Atmosphere: Bare basics.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight.
Price range: 25 cents to $2.99.
Credit cards: No credit cards; personal checks for purchases of $5 or more.
Special facilities: Street parking only; accessible to wheelchairs, but eat-in counter is high and can be reached only by sitting on a bar stool or standing; no booster seats or highchairs.
A Sunday in Georgetown offers endless, inexpensive possibilities for a family outing: walking along the canal, window shopping and people watching along M Street or Wisconsin Avenue, touring the cobblestone side streets to admire the architectural style and lush gardens, or introducing the kids to the glories of the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks.
The family's problem has never been how to amuse ourselves in Georgetown, but how to feed the family cheaply but well when the walking and touring sharpen our appetites.
Last Sunday we found the answer, and it wasn't at a fast-food chain or pizzeria. It was at the Georgetown Bagelry, an emporium you might as well call "Hot Bagels" since that's the only sign you can see from the street.
Hot bagels is what the Bagelry is all about. The bagels are not only hot, but, connoisseurs agree, are the best in Washington and come closest to being the real (New York) thing.
The hot bagels, which seem to emerge from the kitchen every few minutes, come as honey wheat, salt, garlic, onion, sesame seed, poppy seed, caraway, cinnamon raisin and, of course, plain. They are 25 cents each, but most customers buy a bagful to take home.
The Bagelry also boasts an eat-in counter and a wide variety of sandwiches made with bagels. The most expensive item in the shop is a Reuben sandwich ($2.99). Everything else is less--much of it a good deal less. With prices like that, you can feed a family of four quite reasonably and quite well.
The Bagelry is not a place where you relax in upholstered comfort or where waiters or waitresses see to your needs. Seating is on 16 plain wooden bar stools around the perimeter of the room where a blond wood counter has been nailed to the wall, or you can stand.
The menu is a big board behind the takeout counter, where all orders--bagels or sandwiches to go or to eat in--are placed. You can order coffee, tea or freshly squeezed lemonade or orangeade at the counter, or you can choose a canned soda or bottled juice from a refrigerator. Although the amenities are few, the young men and women who work behind the counter are generally polite and helpful.
It helps to know that, when you're ready to choose your sandwich, you also will have to select a kind of bagel. For instance, you could have a hamburger ($1.79) on an onion or maybe a garlic bagel; a ham sandwich ($2.49) on a caraway or poppy seed bagel; roast beef ($2.79) on sesame seed or plain.
We decided to try as wide a variety of sandwiches as four people could manage. Pastrami on an onion bagel ($2.79) was, my daughter reported, the best sandwich she'd ever had. The meat was well-seasoned, low on fat and hot. The dark brown mustard, applied when the sandwich was made, was far superior to the little packs of mustard generally available with takeout food.
A pizza on an onion bagel ($1.29) sounded dreadful but turned out to be terrific. The thick tomato sauce spread on the bagel was covered with a generous layer of cheese, melted and bubbling hot. The flavors blended beautifully and the bagel made a perfectly acceptable pizza crust.
Hummus with alfalfa sprouts on a salt bagel ($1.79) was heavy on the garlic but an excellent combination of tastes and textures: chewy bagel, smooth mashed chickpeas and crisp sprouts.
One of the less adventurous souls in our group opted for a salt bagel with cream cheese, lettuce and tomato ($1). It wasn't exactly exciting but, since the bagel was of superior quality, even that sandwich came off well.
For dessert we tried two YWCA chocolate chip cookies (79 cents each). Had we been hungrier, we would have shared the inviting carrot cake we saw through the refrigerator's glass door.
Lunch for four, which included a cream soda and two lemonades, came to $9.74, including tax.