When was the last time Jay-Z was mentioned in the same breath as Mae West? Or that Steve Lawrence and Spike Lee's names were listed side by side? You will see this amazing sight if you go to the Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company and read the "Best of Brooklyn - Past and Present" signs all over the shop.
In a second visit during the weekday, I noticed many more details in what was a still busy, but less hectic environment. Through the glass windows, we saw a huge pile of dough and watched bagels being made. "The Honeymooners" played on the TV in the corner. The ever changing series of gorgeous food pictures featured breakfast items this time, like muffins and a matzo brei omelette.
At one table, older guys were having coffee together. At another, a group of Persian girlfriends chatted excitedly. People popped in for their morning coffee and bagel on the way to work. Music was eclectic and upbeat, Seals & Croft's "Summer Breeze" one moment, "Take on Me" by A-Ha the next.
Without the pressure of customers waiting behind me, I found the wherewithal to ask the cashier what bagels were hot. To my delight, plain bagels were just coming out of the oven. I was surprised, because the "hot out of the oven" option is fairly unusual in LA. If you ask what's hot at Noah's Bagels, for instance, they'll look at you like you're crazy, because what they have is what was previously prepared. I got the veggie spread this time, which had a smoother taste. Attention to detail even extends to ice cubes -- I heard a cashier tell a customer that the iced coffee cubes are made out of coffee. When the ice cubes melt, they don't dilute the flavor of the drink.
My New Yorker husband was excited to see a Fox's U-bet chocolate syrup dispenser. He informed me that next to Diamond chocolate syrup (strictly available to diners and luncheonettes), Fox's U-bet was the only chocolate syrup to use when making an authentic egg cream. A sign announced that the seltzer (another egg cream ingredient) was Brooklynized, as are all of the Coca-Cola products.
We began to speculate about Original Water Bagel Company's egg cream system.
"It must come out of the dispenser like a Coke, already mixed," my husband said.
"That doesn't make any sense to me. There's the U-bet dispenser there -- why don't you think that people would do their own?" I replied.
My husband went to investigate. He came back with the news that it was self-service. "I just don't see how they can expect people to make their own egg creams."
"Why not? How hard can it be?"
"How will you know what the proportions are? You have to get used to someone else's glass size...Most can't do a good egg cream the first time."
Although I've only had 2 egg creams in my entire life, I know that I can research the hell out of anything. Why should egg cream creation be any different? I decided to throw down the gauntlet.
"I could do it," I said.
"Oh really?" said the New Yorker. He sounded as though he thought that he knew better than I did. "Okay, let's see."
Stay tuned. At some point over the next several weeks, this Chicago girl is going to show New Yorkers how it's done.
Oh -- and if you have a favorite egg cream recipe, I'd be delighted to hear about it.