Best Bagels

Eltana

Seattle's proud-yet-stagnant bagel scene has needed a good kick in the rump for some time now, and it got one this past year with the debut of Eltana on Capitol Hill. The first thing you notice upon entering is the woodpile, used to cook the bagels, which are laboriously fashioned by hand. Near the woodpile is a gigantic oven with visible flames that bake Eltana's bagels to a char. It looks like overkill, similar to Secretariat donning blinkers and getting Lasix before a race against a three-legged turtle, and the steaming wood makes the spacious, high-ceilinged cafe smell like a sauna. You forget all this when you bite into a bagel, however. Hard and tiny, these are known as Montreal bagels. They present a unique take on an on-the-go perennial which innovation had seemingly abandoned, with a generous amount of cream cheese heaped on in a shrewd departure from the asinine "schmear" wave that inexplicably washed over holey hell for a spell. MIKE SEELY 1538 12th Ave., 724-0660, eltana.com

 
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