Ballin' Restaurant Review: Bantam Bagels

I like to think that I'm up on the NYC food scene. 

A quick scroll through my Instagram reveals that I am following accounts with names like:


That's the reason I can spout of deals and specials and the "must orders" at so many random places throughout the city. 

"The Friday workout is in Washington Square Park? You need to get breakfast at Oat Meals afterwards- ask for your bowl "Crazy Uncle" style so it's easier to mix!" 

"Oh you're craving guacamole today? Well you're in luck, it's Dos Toros' birthday and they're giving it away for free." 

"You better hurry up and get your butt to The Meatball Shop for their special turkey meatball before it disappears after Thanksgiving!" 

It's a little ridiculous. I realize this. I accept it. 

Staying up to date on the NYC dining scene via Instagram and websites like Gothamist, Eater and Thrillist is the reason that over 4 months ago, I bought a Groupon for a place called "Bantam Bagels." Fast forward four months, and Bantam Bagels were just named as one of Oprah's Favorite Things. Yahtzee! 

Bantam Bagels sits on Bleecker Street, and is nothing more than a takeaway counter, serving up an interesting spin on one of New York City's most beloved breakfast foods- the bagel. 

Bantam Bagels serves mini stuffed bagel balls. 

I'm going to let that sink in for a minute. See how it makes you feel. 

I was conflicted at first too, it's OK. Changing up the bagel is a very risky thing to do in a city that is known for them. In a city that LOVES them. As an avid fan of all things "filled," though, I was willing to accept the mini stuffed bagel ball - on the condition that the bagel was quality, the filling was sufficient and tasty, and the size was just right. A tall order, I know. But I am from Long Island- and one thing that I feel very, very strongly about are bagels. I was going to be very critical of Bantam Bagels. 

The first time I attempted to pick up Bantam Bagels was a failure. They had just closed. 

(But any trip to my old stomping grounds is welcomed! Look at that building. So damn pretty).

So I made sure to go in the morning the next time I showed up. Like I said- this is not a large operation. It's a take-away counter. The worker was extremely friendly and helped me pick my flavors and let me know which were the most popular- something I always ask. 

Naturally, I was sure to use every cent of the Groupon that I could- which meant walking out of Bantam Bagels with 16 bagel balls. Before you judge me, I was taking them home to share with my parents...except then I ended up eating ~10 myself...

I said stop judging. Moving on. 

When I got these bad boys to the office, I opened a box and wafted. And then I stuck my finger in some cream cheese that had escaped from one of the bagel balls. And then I licked my finger. And then I got really excited- because I could tell that these things were gunna be GOOD. 

I somehow waited until the following morning to break into these with my parents.

[*Side note: I had gone to bed Friday night telling my parents NO EATING THE BAGEL BALLS UNTIL WE CAN ALL TRY THEM TOGETHER. I am the food Nazi after all, and there were specific flavors we each had to sample. I feel the judgement- knock it off. Anyway, I was rudely awoken around 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning by my mom peeking her head in my room and saying, "Lau...I couldn't wait...I ate two of the bagel balls." Me: *groan* Mom: "Are you gunna get up?" Me: "Not anymore!" I then slept another hour.]

The helpful man behind the counter had told me not to have him toast them if I wasn't planning on eating them right away, so we read the included heating instructions and popped them in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes. 

Then, the bagel ball tasting extravaganza began. We heated up 6 of them and gathered around, taking turns taking bites of each bagel. Hey, we're family. 

I wish someone had recorded this because it probably looked and sounded hysterical. The three of us huddled around a paper plate full of rolling bagel balls making exclamations like, "OMG" "I can't tell which one this is but IT'S SO GOOD!" "I think this one is my favorite," "Nope, wait- THIS ONE!" 

I swear, each one we tried was better than the next. 

