Over the course of 14 weeks of intensive study, interviewing countless people, many who have become lifelong friends and colleagues, I have conducted a short list on Santa Cruz Mountain bagelry, bagel topics, and bagel misnomers. Beginning with the least important of the three, the Bronze Medalist.
3. The Bagelry, Santa Cruz, Ca, Center St.
This bagel shop is actually named Bagelry, which means I’m not crazy. Or am I? This unique of uniqueness bagelries is located in downtown Santa Cruz. Getting a bagel in a college town is always interesting. There are lots of cool and blatantly wrong but energetic thoughts floating around college towns. The more liberal the university and the students, the more open uncleanliness, autocracy, psychedelic drug use, political liberalism, and light-hearted cynicism will you see. The Bagelry in downtown Santa Cruz lays its front doors at the foot of the mountain where the University of California Santa Cruz resides, up in the poppy gardens and redwood giants. Feel like re-living that acid flashback? Go get a bagel at The Bagelry, and you won’t want to.
Now, why is this breakfast favorite in the top three? Because when you are going to do something, do it hungover on your way to school. Yes, Santa Cruz is weird, and the reason this bagelry survives in this atmosphere is because compared to some of the people wandering the streets nearby, it’s very calm and conservative, yet still a little odd. The seating area looks like a children’s play area. Every time I have seat in there, waiting for my bagel, drinking my coffee (which isn’t that good), I always look around for wood blocks.
And yet, I see people sitting in there, very dignified. It offers a kind of privacy. Outside, there is a beautiful, though very small, patio. There are only about three little tables, but they have enough vines and flowers surrounding the cement, up next to the building, you get a nice New York City, bohemian, practical functionality. Oh yeah, the bagels, what you came here for. They are pretty much okay, nothing special. But it tastes decent enough, they have the avocado and the organic sesame seed imitation yada yada all that great stuff. Go Slugs.
2. Firefly, Santa Cruz, Ca, Front St.
Again, Santa Cruz city steals one of the top three.
Firefly is in a section of town that happens to actually get some sun. Because of that, there is a funky lightness about the streets. Could it be that the river, the bluff, the crack whores, and the island of used car and stereo businesses, have drawn the crowd? No. They drive past, heading for Boardwalk glory. They miss this little coffee shop from their cars, because Firefly literally is in a small warehouse area, surrounded by automotive retailers. There is an anti-Hollywood, Hollywood, edgy sophistication here.
The sun was lighting up a small vine terrace deal, the wood warm and happy in the sun, not too unhappy it was separated from it’s 1 billion seven hundred million particles.
There is a bookshelf for reading, if you have time to dive into a 500 page Russian novel while your bagel is in the toaster oven. The cappuccino was good and I ordered a bagel with cream cheese. They went well together, almost like pinot noir and pork. I said as much to the counter guy, and he said, “duh”, with such confidence, that I quickly understood I was in a special place.
1. House of Bagels, Scotts Valley, Ca, Mount Herman Rd.
Santa Cruz city does not like a shopping mall, so order to search the shopping mall environments for good bagel shops, we traveled with our crew, all ten of us, for two days, into the mountains of Scotts Valley, to see if we could round ourselves up a review of a real tar ticklin’ boots flickerin’ down country yard bagel. We found that a friendly family was making the best bagels, coming in at number one.
Their friendliness is best expressed in a short story.
“House of Bagels, Counter Girl, a Love Ensemble, Story”
My girlfriend and I were getting a tad overweight. It happens to the best of us. Sadly, you cannot get a bagel sandwich without a bagel. Well, you can, but it’s very messy. So, I told my girlfriend, as good as bagels are, we must lay off, at least for a few days. And cheese too. I was getting pretty self righteous about it actually.
“No bread, no cheese. No bread no cheese. No bread, no cheese!” I was telling her, trying to get House of Bagels out of my mind.
“I heard you!” she yelled.
“It’s just for us, baby, we are eating too many bagels, and too much cheese.”
“I know, you’re right,” she said, “I actually ate cheese just now when I said I was at work.”
“For seven hours?”
“It was a rye brie, technically, that doesn’t affect my diet, but yes, I know, I know.”
“Well, you were the one crying last night about how fat your were, and I’m just suggesting no cheese and no bread.”
“Does that mean NO bread?” she asked me.
“I mean, just don’t over do it,” I said to her.
“Okay,” she said.
“My beautiful girl,” I said, “I love you.”
“Sure,” she said, “I love you too.”
“No cheese?” I asked her. “No cheese” she said. I laughed. She laughed.
So I leave, and drive down the road. I was resolved to my word to lay off the bread and the cheese for a while, but the kind of bagels that House of Bagels makes are kind of a breed of their own. I kept driving, my hands trembling, getting closer to the number one bagel shop. I couldn’t resist, and I pulled in.
They are the freshest bagels I have ever seen. The colors of the jalapeno bagels are actually green and yellow as if they were freshly harvested. They also package their excess lox and cream spreads, which you can purchase. They make great sandwiches, everything fresh. I ordered my usual, an egg salad sandwich. The avocado they use is better than most avocado I have had anywhere.
Today, I was tired, so I also ordered a double cappuccino. When I went to pay at the register, the cute girl efficiently getting my order together promptly and with a smile, I proceeded to drop the cappuccino, causing hot espresso and foam to splash into my face and all over the counter. Horrified, I laughed and accepted napkins. I refused her offer to make another drink. All things considered, she made me feel less embarrassed, which was greatly appreciated. Then I went to my car and ate the bagel sandwich and cried. About how good the bagel was, I mean.