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April 15, 2010

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Bagels for breakfast

BAGEL lovers now have a place to sate their dough cravings, as Shanghai's first shop dedicated to the humble bagel recently opened.

Egghead Bagels on Shaanxi Road N., near Beijing Road W., is the brainchild of three American investors who hope to turn locals fond of their breakfast baozi to the delights of the bagel, which is boiled and then baked.

One of the owners and operations manager, Henry Chang, comes from a restaurant background. His family ran a Japanese eatery back in his home in New Jersey.

The family fortuitously sold up before the financial crisis hit the dining scene, and he has been looking for an opportunity in China since coming to Shanghai to study in 2003.

At first Chang had wanted to open another Japanese restaurant in the city but, seeing a bagel gap in the market, he and his investors decided to give dough a go.

They have spent three months perfecting their bagel recipes at their central kitchen in Minhang District. They offer five flavors, cinnamon raison, sesame, garlic, plain and onion.

"We bake our bagels fresh every day and they are delivered to our shop by 7:30am," Chang says. "We have been in the kitchen trying different things, it's been a bit of trial and error, messing around with different ingredients and cooking times, but we have a product we are very happy with now. It is a constant process of perfecting our recipe."

Egghead (one of the other owners was called Egghead by his mother) is a small shop with big ambitions.

With funky branding that clearly suggests other outlets, Chang says the shop aims for a slice of thee cheap and cheerful meal crowd.

The menu ranges from 12 yuan (US$1.75) for a plain buttered bagel up to 55 yuan for the club supreme bagel.

This Rolls Royce bagel comes with turkey, ham, bacon, Swiss cheese and mayonnaise and, as with their other so-called "bagelwich" options, comes with a spinach side salad.

Their menu is weighted toward breakfast and brunch options with omelette from 25 yuan to 35 yuan, including a New Yorker with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion and tomato. For more local tastes, a Chinese omelette mixes truffle oil, assorted mushrooms, onion and hoisen sauce.

It also has good value fresh-squeezed juices at just 15 yuan and fresh-ground coffee from 18 yuan.

"We want people to know they can eat and have a beverage and not spend more than about 60 yuan," says Chang. "The most expensive thing we have is 55 yuan and we want to keep all our prices reasonable and fair to our customers and encourage them to come back."

The crowd at Egghead have also been perfecting cream cheese flavors to spread on their bagel offerings.

For an extra 10 yuan, diners can try strawberry, garlic and bacon cream cheese.

Egghead was launched at the end of last month and endeared itself to the neighborhood by offering free food on its opening day.

Delivery service is planned, within a short walking distance of its shop. An online ordering system is in the works.

Address: 455 Shaanxi Road N., between Beijing Rd W. and Xinzha Rd

Tel: 5213-5601


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