Construction on a new breakfast shop has been underway since last semester, and after months of quiet anticipation, State College’s newest bagel purveyor, Bagel Crust, is finally open at 322 E. Calder Way.
It’s a hard market to jump into given that both Irving’s and McLanahan’s have offered bagels, breakfast sandwiches, and other options for many years to a dedicated clientele. So does Bagel Crust stack up to its established competitors? Myself and Onward Stater/Long Island bagel-douche Noel Purcell stopped by to give it a shot. Full disclosure: I work at Irving’s, but as a self-proclaimed bagel connoisseur, I pledge my full impartiality.
Bagel Crust is definitely more of a deli along the lines of McLanahan’s than a place I would spend an extended amount of time in such as Irving’s. It’s a bit cramped between the table and seating set up and the sizable line that formed during a late morning breakfast rush around 10:45 a.m., but the space was never excessively loud or disruptive.
The menu board displays a wide array of options beyond bagels and breakfast sandwiches, including omelettes, deli sandwiches, steak sandwiches, and several grilled cheese options. Prices were definitely a bit higher than I’d like to pay as you move from breakfast to the standard deli options — I’m not sure how many would pay $5 for an entry-level grilled cheese (and upwards from there) when the memory of Grillers and its $1 masterpieces is still relatively fresh.
Available flavors of bagels were also noticeably absent from both the menu board and the baskets of bagels beneath it. There are clearly some obvious flavors, but someone who is indecisive or mildly visually impaired may have some trouble ordering. While they are scribbled on a piece of paper near the register, it would be nice for the complete list to be displayed prominently.
When it was our turn, I ordered a pork roll (or, as they call it, a Taylor Ham), egg white, and cheese on an everything bagel, which were fresh out of the oven and placed in the basket as we walked in. Noel also ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel and, to increase the variety, put an order in for a plain bagel with butter and a chipotle turkey sandwich on an onion bagel.
Obviously a new restaurant is going to experience some growing pains, but I was pretty disappointed by the wait time. Our breakfast sandwiches took roughly 10 minutes to come out, while the turkey sandwich took roughly 20 minutes, with the plain bagel coming out somewhere in between.
The pork roll, egg white, and cheese was good, but not great. I was really excited to find pork roll in State College, so I was looking forward to having it for the first time in a few months. Unfortunately I wasn’t super enthused after eating.
The bagel was decent, but it didn’t have the slightly salty and garlicky flavor I’ve come to expect from everything bagels. That may be fine for some diners, but not my preference. I felt that the ratio of egg whites to meat was good. The meat portion was more generous than others I’ve had, but unfortunately the pork roll was very dry and overcooked, with some parts even bordering on burnt.
Overall it was a decent sandwich but not something I’ll find myself craving any given morning. Noel’s breakfast sandwich elicited a similar “good, but not great” response.
Noel Purcell: I’m used to egg sandwiches being stacked, but this was all-too-easily contained. I decided to get a bacon, egg, and cheese (mozzarella, which I believe is the most underrated cheese with breakfast) on an onion bagel, my staple at home. The bacon was perfect, there’s no denying that. Crispy and salty and still a little chewy, the dude working the griddle knew his way around fried pork parts, that’s for sure. They filled it up, too, as four or so slices packed in there. The egg was also cooked fresh, but calling it an egg sandwich was a stretch, as there was only one flat egg on it. I typically look for the egg to take up serious room, but it was more of a minor distraction from the bacon. A good three eggs would’ve taken this sandwich up a notch.
The turkey chipotle sandwich, however, proved to be more impressive.
NP: I got the turkey chipotle sandwich, which included avocado and cheese. Boar’s Head cold cuts reminded me of home, and made the sandwich for sure. I got it on an onion bagel, which served as a decent enough roll for the sandwich, but wasn’t oniony enough for me. The sandwich inside was very good, though.
Perhaps I’m too much of an elitist when it comes to New York specialties and should take what I can get in State College. Maybe I’m judging too harshly and maybe they’ll improve over time, but I wasn’t too highly impressed. It was alright, but unfortunately I’ll still avoid bagels and pizza when I’m at school.
The most disappointing of the bunch was the plain bagel with butter, by far. Not only did it take an absurd amount of time to come out at nearly 15 minutes, it tasted nearly identical to your standard, mass-produced supermarket bagel. I felt like I was eating straight dough and not a bagel, and to make matters worse, the butter was even utterly flavorless.
NP: The bagel was wholly under-toasted and the crunch from the crust, while present, was minimal. The bagel’s flavor itself just wasn’t there, either. I know it’s a plain bagel, but that doesn’t mean it tastes like nothing. It acted more as a vessel for some very mediocre butter than anything else. Maybe a better butter and toast job would have done more justice, but the taste just wasn’t up to par with the texture. Meh.
Perhaps Bagel Crust’s largest issue is its timing. They need to work through their staffing issues and improve upon efficiency if they want to be a reliable, in-and-out breakfast stop for weekday mornings, but these issues are usually worked out with time. Check the place out and see for yourself!