Some of my happiest early memories involve shopping at Caldor with my family, then getting a bagel sandwich and a Yoo-hoo at the bakery next door. This ritual probably ended sometime around 1990, but I still hold it dear. Maybe that’s why I don’t often seek anything but a plain bagel (any flavor, just no cream cheese or other fillings). Why ruin a great thing?
And in most cases, I am right. But when I saw the menu at The Bagel Café in Herndon, I knew that I would have to give it a chance. Actually, more than one. I couldn’t settle on a single sandwich. Would it be a Reuben? A bacon, egg, and cheese? The plain old warmed-up turkey I savored as a kid?
Ultimately, I landed on the Matteo, a combination of roasted red peppers, marinated chicken, and Muenster cheese. Thanks to the tangy, juicy chicken, it would have been a good sandwich on any base. The sourdough bagel, however, absorbed the marinade and fat from the nutty cheese, suffusing it with flavor, even if the bread itself was a little less chewy than I prefer. Still a satisfying sandwich by any measure.
But the reasons I’ll return to The Bagel Café are to taste my way through the bagel and cream cheese flavors. There are near-infinite combinations, and someday, I will have to try them all. But I felt compelled to try one of the more boring ideas on my first attempt. I just couldn’t resist the pull of a Valentine-red strawberry bagel, filled with matching strawberry cream cheese. The bagel itself was more substantial and gave my jaw more of a workout than the first I tried. It didn’t have a strong flavor on its own, but the lightly sweet cream cheese benefited from chunky whole berries. Caldor and the bagel shop next to it might be long gone, but I’m making new memories at The Bagel Café.
300 Elden St., Herndon
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