The Hunt for the Holey Grail: Finding Charleston’s Best Bagel

The Hunt for the Holey Grail: Finding Charlestons Best Bagel

The bagel is easily the best and most versatile breakfast bread form. Not that the competition is tough, I’d eat anything over an English muffin. The bagel’s fun, circular shape and perfect density are ideal for holding any toppings, sweet or savory. While no bagel in Charleston could dream to measure up to a true New York City bagel, there are some pretty good (and bad) options for those as fond of this holey baked creation as we are. 

Orange Spot Coffee: 4/5

Many lucky students who have obtained the early out flock here during 4A for a reason. This established cafe remains relatively consistent and is conveniently located in neighboring Park Circle, a convenient 5 minute drive from the Bonds Wilson campus. While generally speaking anything on the menu comes through, the bagel here, plain, sesame, or everything, is a common choice. So why does it lack a perfect score? They make you spread on the cream cheese, an underlying theme to this article, and at times when I have gone here it is either super toasted or not toasted much at all. However, the flavor is there and the interior ambiance is renowned for making you feel hip. 

Bagel Nation: 5/5

By far the best bagel around. Unfortunately, the rest of Charleston has also discovered this, as the line is always snaking out the door on a Sunday morning. While I typically stick to a simple sesame, plain, or everything bagel, Anne Young (12) swears by the frazzle bagel for a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich. While we haven’t had the chance to try this unusual combo, I was able to snag a bag of discounted day-old bagels (which doesn’t tend to last long). The price is also something to admire; any bagel with one of the many spread combinations only ranges between $2-4. In addition, Bagel Nation is the girls’ soccer team’s go-to for pre-game fuel starting at approximately 7:50am in Mrs. Yackey’s room. The day before a game, and you see a text asking for your bagel order, you can expect about 20 “frazzle please” texts to come in, despite the fact they are infamously sticky. Since CCSD prohibits knives on campus, for good reason, we do have to get a little crafty with the spreading of the signature chocolate chip cream cheese. Initially I thought that combination wouldn’t go together, but I was proven wrong. I recommend trying it for yourself. 

Black Magic: 2/5

While Black Magic has some really bomb brunch options, their bagel is just not one of them. For the price point, $6.50, I expected more. When my disappointing plate arrived I was greeted by the measly sight of an over-toasted, under-seasoned everything bagel. To make matters worse, the cream cheese wasn’t spread on, but served in a 2oz plastic cup on the side, perhaps a COVID precaution. Either way, as someone who loves a heavy-handed application of cream cheese, Black Magic simply did not provide enough to satisfy my morning craving. The bagel itself was also lacking the chewy texture and density that really makes a bagel. It was more like circular toast. 

Gnome: 3/5

Many AMHS faculty and students may recall this vegan hotspot due to the fact that Mr. Grimshaw’s wife works behind the scenes here. Now I recall my own sophomore “let’s go get breakfast really early before school” experience, which is typically always a bad idea if you like being on time to your first period classes. The cappuccino I have to say is superb. I also ordered the bagel with avocado, Gnome features this for $6, a little pricey in my opinion. At the time, this may have been a hop on the avocado toast trend, which I hope is coming to an end. A single slice of burnt bread should not be up to $12. To be honest, this was not “the best bagel I’ve ever had.” But I also don’t have gluten-free taste buds so that might account for the lack of flavor.  But the 100% vegan menu does get some appreciation for being so eco-friendly. And the avocado was good. 

Nola’s Bagel from Lunch: 4/5

While this is one of the previously mentioned day-old Bagel Nation Bagels, I feel inclined to include it in our list due to the different manner it was served in. Prepared in a morning rush and stashed in nothing other than a Paw Patrol sandwich box. I left this bagel untoasted and absolutely slathered it with plain Philadelphia cream cheese. Please also take notice of the clean center cut. Wonderfully executed but better served warm. 

Regan’s Bagel from Lunch: 2/5 

Coincidentally, Regan Brown (12) and I both had bagels for lunch one day. This was the perfect opportunity to make a true comparison, as both were plain and untoasted with cream cheese. Regan rated this store bought mini bagel relatively low, stating it was “kind of a miss.” But in the bagel’s defense she put less than a millimeter layer of cream cheese on it. 

There are definitely certain criteria for bagels to meet. I classify a bagel based on its texture, personally believing that a truly great bagel must not be too similar to regular bread. I’ve found that the worst bagels are typically found at coffee shops and smoothie or juice places. Perhaps there’s an underlying reason, but as of now this phenomenon is merely an observed pattern. Lastly, the best bagels at any bagel-serving establishment are the ones with the smallest center cavities. That’s right Talon readers, the best bagels always seem to have the smallest (or no) holes. Despite this being the defining feature of a bagel, whatever baking process undoes the hole just makes the bagel better (and the toppings easier to apply).