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River City Bagel

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The hole is what distinguishes a bagel from a roll, right? OK, bagels--unlike bread--are boiled and then baked, but as an eater, it's the hole that makes it a bagel. The hole is also what makes a bagel sandwich a problem sometimes.

If you're just gonna smear on some cream cheese, it's no big deal--in fact, the hole's convenient for grip, like a painter's palate. But in the world of sandwiches, the hole is a nuisance. Though folks may credit the water for their greatness, New York bagels are an international sex symbol because they are curvy, full, and the hole is almost non-existent. Perfect as a bedding for lox.

River City Bagels in Boise makes 21 varieties of bagel, most of which have very small holes (not the power bagel, which is so full of fruits and nuts there is no room for dough to rise). And they make a lot of sandwich combinations to put on any of their choicy rounds.

I like River City for lunches that are fast, cheap and tasty. And if you eat in the restaurant, you can sit on a couch and read a newspaper like it's your own living room. So I do. I sneak away from work one afternoon with my steady alibi Louie. There are only a few patrons in the joint, I notice as we hustle up to the counter to order. Louie gets a tuna melt on a parmesan bagel and a side order of red potato salad. I get a portabello mushroom and red pepper sandwich on plain and a cup of the homemade soup that changes each day--this time it's vegetarian Aztec black bean.

By the time I pay, the 'wiches are in hand, thanks to the superior staff. Only glitch so far is that when I ask for another punch card (buy 10 sandwiches, get one free) because I conveniently left mine at work, cashieress tells me they aren't doing that anymore and wasn't sure if they were even honoring old cards. Punch cards, yay. No punch cards, boo!

Louie and I sit on a dark, cushiony couch. I crumble saltines into my soup as he swaps half my sandwich for half of his high-piled, open-faced tuna. I don't know anything about Aztec culture, but apparently they make black bean soup that is a shocking rip off of vegetarian chili. Tasty, but it needs more than just beans. Louie only likes it as a dip for the crackers. So do I.

He better enjoys the potato salad, which is yellow (with mustard, perhaps?) and crunchy (celery, I think?). I head right to the sandwich. Mine is a snazzy concoction with cheese and cream cheese and it oozes all over the place. We give it a thumbs up because it's more elaborate than something you'd make at home.

The highlight, however, is the tuna melt. Soft and chewy and loaded with celery-filled tuna salad that's all neatly contained under a square of melted cheddar cheese.

Sandwiches are more costly than just a bagel with cream cheese (and they have lots of choices of that too), but the tuna was so good that next time I'll order it again, as long as I can get a punch for it!

--Jennifer Gelband spins a gimmel and gets it all.

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