Friday, June 7, 2013

Owen's Bagel & Deli - South End

Owen's is located across South Blvd. from Atherton
Mill in South End
Being new to the food blogging scene (woohoo for actually publishing my first post!), I had a tough time deciding what to blog about first... Did I want to write about somewhere exciting and new? Somewhere trendy (so that I could feel super cool and ahead of the curve)? Nope. I settled on a place that (1) I knew I could write an insanely positive rant about and (2) serves my favorite meal of the day - breakfast. The feelings I have for a salty, cheesy, and (sometimes) greasy plate-o'-breakfast waver somewhere between passionate and unnatural.  I'm also a sucker for a warm, gooey sandwich. Enter Owen's Bagel & Deli.

A while ago, I learned (from a few very inside sources) that Owen's was started by an awesome couple who went to college and worked together at Bagel & Deli near Miami University (of Ohio).  A lot of the offerings are named after the Owen's family and friends.  (sidebar- I now have a new personal mission - construct a mega bagel to be featured on the Owen's menu!) In the interests of full disclosure, I admittedly have biased sentiment for anything from the Oxford, OH region -both my grandfather and his sister graduated from Miami. I also like a good small business with a back story. 2 points for Owen's. 

Inside Owen's, which is open 7 days a week from 6:30am until 4:00pm, the walls and tables are covered in fun, graffiti-style writing as well college flags and banners. They also have hand-drawn and photo-decorated pictures for each of the different types of bagels hanging from the sealing near the bagel prep area (who doesn't want to see a nice picture of Clay Aiken next to a description of their meal?!). When you walk in, head for that spot. Grab a laminated menu off the counter and place your order with the people making the sandwiches behind the counter. Then head over to the cash register, let them know what you ordered, pay, and get your frequent bagel card stamped while you're at it. In a few minutes, somebody will call out your bagel by name, hand it over, and bon apetit!. 

clockwise from top left: the inside of Owen's
where you place your order, fountain cheerwine!,
coffee time, the Owen's logo, BLT on wheat
Getting to the food, Owen's has a great menu. While I spotted at least 56 (math and counting aren't my strong suit) sandwiches listed on the menu, you can also get creative and make your own sandwich with Boar's Head meats and cheeses as well as lots of veggie, cream cheese, and other topping options. The most crucial part, however, is the base. While Owen's carries several varieties of wraps and ciabatta bread, I have a tough time understanding why anybody would go here and not get a bagel!  The bagels are chewy on the inside and crunchy-ish on the outside -exactly how a bagel should be.  Flavor options include cinnamon raisin, blueberry, wheat, pumpernickel, poppy, plain, sesame, bialy, onion, and combo everything.  I'm sometimes a sucker for a sesame bagel, but I found myself intrigued by the mysterious "bialy." I also just realized that although I have now ordered it multiple times, I still don't know what a bialy is... According to What's Cooking America, "[b]ialys came to the United States from Bialystok, Poland, and they are sometimes known as Bialystok Kuchen. . . . A bialy is similar to a bagel, in that it is a round, chewy roll. But it is unlike a bagel in three important ways: One, it does not have a hole in the middle, but a depression; two, bialys never became popular outside of New York City; and three, bagels are boiled and bialys are baked. The indentation in the middle of the dough is filled with onion, garlic, or poppy seeds."  Who knew?! Whatever a bialy is, it's awesome.

On a recent Saturday morning, my boyfriend (affectionately known as BFTB) and I decided to go on a bike ride adventure in South End and we stopped at Owen's along the way. I opted for a "Breakfast Bagel" on a bialy (duh) with sausage, egg, and I subbed in the homemade maple nut cream cheese for my normal slice of muenster (top). BFTB went for "Rita's Good Ol' BLT" plus an egg, on a wheat bagel, sliced thin (middle). Can you guess who cares more about health and their general physical well-being in this relationship? I also returned a few days later before work and got a "Mary's Grubby Bubby" which is made up of egg, muenster, smoked cheddar, tomato (I ordered extra tomato), and avocado on a bialy (bottom). A cool thing about Owen's is that after they assemble your sandwich, they wrap it in foil and steam the whole thing. I'm used to a crunchy, toasted sandwich, so this was a little different, but it's great! Steaming the sandwich makes the whole thing warm and gooey -two of my top requirements for any breakfast sandwich. Maybe I'm hallucinating, but it also seems like this method makes all the flavors blend together. The melty cream cheese made both my sausage and egg smooth and delightfully maple-y. I realize the egg part sounds weird, but it was gooey without being soggy and a great blend of salty and sweet. The best part about a steamed bagel is that you're not going to get stuck with a wimpy only sliver-of-egg or corner-of-cheese bite... aka- "bad bite syndrome." However, the gooey-ness of the situation means you should definitely prep yourself with plenty of napkins. BFTB's BLT was tasty, especially after he got some Texas Pete involved. However, my fat kid order is going to beat anything quasi-healthy any day. I also really enjoyed the Mary's Grubby Bubby I had a few days ago. Just to rant about the steaming process again, it makes the avocado so smooth and velvet-y... it's a great combo with all that cheese. I think I would maybe add some bacon next time (everything is always better with bacon, right?). Thinking back, I can't decide whether I liked my maple Breakfast Bagel concoction or the Mary's Grubby Bubby better... I think it's going to depend on whether I'm in a salty-savory (Mary's) or a sweet-savory (B'fast) mood. Either option is a solid pick and I will happily have another taste test to try and reach a verdict.

Regarding beverages, I'm not a coffee-drinker, but BFTB is a fan of their fair-trade Larry's Beans selections and the giant cups they serve it in.  I'm a fan of the fact the Owen's has Cheerwine from a fountain.... an increasingly (and distressingly!) rare thing to find these days. I'm such a fan of the Cheerwine that I decided to try and bring one with my on my bike ride. Unsurprisingly, I made it a solid three feet before spilling all over myself and my bike. Owen's also carries other Pepsi products in the fountain, canned Pepsi, Coke, and Dr. Brown's-brand sodas, as well as bottled milk and juices.

All in all, if I haven't already made this abundantly clear, Owen's earns very high marks from me. I'll give it a strong 8.5/10 in the breakfast category.

Owen's Bagel & Deli on Urbanspoon

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