An excursion to upstate New York took me far away from the culinary locale of Boston, and I found myself in the small and unassuming town of Potsdam, New York. The town has its charm, situated on the St. Lawrence River and the quiet ambiance that contrasts with a subtly busy street. On this street is the ever-populated (even during COVID) “The Bagelry,” now reformed to “Park Bros.” The tiny bagel cafe is situated on the coveted Market Street in the town, filled with clean surfaces and minimalist decoration with North Country flair. The menu, written in black ink on a wooden mounting, is simple and bagel-centered, each dish featuring a unique combination of ingredients atop a bagel of your choice. While the restaurant seems to be bagel-centered, this is just a ruse, because the real stars of every bagel sandwich are, quite surprisingly and albeit delighting, the toppings.
The menu can be divided into a breakfast and lunch/dinner category, with half of the bagels featuring traditionally breakfast items such as eggs, avocados, and bacon. The other half is centered on ingredients that are normally consumed later in the day, from turkey, buffalo chicken, and roast beef. It's a simple menu, and one thing I have learned from being a culinary enthusiast is that simple menus with a limited number of dishes tend to be perfected. Going in with the mindset that these dishes have been tried and found to be true, I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Bagel, Cheese Pizza, and Spicy Turkey Melt.
I choose an everything bagel for the Buffalo Chicken bagel, an unpretentious dish featuring buffalo wing sauce, what looked to be slightly-grilled chicken, and mozzarella cheese. The bagel was compact, half-slices laid upon and with a pickle on the side. The small cubes of chicken were sprinkled with buffalo sauce and melted mozzarella cheese on top kept the whole bagel together. It was unassuming and delicious, the seasoning from the bagel adding the perfect garlic flavor to what is a classic American-tasting dish. My only complaint is that the chicken could be more grilled, for a charred look, just to combat the liquid of the sauce, which could easily make the dish soggy in but twenty minutes.
The Cheese Pizza bagel I got on a plain bagel, hoping to see if the dish would taste sophisticated enough with its two ingredients: mozzarella cheese and seasoned pizza sauce. A mistake, because even the simple nature of the bagel could not bring out any luster in the dish; the sauce was overly sweet, tasting like it was supermarket variety, and clashed with the hints of salt in the mozzarella. It pains me to say, but the mini bite-sized bagels from the supermarket tasted much better than this bagel. Any seasoning in the sauce was lost in its saccharine taste, a true failure when it comes to a dish modeled after pizza.
The final, Spicy Turkey Melt, was my personal favorite. This was the more avant-garde culinary dive of the day, but still simplistic enough to align with the Park Bros. menu. I chose an everything bagel (which, in hindsight, works very well with bagel sandwiches that lean on the savory side). The melt featured turkey slices folded over, sharp white cheddar, mashed avocado, sliced jalapeños, roasted tomatoes, and chipotle mayo. The jalapeños were the true brilliance in the dish, the spice contrasting perfectly with the mashed avocado. The bagel was served hot, the sharp white cheddar melting atop the roasted tomatoes, and the turkey warm and tender. It was absolutely delicious, and creative enough that it fits with the Park Bros. menu while venturing enough outside its comfort zone.
Park Bros. seems to be a hit-and-miss, but the cafe stays true to its bagel roots. Its casual milieu featuring coffee and bagels is the local comfort, and it is there to stay. And I will definitely be returning for the Spicy Turkey Melt, as delicious and comforting as the cafe it was made in.
Spicy Turkey Melt