The first time I came to 42nd Street Bagels in the Claremont Village was when I just transferred after freshman year from NYU to Claremont McKenna. I was craving a bagel so badly I was ready to cry, but then someone said, “nonono, we have bagels in Claremont!” So happy I was to hear that, that I borrowed a friend’s bike and biked over to the Village so quickly that I fell off the sidewalk and onto the road halfway there. I was a bloody mess, but trekked on over anyways.
After selecting a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese (I couldn’t help it, it was seasonal!), the lady asked if I would like my bagel “heated up.” Well duh, I thought, of course I wanted it heated up! I couldn’t wait for the cream cheese slathered on thick to go all melty inside, and for the bagel itself, dense and crusty with a toasty char. Well apparently, at 42nd St Bagel, “heated up” does not imply “toast” but “MICROWAVED.” They microwaved my bagel. I ate half, till it started to turn that awful and scary post-microwave rubbery stage, where you can barely bite it off and once you do bite it off, it just tastes hard. Rubbing salt into wounds, they don’t even slather the cream cheese on for you! It comes on the side in a sad, dejected looking container. Sad. I felt like I was going to cry again.
So I went back to my dorm, bloody knees at all and sat on my bed, cursing myself for transferring schools. And never went back to the stupid bagel place.
For a year.
Earlier this semester I had an awful bagel hankering after a late night conversation with my future apartment mate in NYC, Shann, who had lunched at Murray’s Bagels earlier in the day. Feeling like a loser in the land of bagels, I decided that the next day I would go back to 42nd St, but this time request, NO HEAT UP, take the bagel back to my dorm and toast it myself. I ordered the Italian bagel with sundried tomato and pesto cream cheese and prayed my plan would succeed. I was all prepared to answer the HEAT UP question, but instead I got, “would you like your bagel toasted?” What?! Toasted?! Wait a minute. I was totally thrown off. “Toasted?” I inquired with a rather confused look on my face, “toasted?” I said again. I think I asked at least five times. The lady thought I was crazy, and I was pretty sure I was crazy by now. “Ehh, yes, toasted.” “In a toaster?” “Yes. Do you want it toasted?” Well I did, but I wasn’t sure we had the same understanding of the word ‘toast.’ “Okay, then,” I said cautiously, “I would like it toasted please.” So I sat down and waited for an eternity. And then the bagel was delivered to my table. The cream cheese, like the first time, came alone and rock cold in a separate container. I looked at the bagel.
OH MAN, it was TOASTED! I touched it. So beautiful! Crusty sides, the top with melting cheddar cheese and pepperoni bubbling bits of glossy oil. Okay, so it was an unconventional bagel. But it was TOASTED. And that’s all I ever wanted. I slathered on my cream cheese with whirls of pesto and chopped sundried tomatoes. I let it sit for a minute for the cheese to soften up and begin to sink into the tiny crevices of the bagel. And it was glorious I tell you.
I was so happy that I went back the next day, “garlic bagel with vegetable cream cheese, TOASTED, please.” I felt so in the know. And there it came, super toasty this time! Again, I did my slather and let sit for a second, then munched away on this glory, shredded carrots and chopped cucumbers mixed in the cream cheese, lots of minced garlic inside and all over the top of the bagel. Not quite like my favorite, Bagel Bob’s, in NYC, but this was pretty darn good for the moment. 42nd St’s bagels are of the squishier variety, they’re more bread-like, lacking the density and a heft of a real bagel. But squishy or not, they’re toasted!
42nd Street Bagel
225 Yale Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711
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