Posted 21 February 2008 - 07:25 AM
Drove through Georgetown and stopped at the Georgetown Bagel Bakery, pleased to see that it was still open, hoping against hope that maybe the financing for its replacement had fallen through or the historical commission had ordered it preserved or something. Ordered half a dozen bagels and asked the guy when they were closing.
"Tomorrow. Today is our last day."
"Make it a dozen. And some bialys too, if you got any."
It's not just that they've made the best bagels in Washington, ever since they've been open.
It's not just that one of my favorite pieces of (decades-old) gossip is that the original owner was so frugal that even after a friend of mine spent a couple of nights with him, he made her pay for her bagels.
It's not just the grim charm of the place and its status as one of the few storefronts in Georgetown not yet chained to a national brand or upscaled to the point of affluent blandness.
Like so many of the places I really like, it offered a kind of funky excellence, inarguably "best in town," but framed by cracked wall tile and faded posters, accessible to Georgetowners -- residents and visitors -- of every stripe, from the virtually homeless to those who wouldn't leave the house at 8AM for coffee without cashmere and and linen. Despite bagels' proud ethnic heritage, I doubt any Jew ever worked in the place, although the original owner -- an Arab-American (Moroccan?) -- learned his trade in New York from a Jewish Bagel makers, according to framed, faded Post article behind the glass of the display case. As will happen with people who couple a commitment to quality with entrepreneurial spirit, he seems to have done well for himself since passing ownership on. And the string of Africans and Latins who seem have staffed and run the place continuously for many years have carried on the tradition of excellence.
Of course, it was my kids who lifted me from preferring the place, to loving it. First the boy, now in college, who would walk with me the two blocks with from his preschool to the Italian Deli (Prego) run by the two buff dudes that got a shipment in every morning, for an after school snack. We didn't have a car, then, so we'd walk home, munching bagels and hiding from the sphinxes that menaced 16th street from the steps of the Masonic Temple and exploring the alleys for treasure and trash.
And then, in the recent years, it's been a destination on Saturday mornings with my daughter, us being the only two up at eight on a Saturday morning, while mom and the boy slept in. Maybe a stop at the Starbucks for a Mocha, maybe a dash across the bridge the Arlington farmer's market, but always a stop for bagels. Summers we'd go in for breakfast once a week, before Arts Camp just up the road. As I saw her older brother drifting into the normal pursuits of a late teen, and striking out -- mentally and emotionally -- on his own, the weekly hour spent (I knew how to drag this out) with my other child on a project that was only ours was a rare delight.
Well, she's 15 now, so the trips have become less frequent. Fish gotta swim. But the bagels were still damn good, and I'm glad I have a few in the freezer.
The shop is slated to become a yuppie oyster shack -- as though I need someone shuck my oysters for me and sell me marked-up Muscadet. More oysters every day in washington. No place left that can make a bagel. I saw the offending chef out buying organic arugula at the market the other morning, and I thought about grabbing him by his hip little sideburns and giving him what for. But I hear he's a good cook and he's probably a nice guy and I guess it could be worse. It could be a Potbelly.
After I paid for the bagels I went across the street for some salmon, and rallied my car from its space a block away, and headed back past the Bagel Bakery, depressed and bitter. On a whim, double parked in front, there on M Street despite the cops and the traffic, and dashed in to throw a twenty into the tip bucket.
What else are you gonna do?
I'm on the pavement
Thinking about the government.