November 2, 2004

Living By Bread Alone

Print More

In Collegetown, we could do without a lot of things: rabid meter maids, all six hair salons, noise violation ordinances, pointless two-way streets that cannot possibly accommodate two cars at the same time, and $3.00 garbage bag tags. The list goes on. But there is, unarguably, one essential aspect of Collegetown that we cannot live without — Collegetown Bagels. It is the only place in this vicinity that caters to everyone’s dietary needs, from vegetarians to soup-or-salad mongers to meat eaters. You can walk in with no specific food in mind and always find something to satisfy your craving.

Working back to front, Collegetown Bagels is a meal assembly line. In the very rear of the store, workers tirelessly produce hundreds of fresh bagels a day, using the same traditional ingredients and the boil-then-bake technique employed by many of New York’s finest bagel shops. Next time you wait in line for a sandwich, take a peek beyond the back wall and observe the timeless craft of making bagels.

The bar is the next stop on the production line, with five beers typically on tap, as well as wine and sangria, just in case you want to get blitzed before you eat.

If you can still see straight, order a sandwich from one of the many energetic staff members. They have specialty deli and bagel sandwiches, or you can create your own from a large variety of ingredients. Although I usually advocate making your own sandwiches, some of their creations are worth relinquishing that independence. The Lindsay ($6.25) combines turkey, mushrooms, parsley-garlic dressing and melted Muenster cheese on a bialy. The warm, earthy flavors of the mushrooms, garlic and cheese melt together between the bialy’s crispy halves. Another popular turkey sandwich is the Sweet Rachel ($6.25), which consists of smoked turkey, sweet onions, honey mustard and Muenster on pumpernickel. Some of the meatless items are also noteworthy, particularly the Michigan Hollow ($5.95), a balsamic marinated portabella mushroom with cheese on a roll. At the core of this deli are the famous bagel sandwiches that put CTB on the map. The Eggs Melissa ($3.25), the California Sunrise ($3.95) and the Bronx Bagel ($3.25) are among my favorites. They cook the eggs to uniform perfection and pile everything high on the fresh bagels, all for under four bucks.

While someone prepares your sandwich, you can pick up salads and small other interesting foods on the way to the register. One of the best aspects of their salads is that unlike many other delis, they almost exclusively use romaine instead of iceberg lettuce, which adds depth of flavor, texture and even some vitamin A. The garden salad ($2.95) is a medley of greens, carrots, mushrooms, black olives and chick peas with a house vinaigrette on the side. They also have your typical chef’s salad ($3.95), with egg, ham, turkey and Swiss. Every month, Collegetown Bagels introduces a new, original salad only for that month. For the month of November, they have the California Cobb Salad ($5.25), which features lettuce, egg, bacon, chicken, avocado and blue cheese. Add a complimentary piece of bread, and you have yourself a meal.

Along with these new salads, Collegetown Bagels also presents monthly and seasonal sandwiches, soups and bagels. The current seasonal sandwich is their Big Apple ($5.95), which consists of turkey, apple chutney and grain mustard on their own multigrain bread. This has become my new favorite. Get one. Do it. To celebrate the best day ever, Halloween, they serve pumpkin soup and pumpkin bagels. Get a toasted pumpkin bagel with honey, butter and cinnamon for only $1.11.

Perhaps my favorite leg of this journey is the pastry display. How can you honestly resist? We need desserts with our meals. That’s been scientifically proven. Researchers found that appetite satiety, or fullness, is most definitively achieved by consuming sweets. The items include various sweet breads, biscotti, pudding, brownies, scones, tartlets and, oh yes, huge cookies. I’ve tried my fair share of pastries in Ithaca, and I can say that no place is as consistently satisfying as Collegetown Bagels, and they restock their fresh supply early each morning.

But wait. There’s more. Forget that crappy little Seattle franchise — Collegetown Bagels has all the coffee you need to never sleep again. Warning: Do not order the Melissa’s All Nighter ($2.75) unless you are confident you need 20 ounces of coffee and four more espresso shots, or if you are crazy. That is probably enough caffeine to last you the rest of your life. Instead, you could order a normal cup of coffee ($1.25), and choose from a variety of flavors from various suppliers. To keep things interesting, CTB consistently features different blends from different parts of the world.

We all know how popular Collegetown Bagels is: From the early-morning riser to the completely screwed guy at 1 a.m. who hasn’t yet studied for his three prelims the next day, the place sees hundreds of customers each day. Why do so many flock to this small bagel shop on College Avenue? There is a substantial selection, and the quality is superb. The aromas of hot bagels, coffee and produce let you know that everything is fresh. The staff is quick, friendly and attentive, which makes the experience even more enjoyable. I think I actually started to cry tears of joy when I found out that they take City Bucks. If Collegetown Bagels did not exist, there would be a huge hole in the heart of Ithaca, and most likely another hair salon or Asian takeout place.

Archived article by Jon Rich
Sun Staff Writer