Sure enough! Although the bagel craze is a North American phenomenon, there are still a few places to get a half-decent bagel in Buenos Aires, as I learned firsthand when I joined some visiting college friends on a bagel hunt through middle class, Jewish Villa Crespo last week. (I also learned that the only way to get a bagel in this city is to ask for it with lox and cream cheese–not a disaster given my willingness to eat fish here and the general deliciousness of the combination, but still a little bit limiting, don’t you think?)
We went first to Café Crespin, which had been recommended to my friend Greg by a local contact who was clearly not a bagel devotee. Although the service at Café Crespin was friendly, the sides of potatoes exceptionally flavorful, and the vegetable sandwich we ordered surprisingly well done for a meatless main, the place looked way too trendy to have a great bagel–and sure enough, the roll itself was tiny and tough and overly dense. Everything else was solid enough, though, that I’d be happy to return one Sunday for the brunch that the cafe hypes as its main event.
Café Crespin can’t hold a candle to our second stop, La Crespo, a newly opened bakery/restaurant six blocks to the west. All of the pastries I had at this tiny place–the potato knish, the bourekas stuffed with eggplant and greens, the tartin–were flaky, buttery and indulgent. My friends had hot pastrami; it went over very well. Stuffed, we made enough room to share a last bagel, and we’re all glad we did–it was light and crunchy and perfectly toasted, without a doubt the best I’ve had yet in BA. And the elderly Jewish couple that runs the place is adorable, overflowing with pride in the food they serve. When I complimented the kindly male half on our meal, he responded, “Yes, we make very good bagels, and we make very good hot pastrami.” It would have been hard to disagree.