PICTURED: Italian Veggie (on everything bagel) and Crazy Turkey (on sesame bagel) bagel sandwiches. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
2713 E. Main St., Ventura
A good bagel is a thing of beauty: a shiny crust; dense, chewy texture; tender but not soft or airy (a tricky combination to achieve) with a pronounced — but not excessively large — hole in the center. What it most definitely is <em>not</em> is “just” a bread product. Bagel making in Ventura County may not have risen to quite the dizzying heights it’s reached in, say, New York City, where a proper bagel is revered as a fine work of art — and debated quite as hotly. Nevertheless, many local residents know and appreciate a properly prepared bagel when it can be found.
I will not label myself as any sort of bagel authority. But I believe I know enough to recognize a decent bagel. And a decent bagel can indeed be found at Bagelicious Café.
Just a few doors down from the 99 Cent Store in Midtown Ventura, this fairly new (it opened in late 2019) bagel shop starts off the right way: by making all of its products in house. “From oven pan to your plate” is the motto on the menu, and judging by the quality, that isn’t just lip service. The bagels are great on their own; I’ve picked them up from time to time. But Bagelicious also offers a decent selection of sandwiches, pastries, salads and coffee drinks.
For lunch one week, we decided to mix things up a bit and try Bagelicious’ more elaborate menu offerings: an Italian Veggie sandwich on an everything bagel, the Crazy Turkey on a sesame seed bagel, and some pastries. With a few exceptions, it was delicious.
The everything bagel for the Italian sandwich was, well, everything I could have asked for: the perfect mix of seeds and spices on a wonderfully chewy bagel. Paired with artichoke hearts, roasted red bell peppers, fresh spinach, tomato slices and provolone, it was a healthy, hearty but very flavorful sandwich. The Crazy Turkey — turkey lunch meat with pepper jack, avocado, lettuce, onions, bell pepper and pepperoncini — was equally tasty, with a solid kick from the chipotle mayo. Other sandwich options include pork loin, BLTs, ham and cheddar and, of course, lox. There’s also a bagel burger. I suspect all of these sandwiches are just as good as the two we ordered. I recommend cutting them into quarters, however, to make them a bit easier to manage.
For dessert, we got some baklava — a house specialty — and churros. As Bagelicious makes everything else in house, I had high hopes that the churros would be super fresh, tender, possibly still warm from the fryer. Unfortunately, that was not the case — I don’t know if these were just a little old or sourced outside the shop, but they were definitely stale. Not a highlight — although that baklava was excellent.
One final item I decided to try was the rainbow bagel — a mix of vanilla, blueberry, strawberry and pistachio bagel dough. It was absolutely gorgeous and those vibrant colors seduced me. Sadly, it’s a matter of style over substance: There just wasn’t a lot of flavor, and the texture seemed to suffer from the sheer amount of food coloring that went into the dough. The blueberry spread, however, was quite good — and appeared to be made from fresh fruit whipped into cream cheese.
Take home message: Bagelicious excels at bagels. On their own or as a sandwich, the textures and flavors are spot on. I’d avoid the more gimmicky offerings — which is probably a good rule of thumb anywhere — and stick with the basics. But that still leaves a lot on the menu to explore when you’re in need of a good nosh.