ES Local: Quest for Lox and a Schmear

That's what I call a bagel.

That's the whole package right there.

Editor’s Note: New contributor Elle joins the DC-based ES team with — what else — a DC rant. Welcome, Elle, and good luck on your quest!

I’m on a hunt. No, a quest. A quest to capture a surprisingly elusive prize: an awesome bagel (toasted!) that comes with awesome cream cheese (on both sides!) and awesome lox, somewhere (anywhere!) in DC.

On New Year’s Day, a friend of mine hosted a “hangover brunch” at her parents’ place in Manhattan. A few DC folks made the trip up to NYC for the NYE festivities, and our resident New Yorker was treating us to an impressive spread of quiche and French toast and Bellinis and….goodness, I can’t even remember everything she put out. But in addition to those made-from-scratch offerings, she had a bag of fresh bagels from Pick-a-Bagel and a heaping plate of lox.

My initial reaction? Something along the lines of “omgsofreakinggood.” I managed to polish off a pair of perfectly doughy, chewy bagels piled up with cream cheese and thinly sliced lox in a blink. Then it occurred to me that maybe decorum dictated I should stop hogging that heaping plate all to myself.

For the past few months, this memory of a typical New York bagel experience has been haunting me. And, sadly, DC Bagel Quest 2010 has so far yielded nothing but disappointment. I walked away empty-handed from the deli at Federal Center Southwest, Dunkin Donuts in Eastern Market and a handful of bakeries in Penn Quarter. I picked up serviceable sandwich versions that didn’t quite hit the spot from Bruegger‘s downtown and Bagels & Baguettes on Capitol Hill. Both of these spots seem to lean toward loading up on capers and onions to make up for skimping on the lox, despite the $8 price tag.

Am I the only person in the greater metro area wildly troubled by this void in our culinary landscape? Do the ex-New Yorkers around here have a secret spot they might be willing to let me in on? My only logistical requirements are that it’s open on Sunday mornings and tolerant of sweatpants. Or should I just give up and (gulp) try to make my own lox at home? Bagel lovers, I implore you. Help a girl out!

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  • Arlene March 22, 2010  

    So’s Your Mom in Adams Morgan has my favorite version in the district but the best one in the area comes from Bagel City in Rockville. Although as inaccessible as Rockville is if you don’t have a car, it’s probably easier just to go to NYC.

  • gansie March 22, 2010  

    try loeb’s at H and 15 st, NW (not sure about the sunday requirement)
    try so’s your mom at columbia and 18th (ish)

    so’s your mom recently helped me w/ my smoked whitefish craving.

    but girl, dc still has a long way to go of the american dream: a bagel shop on every corner.

  • Coop March 22, 2010  

    Brooklyn Bagelry at Court House metro in Arlington passes the test with this transplanted New Yorker. Bagels are a little denser than they should be, but the outside is nice and crunchy. I’ve also always been satisfied with the amount of lox — but most of the time I make up my own sandwich including lox rather than ordering their established NY-bagel style sandwich, so maybe they skimp on that one. (It doesn’t cost $8 either. )

    They also operate like a NY bagel shop: no nonsense. That line is always long on weekends, but it MOVES. And you better move with it … or you will get a sharp talking to from one of the clerks.

  • Britannia March 22, 2010  

    Pumpernickel’s in Chevy Chase DC, amazing, that used to be my morning hangover cure when I lived up that way. A must try for bagel lovers.

    @Elle, welcome to the team.

  • scott March 22, 2010  

    So I think Jane Black at the Post went on a similar quest (though hers may have been purely for a decent bagel). She gave up. Apparently Elle, you are screwed. You might as well try to find a great hoagie in Texas, or perfect Mexican in Maine…

    But I hear there is great pie in Arizona… So maybe… maybe Elle it could be your time. But don’t let this turn into one of those posts that starts a quest without a finish. I look forward to reading about the best lox bagels inside the beltway soon.

    Maybe it will be at my house.

  • JM March 22, 2010  

    I agree, Brooklyn Bagel in Courthouse is definitely the best place I’ve come across for a bagel, and they are very generous with their cream cheese.

  • maids March 22, 2010  

    MORTY’s !!!!
    in Tenleytown. it’s the best.

  • Sandra Clark September 13, 2011  

    Royal Bagel Bakery in Germantown was a really nice surprise when I moved here. Schmears, lox, the cookies you would buy in NY. Unfortunately I can’t eat them anymore (gluten intolerant), but they are still something I will pick up to take out of town to places that don’t have good bagels. They always get raves

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