2011 Bagel Battle – We Have a Winner

The long and winding dough road leads to Sam's.

It was a contest fraught with various tastes, between corporate and independent bakers, and lots of extra calories for a certain writer.

When the smoke (flour) cleared, one local bagel emerged as champion. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2011 Caldwells Patch Best Bagel of the Caldwells crown belongs to ...

Looking back, you may have had an inkling about the final choice, or maybe not. Until the 11th hour before press time, it truly was a toss up.

In Contrast: The Super-Close Runner Up, Bagelwich

Second place certainly makes a great bagel that goes the distance. They too have a big following, and have previously won awards for their bagel product. In fact, in this contest, Bagelwich actually took Sam's in one category: size.

Tipping the Scale

In the final analysis, the size criterion didn't carry as much weight as the others. Sam's employee, Rick, actually took the time to explain why Sam's bagels can run smaller: "They're so fresh," and Sam's sells their bagels so fast, that "we don't always have time to proof the dough." He added that in terms of amount of actual product, weight rather than circumference should be examined; Sam's may look smaller, he said, but it's "tighter."

It Comes Down to the Taste, Bud

In terms of flavor, a plain Sam's bagel actually has two – the crust (how many weeks has it been, and I still can't find a cool word for this?) is a standalone treat from the inside, where things are a little more dry. Sam's bagels are dense, as a classic bagel should be. They are closer to "pretzel" (but without the sourdough aftertaste) on the bread spectrum than "white bread," which unfortunately is where some bagels in this event landed.

Moreover, Sam's bagels are consistent. Chalk it up to great quality control or perfect timing. In any variety (including their smashed hit and reader Rick Cahill favorite, the flagel), there is always delicious uniformity.

Many readers favored Sam's – Rich Davidson went out of his way between sets at the gym to tell this writer that although he's cutting back on bagels (hence the working out), "Sam's is his place," and in regard to service, "you nailed it." That last comment may have also been in reference to someone's bench press (ahem). His wife (and Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education President) Mary Davidson took respite from stretching to also reckon Sam's a champ, but not its parking lot. She's right; it's deceivingly small, and at times when the other businesses aren't open, packed. Another testament to the popularity of Sam's.

The Cost King

There's one correction that needs to be made here. Sam's plain bagel price was reported incorrectly as $0.90 (a typo, we swear), when it actually is $0.80, which makes Sam's the lowest priced plain bagel in all of the Caldwells – another victory!

Well, that settles that … wait a minute. Just as this story was being completed, came the following statement from the Caldwells Patch Editor: "Contrary to our resident doughboy, Ron," Teresa Akersten said, "I never met a pumpernickel bagel I didn't love!" Well, somebody has to eat them.

Congratulations Sam's, and thanks again readers for reading and contributing. What should be be tackled next? Best sub sandwiches? Wallpaper? Let us know!

Jeanne Thiemann March 13, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Given the number of pizza places in town, perhaps that would be a good competition!


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