210218BAGELS

Helene Ramdsell, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, enjoyed this grilled portobello mushroom sandwich and cup of homemade vegetable soup during a recent visit to Bagels & More in Beloit.

BELOIT

You have no idea what a wonder awaits you at Bagels & More until you go inside.

For years, I walked right by thinking it was a small bagel place. Wrong.

The menu here is large and diverse, and you will find more than just bagels. The bakery is fantastic, as is the coffee.

Bagels & More is now open for dine-in service and takeout, and there is plenty of parking at the rear entrance. This is also where you go if you order curbside pickup.

If you enter the restaurant from its State Street entrance, you will find a long, somewhat narrow cafe with plenty of tables and art on the walls. On the day I went, the limited number of customers made social distancing easy.

The counter, which is at the back of the café, starts when you reach the pastry cases. There is such variety in those cases that selecting what you want will likely be one of the hardest choices you’ll make all day. And knowing all of the delicacies are made in-house—so most likely very healthy—you shouldn’t have any qualms about trying more than one item. Just try to pair it well with your coffee or tea order.

I love visiting Bagels & More for a leisurely breakfast. While I tend to find all of the choices I usually look for, I wanted something different this time.

Caesar salad ($7.95) has always been a favorite of mine, and the one here is different. It incorporates crunchy green lettuce rather than romaine and Asiago cheese rather than Parmesan. The added black olives and tomatoes didn’t detract from the taste, and the garlicky dressing was just right. It was large, and while I will admit I missed the crunchy bread crumbs, the thought of no carbs likely will be appealing to some people.

Speaking of carbs, I had planned to pick up a fresh bagel for later, but I got distracted by the barbecue chicken sandwich special ($10). The soft Kaiser roll is made in-house, as are all of the bread offerings on the menu. The sandwich featured plenty of lightly spiced chopped chicken (no preservatives, steroids, hormones or antibiotics), and the sauce was neither heavy nor messy. The dish came with a crunchy pickle, home fries and a couple of small shortbread cookies.

Jennifer chose the spinach, tomato and onion quiche with a tossed salad ($10), which was one of the daily specials. Her meal came with fresh red grapes, honeydew melon, cantaloupe and pineapple.

The savory crust was out of this world, and the smooth egg and cream mixture with fresh, ripe chopped tomatoes, layers of spinach and finely chopped onion was delicious. This was comfort food at its best, and Jennifer noted the quiche was among the best she has ever had.

The tossed salad that accompanied Jennifer’s quiche was plentiful with a lot of green-leaf lettuce, sliced black olives and tomatoes. The balsamic dressing she chose had just the right ratio of sweet to tangy, and she enjoyed every drop.

Helene opted for one of Bagels & More’s signature sandwiches, the grilled portobello mushroom sandwich ($7.95)—adding a cup of homemade vegetable soup for $2.50 more.

Helene opted for the sturdy, multigrain bread because portobello sandwiches have a tendency to fall apart. No problems there, as the mushroom was sliced into smaller pieces that made it easy to handle. The grilled onions on the sandwich were plentiful, and the sliced tomatoes were a nice touch along with spinach and sharp Swiss cheese.

The soup was a clear broth, setting off the green colors of the zucchini and broccoli alongside the bright orange of the carrots and tomatoes. Onions and cauliflower rounded out the vegetables, which were soft but not mushy.

To round out our lunches, we split and sampled three artisan desserts. All were delightful.

The fudgy brownie ($2.95), featuring a thick mint icing, was incredibly rich. Its glorious sweetness was heavenly thanks to the minty-green frosting and gooey chocolate drizzle.

The bagel knot ($2) was an odd choice, making for a satisfying end to a healthy lunch despite not going very well with coffee. The knot is similar to a cinnamon roll but is more chewy and dense because its base is a raisin bagel twisted into a knot and drizzled with icing.

We also tried an oatmeal caramel bar ($2.95), which was was excellent. Not overly sweet, somewhat chewy and just so dang good.

With an emphasis on locally sourced organic ingredients and menu items made from scratch, there is plenty more I look forward to trying on my next trip to Bagels & More.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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