Bagels seem simple. But this chewy bread — which we associate with the bustling lifestyle of New York City — can be the drabbest of all drab foods. There is no such thing as a good grocery store bagel, for example, and even fresh bagels can fall short. When it comes to bagels, it's best to be a snob, because the real thing is so good.
Central Arkansas is a tough place to live if you're snobby about bagels, but thankfully there's a place to go that's baking and boiling their own and doing it right: Morningside, in Maumelle.
Morningside's owners, David and Roxanne Tackett, were big fans of New York Bagel, which baked and boiled its own bagels. When New York Bagel owner Jay Ramsey began to focus less on bagels and more on his catering franchise, the Tacketts decided to get in the bagel business. In 2007 they did, using New York Bagel's equipment.
Morningside is ahead of the curve when it comes to variety — there are 17 different types, in case a plain one won't cut it. Among our favorites: the "everything" bagel, the asiago cheese bagel and the onion bagel. These are some solid, hearty and flavorful bagels. And at $1.25 each, they're not pricey.
Even the cream cheese choices are diverse — there are such flavors as jalapeno and chocolate available. The plain cream cheese is by far the best — it goes well with most of the bagels, and was of a smooth, spreadable consistency. At $1.20 for 2 ounces, just enough for a single bagel, it's not cheap, but well worth it.
Morningside also serves bagel sandwiches. There's not much to them, but they're ample enough for a full breakfast or lunch. One of the best was the turkey sandwich ($5.15), with smoked turkey and Provolone on a spinach Parmesan bagel — it wasn't loaded down, but enough to make it a square meal.
Let us not forget the lox ($6.95), the standard by which any bagel joint should be judged. Topped with capers and red onions, it was delicious, especially with that fluffy cream cheese.
For the non-bagel crowd there are several different kinds of muffins ($2.25) and cookies ($.75), also cooked fresh in the Morningside kitchen. There's coffee, too, locally roasted by Guillermo's Gourmet Grounds.
Unless you go through Maumelle often, it's a bit out of the way, but worth it. It's busiest for breakfast (there's a drive-through window that gets a lot of attention), but during lunchtime it's quiet and relaxed.
10848 Maumelle Blvd., Maumelle
As small as it is Morningside is a pretty quirky place, with local art on the wall and cozy tables, and a glass window with a view of the kitchen. The lox really is the best we've had in a while, but we have to say that the some the cream cheeses, specifically honey almond and chocolate, were a bit too sweet, even on a plain bagel.
6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Drive-through window. Credit cards accepted.