Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Einstein Bagels just opened a second location in Northwest Arkansas.  On College Street in Fayetteville, just in front of Ozark Natural Foods, Einstein will catch many of the people coming to this mainstay of alternative food shopping in Northwest Arkansas. 

The day that I come this store has just opened its doors to the public, and pandemonium rules the day.  There seem to be too few servers and even the manager is losing his cool with a new guy who obviously has not caught on to the fact that the person operating the cash register needs to help in other parts of the store when he’s not busy. 

The display case is full of delectable and imaginative bagel combinations that get my vegetarian palate working overtime in anticipation.  I am here with my boss, an inveterate meat eater and former restrauranter from St. Louis.  We are both enticed by the foreground display of the Gourmet Bagels.  He orders the Six Cheese, while I opt for the Spinach Florentine.  With cream cheese, a gourmet bagel comes to about $3. 

They ask me if I want my bagel toasted, and since it is a hot day I decline.  But when I see my boss’s toasted specimen, I change my mind and ask if it is too late to toast mine too.  Not without humor, the bagel meister says “unfortunately yes.”  But then he laughs and says he will make an exception in my case.  I appreciate the humor more than the bagel.  It seems dry, and the spinach flavor is hard to wake up.  My boss really doesn’t say anything about his bagel.  To be fair, it is hard to get compliments out of the guy. 

Einstein also has a location in Rogers, just off 540 Exit 83.  Since this is near Pinnacle Hills mall, the store is in a very posh part of Rogers that attracts business people and shoppers.  The day I ate there I brought my laptop and worked through some email correspondence.  I had the Dutch Apple Gourmet Bagel and a pumpkin latte.  This was considerably better than the Spinach Florentine Gourmet Bagel that I had in Fayetteville.  The pumpkin latte was great too.  Together, both came to almost $7.

When you take time to really examine what Einstein has to offer, you see that they have quite a number of lunch items in addition to their breakfast bagels.  Also, they denote vegetarian items with a yellow soup bowl icon.  There are several categories to pick from:  paninis, melts, wraps, pizza bowls, bagel dogs, and deli sandwiches.  There are also soups and salads.  The only sandwich that has a little yellow soup bowl next to it designating vegetarian is the Veg Out.  They describe it as:  “Feta pine nut spread, garden veggie smear and veggies.  Served on your choice of bagel, bread, wrap or challah.”  Though I look for quite a while at all the sandwiches to identify other yellow soup bowls, this is the token vegetarian option.  There is also the Bros. Bistro House Salad.  The potential for creating vegetarian sandwiches is so abundant that this seems a little disappointing.

If you are watching calories, fat and carbohydrate intake, Einstein provides an online chart that you can consult to find the numbers on each of their creations.  For instance, I see that my Dutch Apple gourmet bagel is one of the most fat and calorie laden choices among the bagels.  It has 350 calories, 7 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat.  A plain whole wheat bagel would have been a much more sensible choice.  It has 260 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 0 grams of saturated fat.  Of course, the addition of cream cheese to any bagel will dramatically increase the fat content.

Einstein seems very similar to Panera in its concept, though not as upscale and not quite as good.  Panera has fresh baked bread, pastries, a broader lunch menu and a more pleasant seating environment.  Panera also seems a bit pricier though. 

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