Hours: Open 7 days a week, Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Atmosphere: Trendy Capitol Hill.
Price range: Bagels range from 25 cents for a plain bagel to $2.90 for a sandwich with Nova lox and cream cheese. Desserts range from 60 cents for Colombo yogurt to $1.40 for cheesecake.
Credit cards: None (and no personal checks accepted).
Special facilities: None.
The Chesapeake Bagel Bakery will not bring pangs of nostalgia to a New Yorker's heart. It is trendy, fitted with Formica butcher block tables, white ceramic tiles, hanging plants and artwork from the Capitol Hill Arts Worshop. It is hardly the cluttered, dimly lit diner that natives of the Big Apple have come to expect.
On a recent Saturday afternoon I took some New Yorkers there for lunch. These self-styled delicatessen connoisseurs informed me that, although the food was good, the atmosphere was disappointing.
Where was the overpowering aroma? This bakery didn't smell like a bakery at all.
And where was the surly help? In New York, if one of the children had dropped a tray full of drinks, the counterman would hardly have been as mellow as the young man here.
Furthermore, when the eight of us bombarded the kitchen with a barrage of orders, he did not get flustered and made only one mistake (filling a request for turkey with ham).
The fact is that the proprietors of the Bagel Bakery moved three months ago, not from The City, but from Burlington, Vt. Since then they have succeeded in creating, not the archetypal deli, but a modest bakery of good quality.
After queuing in disorderly fashion and amassing three trays worth of bagel sandwiches, we sat down at one of the few tables for four and relegated the children to a counter furnished with stools running down one side of the room.
We traded bites and tasted six of the 12 fillings posted on the menu board above the counter. On the whole we preferred the tried-and-true combinations to the more organic concoctions.
The Nova lox was excellent: pink and glistening, neither too smoky nor too salty ($2.90).
The cream cheese bagel (80 cents) had cream cheese that was evidently several cuts above the kind available in supermarkets. And no wonder. When we asked the manager about it, he explained that it had none of the gums usually added to commercial brands, but was trucked in 30-pound blocks from Vermont and blended to creamy perfection on the premises.
Cream cheese also can be ordered mixed with scallions (90 cents), with grated raw vegetables ($1.15) or with walnuts, raisins and carrots ($1.15). The children preferred the taste of pure cream cheese, but the adult consensus was that the scallion-flavored cream cheese was also delicious, especially in conjunction with roast beef ($2.65).
My hummus and beansprout sandwich ($2.15), however, left something to be desired. The hummus, dry and granular, needed more olive oil for smoothness and tang. I also would have preferred my garlic bagel toasted, but as it did not occur to me to request this or to the counterman to offer it, I ate it cold.
After eating these sandwiches we were left feeling a bit hollow. A bowl of soup would have gone a long way toward rounding out the luncheon, but the bakery serves only bagels, desserts and drinks. The children at least had the honesty to go up for seconds. The littlest one asked for a plain uncut bagel, straight from the oven.
We turned to dessert. The mocha chocolate chip cheesecake was a delight--rich and creamy--but the Black Forest cheesecake was a letdown. The bits of cherry inside overpowered the cake with their syrupy fruit-cocktail flavor. Because the congealed, dust-colored icing on the chololate cake tasted faintly of cardboard, we concluded that it was not made on the premises. The brownie (90 cents) was wonderfully fudgy and dense, however.
Although the Bagel Bakery has a rapid turnover of customers, we did not feel hurried. We dawdled blissfully over our coffee, so much so that the children left in a fit of impatience to browse in the Trover Book Shop next door.
Altogether lunch for eight came to $30.72, including one apple juice, one orange juice, two soft drinks, three coffees and one tea.