The interior of Collegetown Bagels' new location. (Melanie Metz / Sun Staff Writer)

September 24, 2020

CTB Sells Nostalgia, Not Bagels

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p style=”text-align: justify”>Every Cornell applicant is guided around our campus and force-fed endless stories about the institution that is Collegetown Bagels. CTB has a pervasive presence throughout the entire Ithaca area and is undoubtedly a part of Cornell’s culture. I can’t blame students for loving the restaurant where they have fond memories of late nights and early mornings, but the worship of this shop’s bagels has gotten out of hand. Students will often rave about their food, so I’ve written this article to analyze CTB separate from our collective nostalgia and bring us back to reality.

You may think I’m just a grumpy New Jersyian that is just looking to be a contrarian, while I sulk and dream of a grease-laden taylor ham egg and cheese, and you may be right. Despite the fact I possess a bagel bias endemic to people from the New York Metro area, that does not take away from the fact that CTB’s main business relies on pedaling a product that relies on sentimentality, and not pure quality. In short, people don’t buy these bagels for their outstanding taste or texture, but to relieve the experiences that they’ve had at CTB. This opinion was only backed up during my interviews with many customers universally rebuking the texture, flavor and overall quality of their bagels. One student described them most eloquently as “Bread formed into the shape of a bagel,” and another as “a small, sad, overpriced lump.”.

CTB’s subpar quality really shows in its namesake bagels that consistently fail to impress and pale in comparison to any local bagel shop in New Jersey or New York City. For example, on my last trip to their new Collegetown location, I tried their Pizza Bagel. The dish was covered in a metallic sauce with a slice of cheese that rolled over a gummy, soggy bagel like a muddy, windburnt mound of snow that sat decaying in the grey Ithaca sun. The bagels at CTB are gaunt and lose their structure once you start eating them. On the other hand, a quality local shop has a bagel that’s puffy, golden-brown and is complete with a shiny lustre and a full-bodied chew. To see this disparity in quality, just rip open a CTB bagel and compare the desert-dry innards of it to the steamy inside of a quality bagel. CTB offers a pedestrian, industrially produced bagel that lost its final dregs of character when the original establishment was demolished.

The lackluster bagel itself is enough of a disappointment, but  CTB’s breakfast options are laughable. I distinctly remember my excitement as I walked into CTB for the first time as a newly minted freshman and ordered the Brooklyn sandwich — CTB’s take on a bacon, egg and cheese. You can only imagine my disappointment when I found that the Brooklyn breakfast sandwich is a disrespect to the namesake borough. The flaccid bacon, rubbery cheddar and a square steamed egg makes airplane food look like it just left a Michelin star kitchen. The robotic egg that looked like it was poured out of a carton was a repulsive excuse for a breakfast food and still ruins CTB’s wraps and sandwiches to this day- I am consistently baffled that CTB manages to have a ravingly loyal fanbase while any local bagel shop in my hometown could blow it out of the water. The bad breakfast offerings are inexcusable for such an iconic Ithaca brand like CTB and really points to how its declining quality and loss of character have only accelerated since its old location has shut down.

CTB does certain things well, their coffee is fine, their sandwiches and lunch offerings are perfectly edible and few places are as good a meet-up spot for friends across our campus than CTB. I just wanted to set the record straight. Many people I’ve spoken to feel that the worship of this institution has covered up critical flaws. Taking off our rose tinted glasses, we see that there are a plethora of problems ranging from low quality offerings to its loss of identity that its Collegetown comeback failed to fix.

Gabe Schiffer is a Sophomore in the ILR School. He can be reached [email protected].