself was more soft and chewy than crunchy, so if you’re desiring a toastier bagel, this shop might not be for you. But overall, I was satisfied: Service was fast and the bagel I received was just a bagel — plain and not really special, but sometimes that’s what you’re looking for.
The next shop I headed to was Posh Bagels in Los Altos. An area with a lot of foot traffic, and filled with various breakfast spots. There was nobody inside when we visited the downtown shop at noon, apart from the two workers who kindly greeted me. After ordering my next carby contender, I paid a meager $4.56 and waited, staring right into my reflection on the mirrored walls, which oddly covered nearly every inch of the establishment’s walls.
Although the shop has plenty of indoor seating, I saw most customers sit outside if they did not take their food to-go. It was a bit off-putting and gave the store an eerie kind of feel.
I got my bagel after just a few minutes, and upon first glance, the bagel was packaged just like the House of Bagels one was — in an ornate, crumpled brown paper bag. The actual bagel’s appearance, however, was lighter in color than that of House of Bagels and ended up being much crunchier. The cream cheese was also saltier and slightly fluffier. Overall, a simple and delicious salty bagel.
Boichik Bagels was the complete opposite of the previous two stores. The shop itself has more of a modern, youthful look to it, with a more aesthetically pleasing logo and decor. The shop was buzzing with numerous workers, who were busily baking and arranging orders, which was a large contrast to the small number of employees at the other shops I visited.
Boichik Bagels is located within the Town and Country shopping center — an area that is both packed on weekends and a popular lunch spot for Palo Alto High School students. Unsurprisingly, the wait time for Boichik was longer than the other shops, at roughly five minutes total. The bagel came out to $4.50.
The shop has no indoor seating and is set up in a grab-and-go style. There was a hustle and bustle of workers just behind the register, and I didn’t mind the wait.
My bagel came wrapped with the shop’s logo patterned on it, instead of the whimsical brown bag I’d been blessed with at the previous spots. The bagel was much larger and the cream cheese was smoother than both of the previous bagels.
The bagel itself was a bit cold and soft in texture, even though I asked for it to be warmed and toasted. It was also pretty dense, which, combined with the cream cheese, made for a heavy and gluey bite. It reminded me of a bagel that I’ve kept in the fridge for later. Definitely an experience that was, well, something else.
I enjoyed each spot for different reasons. I liked the speed of House of Bagels, and the classic bagel I received. I’d choose Ho-bags if I was in a rush and wanted something reliable and dependable. I enjoyed the quiet ambience of Posh Bagel and the convenience of its location in downtown Los Altos; if I were in the area and craved a crunchy, golden bagel, Posh would be the right choice. As for Boichik Bagels, well, if you’re really into cold bagels, it’s the place for you.
At the end of the day, each place offers a satisfying bagel, just with its own variations in taste, texture and atmosphere. And so, rest assured — no matter if you’re looking for a classic, crunchy or unique bagel, there is a place near you, for you.