I spent New Year’s Eve at a nice hotel in Chelsea. The next day, after check-out, I decided to stay in the city and have brunch at Murray’s Bagels. I was particularly excited because one of my friends who isn’t gluten intolerant but is on a gluten-free diet, told me that Murray’s did indeed sell gluten-free bagels. When I tell you that I was hyped! I felt like a kid the night before Christmas! The thing that sucks about being gluten intolerant is living in a city filled with delicious carbs. In NYC, the quintessential breakfast foods are bagels, coffee, and doughnuts, and if it’s, say seven AM and you’re pressed for time before school or work and need a quick breakfast, nine times out of ten if it’s not coffee and a doughnut, you’re probably going to opt for a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel, a toasted bagel with cream cheese, or toasted bagel with (A LOT of) butter. I haven’t had any of these things in years. But, for a while I did attempt to make my own gluten-free New York-style bagels in the past. The result was always a flat, dense bagel with a dry, gritty after taste that had none of the pizzazz of a NYC bagel, and pretty much fell apart after one week in the freezer.
I’m in awe at how other gluten-free bloggers have managed to have success with their bagel recipes, but as for me, I guess I just don’t have the magic touch. So, this means I’ve had to pretty much shell out the big bucks for Udi’s brand gluten-free bagels and bread which are pretty decent taste-wise. Still, the great thing about NYC is that there are a lot of gluten-free friendly eateries to choose from, so I’ve never felt deprived for culinary experiences. But what continues to elude me is a good gluten-free bagel! So when I went to Murray’s on Monday, I felt like the wait was finally over.
The place was bustling. I stood on line for about fifteen minutes. Murray’s has a great staff, efficient, polite, attentive. The chain is a pretty typical Jewish eatery in terms of food; smoked fish, cream cheese, sour pickles, chicken soup, the lot. It’s also pretty affordable. Bagels are $1.35 each and a typical sandwich usually costs under five dollars, well, before taxes. Their menu is so ample that it’s hard to choose. While on line, I saw a girl seated a few feet from me eating what looked to be a toasted everything with lox and cream cheese. I hate cream cheese but that thing looked amazing.
By the time I reached the counter, I decided that I wanted a bagel with a side of egg salad. I don’t even fuck with egg salad like that but, man, under the display case, that damn egg salad looked like heaven. A guy at the counter with a thick African accent, says, “Can I help you?”
“Hi! Good morning! I would like a bagel with a side of egg salad. Do you guys sell gluten-free bagels?”
“Yeah. You want plain or everything.”
I peaked. Wow! I thought, I get options! “Everything,” I said excitedly. “And I’d like six please.” The other five bagels I was going to take home and toast.
He turns around and walks to the bread counter behind him. I’m looking at all of the breads and thick bagels the sized of tea plates, thinking about how I’m a few minutes away from some awesome thick, hearty sandwich. He opens one of the bread boxes, and I felt kind of special, as if I was going experience some great, rare delicacy that only came around about once a year. But folks, when I tell you that when the African dude reached into the bread box and pulled out a commercial bag of pre-made bagels (from a company called The Greater Knead). Well, I was pretty annoyed. These things were tiny; the width of a newborn baby’s palm. And he put two of these thick baby palm-sized pieces of bread into one paper bag, and then placed the pre-made bag of refrigerated bagels in another paper bag.
He then proceeded to fill a tiny plastic cup with the saddest scoop of egg salad I’d ever seen. I felt like Oliver Twist getting one ladle of gruel.
It was literally a shot of egg salad.
And then I looked at the label on the cup: $3.51. All total: $11.61.
I just laughed. Whatever. That’s New York for you, I guess.
And anyway, I just wanted to eat and then go home.
I already knew what to expect, because this is gluten-free bread we’re talking about here, and the thing about gluten-free bagels is that as they are, they’re rubbery, tough, and hard to chew. I’d equate them to the consistency of a dog toy, really. Still, let me tell you, it was one of the saddest bagels I’d ever eaten in my life. Not so much for taste; it tasted really good, so much so that in the end, I regretted not getting the bagel toasted. Still, I could forgive all of that, if not for the atrocious egg salad which was too damn expensive to be so bland. I was more offended by that than the bagel! I’ve lived in NYC my whole life and never have I ever tasted a Kosher egg salad as sad as this was. It was offensive, honestly, truly, to Jews everywhere. I mean, how the hell do you muck up Kosher egg salad? Even worse, how do you forget to put SALT in an KOSHER egg salad? A literal parody, like something I’d find joked about on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in a Mel Brook’s film.
And, of course, I ate it the damn thing.
I paid a lot of money for it, and I was hangry, and tired, and it was too cold to run around looking for another place to eat, and it was too crowded at Forager’s Table across the street.
When I got home, I toasted one of the bagels. So good. Not to plug the company, but knowing how difficult it is for people with gluten-related illnesses to find good food, especially bread, I’d recommend The Greater Knead. Plus, it has wholesale online, so I guess the upside is that I’ve now found another brand of gluten-free products that I might actually want to spend money on.
A nice establishment, but I would never eat at Murray’s Bagels again.
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