The Bagel Factory

By | June 8, 2006

The Bagel Factory
Locations in Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Blawnox, and now Schenley Plaza in Oakland
(see bottom of article for addresses/phone#s)

Finding your bagel place is tricky. Usually it boils down to whatever is closest to your place of residence – I mean, all bagels are the same, right? No! They are totally not the same! The Bagel Factory makes an Old-Skool bagel of the variety not seen so much anymore. And that’s not all – salads, soups, sandwiches, breads, coffee, lox, and a bevy of bakery items are plenteous and all of high quality. Now with multiple convenient locations, all you city dwellers will be hard pressed to miss it!

First, I have to go on a little rant: There is a total divide in the bagel world. These days most of what we see is the mass-produced, floofy, bready, perfect circle of a bagel with a just-so dusting of topping type (Panera, Bruegger’s, Einstein’s, etc). But every now and then you find the raw, ragged, naturally produced bagel of yesteryear – a dying breed. I’ve heard the latter type called ‘New York style’, but really that is just a reference to the bagel’s roots. This type of bagel bears the marks of homemade and mom-n-pop, with a dense body and irregular shaping. I mean, this bagel is actually made in house! Forget all the nonsense where bagels are made in some far away commissary then frozen and shipped, leaving only the task of baking. There’s no bagel boiling at the local outlets of those national chains. Except for sprinkling on the poppy seeds, everything is already done by the time they open the freezer box. Regardless of your opinion of the flavor of these mass-produced bagels, it cannot be denied that this streamlined process DOES change the nature of the bagel itself.

It may be that both kind of bagel have their place in the world, but I am a local-business-supportin’ kinda gal, so my preference in this situation is clear. America is being swallowed by the black hole of uniformity that national chains provide, and though Pittsburgh is not immune, we as a city do have an appreciation for the local eatery. This is one of the reasons I love Pittsburgh so much – we are loyal to our own. Longhorn may move in, but Tessaro’s ain’t goin’ nowhere. Hell, there are two whole Starbuckses in Squirrel Hill (three if you count the one embedded in Barnes & Noble), yet the neighborhood still supports 61C and the Coffee Tree, as well as numerous other cafés lining Murray and Forbes. That is great! That is awesome! I love that!

But to get back to the Bagel Factory….it is one of those bagel places with the dense old-style bagel we hardly ever get anymore. It is a real bakery, with all the trimmings. They make their dough, hand-form the bagels, boil ‘em and bake ‘em. Huzzah! They have all kinds of tried-and-true regular bagel flavors (not the laboratory-approved flavors of those big chains, like Spinach Florentine and Hazel Raisin Rum Butter Nut), and you can get your bagel accompanied by tried-and-true condiments like butter, jelly, peanut butter, and a few complimentary cream cheeses. These things may be less exotic than your Panera down the street, but they are generally more healthful.

But the Bagel Factory is not just bagels. A full lunch and breakfast menu will assure you of this! Breakfast is downright delish! Not only do they have real lox, but there are bagel breakfast sandwiches, latkes, pancakes, scrambles and French toast. In particular, there is a unique lox and latke ‘sandwich’, and DAMN THE FRENCH TOAST IS GOOD. Oh man…it is SO GOOD. Made with the challah they baked that morning, its crispity and buttery and just….really really good. It is also really really buttery so you definitely won’t leave feeling empty, if you can even manage to finish it. Man, that stuff is good.

Bagel Factory also has all kinds of sandwich options and soups to boot. The sandwiches are usually on a bagel, but you can get them on any kind of bread. I love an egg and cheese the morning after a night of carousing. That hits the spot! And all their sides are homemade too. In particular, the Squirrel Hill location has all kinds of prepared potato and pasta salads, as well as things you could pick up and use for dinner. And that’s just a little portion of their business. They have tons of other baked goods, like apple fritters, breads (yeast and quick), doughnuts, gobs, muffins, cupcakes, and so on and so forth. May I gush about the muffins for a moment? THEY’RE AMAZING! Especially at the Squirrel Hill location. It turns out that all the locations each bake all their own stuff. The muffins in Shadyside are aight, but the Squirrel Hill muffins will make you blow your top. They are sooo good, in that buttery way. The Sq.Hill location makes more buttery items overall, I guess. They also have Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and killer sidewalk seating. Anyway, the strawberry muffin is especially delectable, if you can manage to get your hands on one. MMM!

And so this concludes my sensory trip down Bagel Lane. May you feel compelled to visit one of the locations of the Bagel Factory. If you just can’t go to Shadyside, Blawnox, or Squirrel Hill, there is a new mini-factory opened in the Schenley Plaza (you know, where they ‘unpaved paradise and tore up a parking lot’ in Oakland across from the Cathedral of Learning). It has a limited menu, but salads, sandwiches and bagels galore so have at it. You barely have an excuse not to go to Bagel Factory, unless you live in the surburbs. For you burbs-ters, I wish upon you a coworker from Shadyside who might bring breakfast to a morning meeting. Everyone else has no excuse. Go support this local business that we are lucky to have!

Muffins (squirrel hill location, especially)
French Toast
Also they have oatmeal and fruit for the healthful

FYI, the new location in the Schenley Plaza gets all of its goods from the Shadyside location, so if you want a super-muffin, you just have to go to Sq.Hill.

5825 Ellsworth Ave
Shadyside, 15232

Squirrel Hill:
5885 Forbes Ave
Squirrel Hill, 15217
(412) 521-8100

1079 Freeport Rd,
Blawnox, 15238
(412) 781-4045

Schenley Plaza: will get back to you on this one!
Downtown: there may also be a downtown mini-location.