River City Bagel and Bakery is like Idaho--the place is wide open and friendly with a rough-hewn disposition and easy appeal. The proprietorship recently changed, but when I arrived for lunch, my attention was immediately drawn to a sign that proudly stated the restaurant is "locally owned and operated."
The wall of bagels (free Phil Specter!) offered too many intriguing choices to make a quick decision. These doughy enticements looked pumped up, not in a Barry Bonds sort of way, but more sensual, more cervical perhaps. They appeared pregnant, burgeoning with thicker toppings than Burt Reynolds. I was relieved when my self-centered developer friend joined me because he's a mover and shaker, used to making tough calls. He breezed in as if Carly Simon wrote songs about him, glanced at the menu, and immediately ordered the TBLT melt on a Parmesan bagel. Inspired, I refocused my attention and asked for a ham and Brie melt on poppy seed.
The orders came with tortilla chips and a pickle. I like pickles, and mine was cold, quarter cut, and capable of having fertilized my gravid bagel (I can't stand a limp pickle). The sandwich was heated without toasting the bagel, pleasantly blending the textures of the varied contents. The exterior of the bagel was just firm enough, providing integrity, yet giving way quietly to its soft center with each bite. The Brie was surprisingly mild, but necessarily so. The smoky, lean flavor of the Boar's Head ham countered the cheese in a tasty truce.
Little Trump's order consisted of turkey, bacon, sun-dried tomato cream cheese, cheddar cheese, tomato, and lettuce. He really liked that he didn't have to rebuild his sandwich after each bite. That's probably the only construction effort this developer has ever been happy to avoid. He was less keen on the bacon, wishing it were more substantial.
For dessert we helped ourselves to a berry bar and a rocky road bar. Sadly, my berry bar tasted too much like it was filled with Smucker's jelly. I also found the crust to be overly dense. His rocky road bar was simply too rich; this from a guy who never imagined he'd put the word too before rich. We both agreed that the lunch was good, and that the effort was even better. I left feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the options, so I went back to 908 W. Main on a Sunday morning for a bagel and some coffee.
The breakfast scene was much quieter, and I was able to take in a lot more of what they had to offer. Their soups and salads are fresh and homemade. The coffee is from Montana Coffee Traders, and they even have specialty holiday drinks. I counted well over ten different bagel options, including seasonal choices like pumpernickel and cranberry orange. I settled on a sunflower bagel with garlic herb cream cheese and a mug of black coffee. I thought the cream cheese was just too creamy and overwhelmed the seasoning. The bagel itself was exceptional. Enough sunflower seeds fell on the table to feed a flock of seagulls (jail Phil Specter!). The coffee was hot, which is my only prerequisite for a satisfying cup.
I liked River City Bagel as much for the food as for the integrity behind the endeavor. They are clearly trying very hard to provide fresh and creative alternatives to typical dining fare. The new ownership is hustling for customers, and I'll be back on one of my hungrier days.
--Waj Nasser has a linty pupik--and how!