The Bagel celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and while it has been at multiple locations, the family-owned restaurant is still dedicated to serving large portions of good, authentic Jewish fare.
The Skokie business at 50 Old Orchard Center has been a gathering place for the area’s Jewish community since 1987. It was doing a brisk business at 11 a.m. Saturday, populated with families, senior citizens and police officers.
The large dining room features red tables with black chairs and booths, lit by a mix of red and black lamps. Walls are lined with posters from Broadway shows, including Man of La Mancha and The Producers. If you’re looking for takeout or a quick bite, there’s also a counter offering bagels, sandwiches and a wide variety of treats ranging from chocolate-covered Oreos to traditional Jewish desserts like mandel bread and rugelach, with small tables decorated with pictures of bagels nearby.
The Bagel’s massive menu features everything from omelets to burgers to meatloaf.
We were quickly greeted by the hostess when we came in and were shown to a booth. Meals start with a basket of bread and great crispy bagel chips, plus a platter of slices of crisp, sour green pickles. Soon after we were seated, a server came by to offer menus and take our drink orders, coming back with a glass of large, fresh-squeezed orange juice ($2.95) just as we had finished deciding what to order.
I’ve been to The Bagel a few times before with my brother when we get nostalgic for the Jewish food we grew up with in our native Florida. I normally go for the nova platter ($12.95), with the very good fish served with cream cheese, big slices of cucumber, black olives and of course, a bagel. This time I went with the favorite on the restaurant’s breakfast menu, the thick-cut challah French toast ($7.75). The simple dish features slices of the soft bread that’s been cooked with plenty of egg, served with warm syrup. It’s light but filling and was impossible to finish even with my boyfriend taking a slice.
In true Jewish deli fashion, sandwiches are massive and excellent.
The Ruthie’s Request ($13.75) features a pile of tender beef brisket and bright red pastrami with a slice of Muenster cheese served on fresh rye bread. Our server offered spicy mustard to go with it and we were very happy with the suggestion as the kick made the blend of meats even better. The combination sandwiches come with a side and we chose a potato pancake, which was accompanied with cups of the traditional toppings sour cream and applesauce.
Even though I typically prefer my latkes thin and crispy, I was happy with The Bagel’s thick and fluffy version which was perfectly seasoned with plenty of onion flavor.
The Bagel has brought generations of diners out to enjoy its traditional recipes, becoming a tradition in its own right that seems bound to last.