I had grabbed a menu from the store and brought it home with me so we could hopefully ascertain which ones we were trying, but it proved more difficult than anticipated. Some of them were obvious, like the Bleecker Street which had a piece of pepperoni on top, and some were obvious because of the flavor (like the apple pie and hot pretzel) but it was harder to tell the difference between some of the other ones. 

Here is my overall review of Bantam Bagels:

Holy crap. Much like the filled donuts from Flex Mussels, myself and my parents were totally blown away by how great these were. There is some sort of inappropriate comment about filled balls here, but we're going to move on. For all of us to collectively agree that something is delicious, especially something we all care about as much as bagels, is huge. It helped that Bantam Bagels has a ball for everyone (balls on balls on balls). Sweet, savory- they've got you covered. 

The actual bagels were damn near perfection. I like my dough doughy and if I'm toasting it, the outside crispy. These were spot on. 

The filling to dough ratio was also WHOAH good. They have it down to a science- you can't even really tell where they've squirted the cream cheese in. Squirted. Ew. What an awful word. 

There were a few times we bit into the bagel and the cream cheese went all over the place, but for the most part, it stayed contained and I was impressed that it wasn't completely oozing and drippy considering they had been heated in a toaster oven for 5 minutes. My dad claims one of his was unfilled, so that was lame, but probably just a fluke. 

The most impressive thing about these bagels was that each cream cheese was packed with flavor. You can tell that Bantam uses real ingredients to create these specialty cream cheeses (which you can buy containers of, joyous!) 

Here are some descriptions of the standouts to get those salivary glands workin'. (Yes, I really just typed those words). 

1) Hot Pretzel. This is one of Bantam Bagels most popular bagels, probably because it's the one Oprah talks about. It's a salt bagel ball (sprinkled with some sea salt for effect) filled with a cream cheese that is undeniably flavored like cheddar cheese and MUSTARD. I'm sorry- was that too much for you to handle? Because it was almost too much perfect for my taste buds. 

2) The Bleecker Street. Another popular choice, this is a "pizza dough bagel" filled with marinara mozzarella cream cheese and topped with a piece of pepperoni for good luck. So. Pizza-y. So yum. 

3) Everybody's Favorite. What's in a name? The truth. I am never one to like the plain Jane option at places like this. Reading the description on the menu of "everything bagel filled with freshly chopped vegetable cream cheese" was a total snooze fest to me. But once I took a bite? Sold. Done. Give me a dozen of these and I wouldn't even be upset at the lack of variety. 

4) Apple Pie. This is the current special ball of the season and it was yum yum yum. Yum. Really. Yum. 

4) Box Lunch. Shockingly, this WASN'T my favorite, although it was still damn good. A plain bagel topped filled with peanut butter and strawberry jam. Mmm. 

I was really looking forward to some of the sweet options, because I have the world's biggest sweet tooth and all, but unfortunately, these were the ones where it was hardest to tell which one you were eating.  The cookies and milk, french toast and cinnamonster were impossible to tell apart. All of them were delicious, I just couldn't tell which was which. 

I'm pretty sure my mom hijacked The Hangover bagel ball that I was dying to try (GRR MOM, I know you're reading this!) but listen to this description: "Cheddar cheese and egg bagel topped with melted cheddar cheese filled with bacon cheddar cream cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup." Dead. 

Each bagel ball is 2-4 bites, depending on how HAM you decide to go on it. 4 balls costs $5 and is a satisfying breakfast. Of course, I ate 5 for breakfast. So I'm not saying you should get 6 for $7, might want to get 6 for $7. A dozen bagel balls costs $13. And like I said, you can also buy their specialty cream cheeses. 

Now that Bantam Bagels has been listed as one of Oprah's Favorite Things, I'm sure we're going to be hearing about them a lot more. My family has already decided that my aunts and uncles and grandma in Florida NEED to have these shipped to them for a little piece of New York on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning.  Bantam ships- and you can order 3 dozen balls for $36 (the shipping costs are a little ridiculous of course, but that's to be expected). 

Go get these, people.