Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The King of South Florida Bagels

Having grown up in South Florida with thick New York blood coarsing through my veins, good bagels are difficult to find down here. Luckily for me and everyone else, we have Sage Deli and Restaurant a/k/a Sage Bagels. There are a few decent bagel places in South Florida that are passable, but Sage is the only place that can muster the litmus test. Their bagels and bialy's are the best - period. Sage is the Heavyweight World Champion of South Florida Bagels. Their appetizers also are high quality, traditional, and never disappoint. You can imagine walking down Clinton Street on the Lower East Side when you enter Sage Bagel.

In business since 1973, the original owners, Milton and Iris Fuerst have maintained this exceptional bagel establishment without interruption. Although Milton died in 2002, Iris has kept the place up to snuff. Originally, bakers from Queens, NY, they opened their small shop in Hallandale and have kept the original location. They expanded into a small eat-in area which is always busy.

The world of commercial bagels is both a blessing and a curse. Places like Einsteins, Offerdahls, and Bruegger's have opened the eyes of the masses to bagel's and appetizers, NY style. For this we are thankful. The problem is they are embarrassingly bad when compared to the real stuff.

So what makes the best bagel different from say, an Einstein, Offerdahl, or other poser bagels? First is the preparation. Real bagels are boiled and then baked. You never just pop them in the oven,like an ordinary bread Also, each one is hand formed, no two are alike. The exterior is slightly crunchy with a chewy, not gummy interior. You generally slice in half and add a "schmear" of cream cheese. Purists prefer plain, scallion, or veggie. Nowhere in a real bagel joint will you find such Protestant things such as: honey butter,maple nut,and fruit flavored cream cheese. Also no real bagel joint will ever sell power bagels, cranberry bagels, asiago cheese bagels, mango bagels, blueberry, etc.

There is also the "bialy factor" at Sage. A bialy is a type of bagel-like creation that is a cross between a bagel and an onion pocket but it is not boiled and has a depression on the top usually filled with diced onions. Bialy's are part of their menu and they are difficult to find much less to find a good one.

Let's move on to appetizers. this includes, cream cheese, salads, smoked fish, and deli. They excel in this area. Their cream cheese is made fresh daily and whipped with the appropriate ingredients (scallion, veggie, plain). The cream cheeses are second to none. The salads include: White Fish Salad, Baked Salmon Salad, Chicken Salad, Tuna Salad, Egg Salad, Eggplant Salad, Chopped Liver, Chopped Herring, Nova or Lox Spread. They also offer Pickled Herring w/Onions & Cream Sauce, Schmaltz Herring w/Onions, Matjes Herring w/Onions & Wine Sauce, Pickled Lox w/Onions & Cream Sauce, and Gelfite Fish. These salads are also top quality and match up against any other local bagel joint. Smoked fish includes: Whole Filleted Whitefish, Hand-sliced Nova & Belly Lox, Kippered Salmon & Sable, and Sturgeon. Lastly, the deli meat is high quality and is better than most.

A few tips for the inexperienced: When buying Nova or lox, always insist they cut it near the head, never from near the tail. Nova is sweet and unsalted salmon, lox is it's salty cousin. (most people eat Nova). Figure one eighth of a pound per person for smoked fish. Bagel shops always sell a Baker's dozen, make sure you get the extra bagel. This stuff should be purchased the same day you are going to eat it. Finally, don't get sticker shock from the bill. It's expensive but well worth it. Honorable mention goes to Deli Den in Broward on Stirling Road.

Pay Sage Bagels a visit. They located in Sage Plaza next to Gulfstream on Hallandale Beach Boulevard just east of US1. Once you pick up a dozen of these, you too will imagine you are now transported to the Lower East Side of New York and wonder what those bagel chains have been doing all these years.


The Chowfather said...

Too funny. I've been meaning to write about Sage in my blog. I've been touting them for a while now on chowhound. They are the closest thing I've found to NY bagels down here. Good post

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