When New York Times food critic Tejal Rao bravely proclaimed “the best bagels are in California” in a review of Berkeley’s Bochik Bagels, New Yorkers were mortified. Soon-to-be Mayor Eric Adams promptly tweeted “Yeah, absolutely not.”
Senior and ex-New Yorker Sebastian Bonnard felt similarly to Adams.
“I was shocked,” Bonnard said. “It just doesn’t feel right that the best bagel is in Berkeley, California.”
So when I heard Boichik Bagels was opening its second location at Town and Country this spring, I decided I had to try them myself. I brought along three other Campanile staff members to help me make a bagel pilgrimage to Bochik’s Berkeley storefront on Saturday morning in February.
We arrived around 9:15 a.m., and there already was a line around the block. However, it moved quickly, and our bagels were in hand about 15 minutes after getting in line. There was no indoor or outdoor seating, so we ate our bagels in the neighborhood nearby.
We first sampled The Classic ($15.50): lox with chive cream cheese, tomato, red onion and capers on a toasted everything bagel. The bagel was topped with heaping proportions of melt-in-your-mouth salmon. The lox, probably the best I’ve ever had, was sliced into bite-sized slivers, keeping the bagel intact as we ate.
Although the healthy serving of lox was great, the amount of capers was excessive and their the saltiness was so overwhelming that I almost couldn’t taste the delightful sweetness of the bagel which was perfectly chewy, not too dense, and far more than just a vessel for the toppings.
We tried a few other bagel flavors as well. The cinnamon raisin was a marvelous surprise and paired with Boichik’s plain whipped cream cheese, its perfect sweetness made it the best cinnamon raisin bagel I had ever tasted. All the bagels were excellent, but the cinnamon raisin was a standout.
New York purists and bagel connoisseurs may disagree, but Boichik’s Bagels convinced me of one thing: there is not a significant difference between a pretty good bagel and the best bagel in the country. If you are expecting an out-of-body experience when you visit Boichik, set your expectations lower.
That said, the food was exceptional. We also tried the Daily Special ($6.50): cucumbers, sprouts, and cream cheese on a sesame bagel. All of us agreed the sandwich was significantly greater than the sum of its parts, but mostly because the sesame bagel was pretty perfect.
Boichik also brews Mother Tongue coffee, which makes for an excellent iced coffee. Overall, our experience was positive. While we went to Boichik in Berkeley hoping for a life-changing experience, we left slightly disappointed, but that was only because our expectations were too high. The bagels are superb. Whether they are the best in the country is difficult for me to say, but they are the best bagels I have ever had. Paly, you’re in for a treat.