Behold the bagel: equal parts doughy and crisp, hearty and cheap, a vehicle for salty cured fish and sweet raspberry jelly alike. It’s an ideal breakfast food, as versatile as it is delicious. But for some, it’s just too much. That’s right—I’m talking bagel scoopers, those outliers who request their morning treat voided of its pillowy middle. It might seem innocuous, but at the bagel shop it’s as controversial a subject as they come. Ask for your oven-fresh everything bagel hollowed out, and you’ll most likely receive a raised eyebrow and a grunt of disapproval, as if you'd just dumped Sweet-n-Low in your Blue Bottle pour-over.
I conducted a quick Facebook survey that showed on the customer side, bagel loyalists overwhelmingly condemn the practice of bagel scooping. My sister-in-law went as far as to call it an "abomination," proclaiming, "Eat the bagel or don't, but for the love of God, don't destroy it." But could this blasphemous act ever be considered acceptable? I turned to the true experts, the folks behind the counter, to put this morning conundrum back to bed, once and for all.
"It all depends what kind of bagel you're eating," says Dianna Daoheung, Executive Chef at NYC’s ever-popular Black Seed Bagels. Daoheung’s shop, which was opened by Mile End’s Noah Bernamoff, specializes in Montreal-style bagels— a thinner, denser, and slightly sweeter version that she and her team deem too small for scooping. "There would be nothing left!" she exclaims, no doubt picturing her life’s work rendered into limp, hollowed-out remnants.
But despite her disdain, Daoheung concedes that scooping can serve a purpose. "If it's a smaller bagel, it can greatly impact the ratio of soft to chewy and change the sweet taste of the inside, but if it's bigger, then I don't see it as the worst thing," she reasons. "For a large, puffy bagel, I think scooping can be helpful to give it a better ratio of stuffing to filling."
The more bagel bosses I consulted, the more I discovered that this issue essentially came down to one thing: toppings. The people making your breakfast want you to enjoy it, and they’re not just in it for the bread. These toastmasters put effort into the whole shebang, all the schmears, eggs, cold cuts, and salads that transform a simple, pleasurable hunk of carbs into a full-blown meal. And occasionally, the laws of physics demand more space than an un-scooped bagel can provide.
"Because of the heft of our sandwiches and the amount of toppings on many of them, a scooped-out bagel means you actually get to eat everything instead of it all falling out on the first bite," explains Kate Beacom, who makes her living hawking bagels at Brooklyn’s Nagle’s Bagels and reports that she’s asked to scoop two to three times a shift. "We have an option for it on the POS, so it's about as special as asking for your bagel extra toasted."
Beacom went on to mention that after gaining a bit of weight from all the job perks, she even started scooping out her own bagels. "It gives it more crunch and less chew, but it doesn't dampen the experience since I'm mostly focused on what's inside."
The verdict: Scoop wisely. If you’re craving something a bit more streamlined, try to keep that little beauty intact. But if your bagel of choice looks like it could single-handedly feed a family of four, there’s no shame in asking for a little more interior space, and that goes double if you’re loading up on extras. The authorities would rather sacrifice a bit of cushioning than see a pile of bacon slide right through the wickets. And if the person taking your order gives you any smack, just roll with it—they probably just need another cup of coffee.