The Place: Gilbert's Main Street Bagel Deli, 10024 Main St., 425-455-5650, BELLEVUE.
Get there early to snag a bit of holey boiled dough.
The Hole: Bagel Oasis proprietor Peter Ryan mentioned to me in our conversation last week that pumpernickel is a traditional East Coast bagel flavor. As soon as he said it, I realized I've never eaten a pumpernickel bagel. It was time to rectify that situation. So on entering Gilbert's I requested one of the dark bagels with cream cheese.
The Shit: I read somewhere that you have to get to Gilbert's early or the bagels run out. I was there well before 10 a.m. and already the pumpernickel had dwindled.I suspect the magic of Gilbert's isn't so much any individual food item as it is the overall ambience of the place. It's large, bright, and airy. Tables sit outside on the wide walk (a feature Seattle would do well to emulate). Well-used books and magazines line the window sills.
If the feel of the place is very West Coast casual, much of the food is straight out of Crown Heights, Brooklyn--matzo ball soup, lox, pastrami sandwiches, and baskets filled with bagels. Though fret not if you prefer more greasy-spoon breakfast fare. Pancakes, eggs, and omelets also populate the menu.
The bagels aren't cheap--a small pumpernickel with cream cheese to go came to $3.56 after tax. Perhaps that's because the fluffy cream cheese comes in a small container so you can spread it yourself. Too many places schmear the bagel for you, with the result being just too much of the fatty spread oozing out the sides. Gilbert's also throws in a little raspberry jelly.
The smell of the pumpernickel hit me first--a sharpness that white flour just doesn't have. My mouth immediately started to water. Gilbert's bagels also had one of the crispiest exteriors I've enjoyed in my holey ramblings so far. The inside remained perfectly chewy.
The sharpness of the dough, the fat of the schmear, and the sweetness from the jelly danced in near-perfect harmony on my tongue. I never thought I would so enjoy a Bellevue brunch. Just make sure you get there early enough to snag a bagel.