by Georgia Norton
Bread. I could take it or leave it. Baguettes? Meh. Sourdough? Don’t care. But there’s something different about a bagel. There’s something better. Though it’s not quite New York, there are plenty of incredible bagel spots in ATL like the General Muir and Emerald City Bagels, but where Lovett student/faculty convenience is concerned, only the two bagel chains we all know and love can compete: Einstein’s and Goldbergs. In this article, I’ll be judging the competing bagel shops on strict criteria in order to establish where the best nearby bagels really are, once and for all.
Location in Respect to Lovett:
Admittedly, Goldberg’s has one of the better locations in the Buckhead area: West Paces. Near many Atlanta schools, this parking lot is the pinnacle of student life. From Willys, to Publix, to the newly opened (actually why though) Millkey Way dentist, there is always a reason to be there, and most Buckhead residents pass it every day. Due to this, Goldberg’s is a convenient choice for most.
There are many Einstein’s locations, but none are quite as relevant as West Paces. They’re still fairly close but you’d usually have to go a little bit out of your way to find an Einstein’s, and for that reason, it’s much less popular.
Einstein's doesn’t complicate things. They offer a convenient and straightforward approach to bagel-ordering. One simply lines up at the clearly-marked counter and orders one’s bagel. The selections are shown on the wall-mounted menu in case a customer desires a more experimental choice, like the BLT or a bacon, egg and cheese bagel. When I went, the staff were attentive and the service was quick. No complaints here.
On the other hand, Goldberg’s is a bit more complicated. In order to get a bagel to-go, one must walk to the very back of the dimly-lit bagel shop and find the to-go counter. Both the lack of lighting and the cramped space make it tough to figure out where to go.
When I went, though, no one was working that counter anyways. Though the chatting employees saw me waiting, they continued to chat in the back for around five more minutes before slowly walking over to get my order. Then, I waited around ten minutes for my uncut, untoasted everything bagel with a side of cream cheese--not a difficult order--though I was the only customer in the store. When I finally got the bagels, the order was wrong anyways, but I was too impatient to correct them and just paid for the sesame bagel they’d given me as well.
For consistency's sake, I just tried an everything bagel at each shop (though yes, I did get a sesame one from Goldbergs too…) The everything bagel at Einstein’s was a good, basic bagel. It was pretty thin (similar to Lovett bagels, but not nearly as stale) and the everything seasoning was very flavorful. The bagel itself was almost fluffy and didn’t have too much cream cheese, which I honestly liked, and it had a perfect amount of crunch when toasted. I was impressed.
Goldberg’s bagels are huge. My everything bagel was a four-inch-tall mound of bread, more reminiscent of a giant dinner roll than a bagel, really. Also, they’re very, very dense. The inconsistent shapes and sizes, though, are a telltale sign that they’ve been hand-rolled instead of mechanically produced, which is a plus.
Where the “everything” of the bagel was concerned, there was, well, nothing… It didn’t really have any seasoning or flavor whatsoever, but it had a ton of cream cheese. The over-stuffed bagels are the closest things to “New York” style I’ve found in Atlanta.
Honestly, this was tough, and my decision will probably be controversial, but hear me out. These bagels are both good in really different ways. Goldberg’s bagels are quality bagels. They’re so obviously handmade, incredibly dense, and completely loaded, whereas Einstein’s are light and fluffy and flavorful. Where staff and experience are concerned, Einstein’s takes the win despite its mildly-inconvenient locations. Goldberg’s just had ridiculously bad service. Though it’s really close, I think that Einstein’s takes the cake this time. Or, well… the bagel?
While we likely chomp down mostly on bagels from the two chains, I did want to try one of the niche bagel spots in ATL, so I headed over to the General Muir, which, with its Jewish origins and extensive variety, has arguably the best bagels in Atlanta. The open, sunlit spot with black-and-white decor also serves up stacked pastrami sandwiches and gorgeous brunch options, and I’ve heard everything is incredible.
The day I was there I didn’t have much time, so I ordered both a poppy seed and a plain bagel to go (toasted-- of course) and both regular and chive cream cheese from energetic and attentive staff. The bagels were almost sweet, and the dough itself was flavorful beyond mere “bread” taste. The toasting was perfect, with a light crunch on the outside and a fluffy, soft inside, and the chive cream cheese complemented the crunch perfectly to make a creation that melts in your mouth. Though maybe a bit less convenient than Einstein’s or Goldbergs, the god-like deli is definitely worth your while, and it’s far better than any chain in my opinion.
Nonetheless, even if you do choose to frequent Einsteins or Goldbergs instead of exploring the world of one-off delis, I doubt you’ll be disappointed, because it’s hard to go wrong with a bagel.