Every Saturday and Sunday morning, one can witness perhaps the staunchest divide in State College.
Happy Valley is a place where allegiances run deep, and when it comes to breakfast, that is no exception. Specifically, when it comes to breakfast sandwiches, there are two types of people in this town: the Irving’s loyalists and the Bagel Crust supporters. Two staffers from each camp made their cases.
Melissa Lopez: Irving’s
Where do I begin my ode to the Irving’s breakfast sandwich? Or, as the regulars know to call it, The Breakfast Special. Here’s how I take mine: “one breakfast special on an everything bagel with bacon, egg, American cheese (I alternate between this and provolone), tomato (do it), and onion (you won’t regret it)”. Irving’s was rightfully awarded both “Best Bagel” and “Best Breakfast Sandwich” in 2016 by State College Magazine. I’m about to tell you why.
For those who know me, I’m an objectively bona fide Irving’s aficionado. I have experience. I’m there twice a week on a poor week, and four times a week on a regular stretch. In an effort to curb my misuse of money on bacon, egg, and cheese, my mother has limited the amount of LionCash that she deposits on my card for laundry to $10 every two weeks. An Irving’s gift card was among my stocking stuffers last Christmas. I even went so far as to almost sign a lease right above the beloved establishment.
But what makes these sandwiches so divine?
I grade my breakfast sandwiches on three core criteria: bagel chew, cheese melt, and bacon crisp. Let’s begin with the bagel.
At Irving’s, they make all of their baked goods from scratch. However, Irving’s bagels are undeniably their tour de force. After whipping up that precious dough, they boil the soon-to-be bagels, then bake them off to perfection. The result is a sturdy, doughy saucer — the perfect vehicle for all that cheesy, fatty goodness to come. These bagels are never too hard. They have just the right amount of chew, while still holding their own against the bacon, egg, cheese, and all the other toppings that strike your fancy.
Next comes the cheese. They grill it right onto the bagel, and it becoming just the right consistency to offset the crunch of the bacon and the softness of the egg. Melted cheese is one of the great, simple pleasures of this life.
Finally, there’s the bacon. You typically get around 4 small strips per sandwich. This ensures bacon in every bite, as well as bacon symmetry between your slices. They fry it perfectly so that you get crunch on the meat, but still flavor and juice in the fat. This is how bacon was always meant to be cooked. The result is an infallible breakfast sandwich. I stand by the fact that this sandwich has zero flaws.
Now is the time when I state my grievances with Bagel Crust. The shop seems to take the word ‘crust’ too literally. While I said that a good breakfast sandwich requires a sturdy vehicle, I think I’ve actually cut the root of my mouth on several of their bagels. While my bacon is generally cooked thoroughly, rarely have they had the courtesy of melting my cheese. Instead, I’m left with a limp, cold slice of cheese dangling out of my rock hard bagel. I rest my case.
If you ever need me, Irving’s is probably a good place to look. Viva La Breakfast Special.
Emma Dieter: Bagel Crust
It honestly shouldn’t even be a question in my mind — Bagel Crust is the premier breakfast sandwich shop in State College. After a night out, there is no better hangover cure than a delicious bacon, egg, and cheese bagel from the shop. But even if you’re not a fan of this classic, Bagel Crust has a plethora of other options to choose from as well.
The various bagel flavors give you an array of seemingly endless options. Whether you’re looking for rainbow flavored or chocolate chip, they’ve got it. The sandwiches themselves can be crafted to your liking; but even if you’re in the mood for something lighter, there’s more than 10 varieties of cream cheese flavors to spread on.
One of the main things that separates the breakfast sandwiches from Bagel Crust from those at Irving’s (or really any other breakfast sandwich in State College) is the sheer quality of their concoctions.
They combine the perfect amount of ingredients, blended in all of the right ways. The eggs are freshly fried, the bacon is thick and crispy, the bagel itself is incredibly soft, and the cheesiness of their sandwiches is pure perfection.
In fact, it’s the question of cheesiness that draws the greatest difference, in my opinion, between the two. The overwhelming cheesiness of Irving’s bagels turns me off the most from their sandwiches. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese as much as the next girl, but oftentimes, the cheesiness of an Irving’s breakfast sandwich overpowers the rest of the ingredients. Not to mention, the quality of their bacon is not the greatest.
I can forgive a cheese indiscretion, but one that taints the quality of the greatest breakfast meat known to man is a bit tougher to overlook.
Now, I will admit that the cost of a sandwich from Bagel Crust is slightly more expensive than one from Irving’s. And in this way, Irving’s does have the upper hand. But sometimes, you have to sacrifice a little in order to get the quality you deserve and the quality of Bagel Crust is clearly superior.
Not to mention, the atmosphere of Bagel Crust is far more cozy. Since it’s located back a bit on Calder Way, there isn’t all of the hustle and bustle that’s associated with a location right next to the Allen Street gates. You can actually sit outside and enjoy the weather with your friends without inhaling all of the exhaust fumes from the cars on College Avenue.
It really doesn’t get any better than Bagel Crust.