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April 21, 2011

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A hole New York breakfast experience

DESPITE its origins in Poland around the 17th century, the bagel has gone on to become a prominent feature of a typical American breakfast.

When Henry Chang came to China from New Jersey in the United States seven years ago, he and his friends noted an absence of restaurants selling bagels, so he thought he'd give the idea a try. Last year Egghead Bagels, the only New York-style bagel restaurant in Shanghai, was born.

For those unfamiliar with a bagel, it looks similar in size and shape to a donut with its distinctive hole in the middle. But while donuts are sweeter and deep fried, bagels are healthier bread products. The basic dough is made from wheat flour and then different ingredients are added accordingly. The mixture is boiled first and then baked.

Egghead Bagels is located on Shaanxi Road North, and with great service, reasonable prices and delicious food, it draws people from home and abroad. Although not particularly big, it's not difficult to find due to its eye-catching bright yellow signage on a clean white facade.

On entering the restaurant, one of the most noticeable features of its US diner-style look is a sports jersey signed by Chinese-born NBA basketball star Yao Ming. "The jersey was bought from a charity, and Yao is from Shanghai, that's why it's here," explains Chang.

Of course, Egghead Bagels doesn't simply cater for hungry breakfast customers. Their bagel specialties make for a satisfying lunch. The most popular item on the menu is the lox bagelwich which is plentiful and healthy. I was surprised by its size and reckon it can be amply shared by two. The bagelwich includes lox (smoked salmon), capers, tomato, onion and cream cheese. Every layer has its own flavor, with a crackly exterior and chewy interior providing great satisfaction. And don't worry about the fish and cream cheese being too oily or fatty, as this is offset by the accompanying spinach and mushroom salad. The lox bagelwich is a fresh and healthy stomach filler for 55 yuan (US$8.41).

The restaurant offers six different flavors of classic bagel: plain, garlic, onion, sesame, cinnamon and everything. The latter is an Egghead Bagels specialty and it's stronger, with the five other flavors mixed into it. I tried a cinnamon bagel; it's sweeter than the lox bagelwich, and also very chewy. They use the best Philadelphia cream cheese, which in combination with the chewy bagel is wonderful. Prices are reasonable at 12 yuan for a bagel with butter, or 16 yuan with cream. Apart from individual bagels and bagelwiches, the restaurant also offers omelets, omelet bagelwiches, pizza bagels and many kinds of drinks.

Time-strapped bagel fans not close enough need not despair as Egghead Bagels offers its own delivery service (5213-5601) or delivery by Sherpa's (6209-6209) anytime during the restaurant's opening hours.

I asked two customers why they like Egghead Bagels. Russian Sergey Ustinov lives nearby and his favorite is the Italian bagelwich. "The meat is awesome, the bagel is awesome, and when they mix together, it's even more awesome," he said.

American Tery Steidle said the original reason why he came to Egghead Bagels is because a lot of people around him were talking about it, and he loved it after the first bite.

His bagel is not on menu, it is created by him. There are eggs, cheese and tomato in it. "This bagel reminds me of my hometown," Tery said.

Address: 455 Shaanxi Rd N.

Tel: 5213-5601

Opening hours: 7:30am-9pm on week days; 8:30am-9pm on weekends


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