One of my apartments in Salem Massachusetts was right downtown. Parking was a pain (as was grocery shopping and carrying all the things home) but it was nice to walk downstairs and a block away was a CVS for those last-minute needs. There were at least three bookstores that I remember and quite a few tourist traps that leaned toward the witch history of the town.
The best however was Red’s Sandwich shop. It was down the stairs make right and one door down. It was your ultimate local deli spot. For breakfast I would get a cheese omelet. Growing up, we did not go out to eat much and certainly not for breakfast. My mother did excel in the area of breakfast but eating breakfast out was foreign to me. Therefore, I did not really have a yardstick to measure the differences in East Coast vs. Midwest style food. The omelet at Red’s was flat, like open a napkin put in cheese flip it over and done. In contrast, here in Indiana the one breakfast place we frequent (ok both of them) has giant omelets, at least two inches high and so large we always just split one.
But you are here for the bagels. The bagels were pure East Cost bagels. They were boiled, which gave them the crispy on the outside, dense and chewy on the inside. At Red’s they would take the bagel slather it with butter and put it face down on the grill. Once golden brown, it was tossed onto a plate (the grill area was open behind the counter with individual stools so you could watch all this magic and there was a lot of tossing of foods), a chunk of cream cheese was cut off and slapped on top and the whole thing served to you to devour. I fell deeply in love with bagels.
When I returned to the Midwest, my love of bagels waned. I could not pinpoint it, but they just didn’t taste the same. They were not crunch on the outside and dense on the inside. They just seemed like bread in a different shape.
I have a friend who we frequently have coffee and catch up at her house. She is an amazing cook and originally from New York. On our last get together, she told me to come with an appetite as she had made bagels. They were amazing and she made them! As she walked me through the process (let’s be honest, I am never going to have the patience to do this, I barely have the patience to let them thaw from the freeze before I toast them!), I realized what was missing in the bagels here. Boiling them. I still cannot fathom the idea of boiling dough but it works, wow does it work! Now I just need a giant flat top grill and a huge chunk of cream cheese.