Whether you want them or not, bite-sized stuffed bagels are here. The Bagel Bomb is one of the signature items at Milk Bar, and now they've been joined by local outfit B-Holes and New York-based Bantam Bagels, which just rolled out their orbs nationwide at Starbucks. (David Chang, whose Momofuku spun off Milk Bar, had a few choice words when Starbucks first introduced Bantam's products at select stores last year.)
It kind of makes you wonder how these bagel balls became a thing. Aren't bagels already one of the most portable foods out there, even with a cream cheese schmear? It's also hard not to feel a little jaded by the fact that the balls range in price from about $2 to $4 each and are just big enough for a few bites. (For comparison's sake, an unadorned, full-size bagel at Bullfrog Bagels costs $1.50, or $3 with cream cheese.) Meaning, they're not going to fill you up the same way a regular bagel would, unless you buy several of them.
That being said, they can be quite tasty. Here are the local contenders, ranked worst to best. (The balls were heated in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes prior to tasting.)
Under-cooked and too chewy
The Bagel Bomb with an everything topping was by far the biggest of the bunch, which may have been its downfall. The dough -- which was too sweet, by the way -- looked under-cooked; the telltale wet ring around the center seemed to confirm this. The bacon scallion cream cheese filling had sadly shrunk away from the dough. Maybe there should have been more?
$4 at Milk Bar (1090 I St. NW).
Small, slightly soggy overall
These are really on the smaller scale, but they passed the snack test anyway: solid, if not mind-blowing. The crust crisped up pretty well in the oven, and the dough was respectably chewy, if a little soggy around the middle. The veggie cream cheese -- with actual pieces of carrot -- filled out the center. The classic, with plain cream cheese, tasted just that -- in a good way -- and even skeptics (guilty) may be won over by the french toast flavor, which features a cinnamon-nutmeg egg bagel with maple cream cheese.
$2.95 for two or $7.98 for six at Starbucks nationwide.
Crisp on the outside with a fluffy interior
These modest-sized bagel balls were the most pleasant of the bunch. The exterior of both the everything and garlic-bacon balls were nice and crisp with chewy, slightly fluffy interiors. (The secret? They're boiled first sans filling, like a regular bagel.) Also, they were generously stuffed. Yes, the name is a bit cringe-worthy, but don't let that deter you from trying one of these when fancy strikes. "I'd eat them again," said one taster, and we all agreed.
$2 each at Prequel (918 F St. NW) on Fridays, Prego Again (1617 17th St. NW) on Fridays and Sundays and at the Petworth Community Market (Ninth and Upshur streets NW) on Saturdays, as well as on UberEats and Postmates on Fridays through Sundays.