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Bethesda Bagels: We are Never Ever Getting Back Together. Like, Ever.

by Borderstan.com December 3, 2012 at 9:00 am 1,436 8 Comments

From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com. 


Bethesda Bagels, 1718 Connecticut Avenue. (Luis Gomez Photos)

I hate you, we break up, you call me, I love you.

If Taylor Swift lived in Borderstan and ate bagels, we would be able to stop the speculation about the target of her incredibly catchy pop anthem (Jake Gyllenhaal? John Mayer?) and know with certainty she is talking about Bethesda Bagels (1718 Connecticut Avenue NW).

Any Borderstani who has visited the DC outpost of Bethesda Bagels can attest to two things: their extremely delicious bagels and their extremely poor customer service. The lines? The attitude? The chaos? Please, just give me my bagel.

This is a bagel shop you want to love – large, fresh, hot, soft bagels with great flavor, seasoning on both sides (a must), and a crunchy exterior bursting with an excess of cream cheese, homemade spreads and deli meats. Consistently rated the best bagel in DC, one of their endless variety of sandwiches will fill you up well past lunch. They willingly serve breakfast all day, and a simple toasted bagel with cream cheese costs less than $3 – a good price for such a delicious treat. So, what’s not to like?

For starters, nearly everything in the bagel transaction is designed to maximize your frustration level. Entering their bagel paradise is like Dante entering the nine circles of Hell, subjecting yourself to the whims of a lackadaisical, inconsistent, mismatched staff, who may or may not heed your request for “light on the butter” or “heavy on the cream cheese” or “untoasted” or “extra tomatoes.” What will you end up with today? Who knows!

This time, I’m telling you, I’m telling you.

But that could be overlooked if the ordering process were not so stressful and confusing. Nearly every month since they opened in Dupont a year ago, there has been a new “system” to organize customers in line, take orders, and pay — all of which, as far as I can tell, have resulted in varying degrees of chaos. Do I pay when I order or when I receive my food? Well, that depends on the time of day. Where should I stand while I wait? Here, or there. Will there be an awkward snake of line-dividers in the middle of the store, preventing any free flow of traffic?  You can count on it.

A quick search on Google and Yelp reveals this is not an isolated complaint from one disgruntled customer. The same themes are expressed over and over, as in these examples:

“Good food, poor service.”

“Bagels are definitely good but the service is awful. Someone probably forgot to tell them they are in the customer service business…”

“Minus one star for the ordering process…it is so confusing.”

If you are not a bagel-enthusiast, you are wondering why customers just don’t stop griping and go somewhere else. But bagel-devotees know the answer: there is nowhere else in DC as good as Bethesda Bagels. So, despite the lack of coherent, friendly and efficient service, we go back, thinking this time will be different. We get frustrated by the long and disorderly lines, but return again and again, craving that delicious goodness like a drug we know we should quit.

I used to think that we were forever and I used to say never say never.

I’ve finally had enough. I have broken up with Bethesda Bagels. As good as the everything bagel, toasted, with light veggie cream cheese is, I can’t handle the stress. Ordering a bagel should not make a person want to scream and storm out of the store in protest – both of which I have done, before going back the following week in sunglasses. In the interest of my sanity and my skinny jeans, we are breaking up and – at least this week – never, ever, ever, getting back together.

This is exhausting.  We are never getting back together.  Like, ever.

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  • Bill Living

    You just sold me. I’m going to get dressed, skip Boeymonger this morning, and head to DuPont Circle for a delicious Bethesda Bagel, that might be served by an angry disgruntled employee who probably doesn’t make nearly the amount of money that they should, and probably gets treated like S&%T.

  • Lindsey

    Great — the more people that “never ever ever” go to Bethesda Bagels, the shorter the line is for me!

  • steve

    Really? I go here all the time and while it’s amusing how they always change the line format, I don’t find it stressful at all and the employees are almost always perfectly courteous. In the nearly 100 times I’ve probably been there, maybe twice I’ve had someone help me who wasn’t overly friendly, but they still did their job and weren’t rude. I have never been put off by the customer service. Is it possible you’re overly sensitive or creating frustration for yourself where there isn’t any?

    Now, the bagels are really only the best around because it’s the only shop for miles that makes actual bagels in house that day. I’m still waiting for a place that makes a great bagel & egg sandwich.

  • Joe Jones

    LOL. Great column! I feel the exact same way. The service is TERRIBLE. It’s enough to make your head explode. The bagels are so good but the hassle factor is insurmountable.

  • David

    I’ve been there almost every weekday morning since it opened and am satisfied with the service about 85% of the time. The vast majority of the staff members are courteous and efficient; the few “weak links” tend not to last very long. Usually my wait time is minimal. Yes, the line situation has been odd, but the current roping arrangement seems to work OK. Alternately they could assign one person to a cash register and let everyone else focus on food prep — seems like that could work well in that space.

    • Pete

      I feel the exact same way. Usually accurate, very friendly service, which could be improved by a more rigid “order here, wait here, pay here” system.

  • whitehatgirl

    K Street Bagel Cafe beats Bethesda Bagels. And they’re nice.

  • dupontShoppa

    I come into this location almost every day.

    YES they changed the line setup a few times. Now they have turnstiles and its working great. Lets rag on them because they LISTEN to your reviews and comments and yelp posts.

    Would you really rather have a company that gets complaints and does nothing to try and fix them? Lets dwell on this a little more can we?

    Also if you’ve had a bad experience have you talked to the manager? The once they messed up my eggs and I had to wait the manager made me fresh hot chocolate (AMAZING) and refunded my meal. Also as one person said if there is a bad apple(employee) don’t let that one rotten apple spoil the whole bunch. They seem to REALLY REALLY care about everyone’s experience each time so give them a chance to fix it.

    I eat out all the time. I have issues of some sort almost everywhere I go. What makes the difference is how those mistakes are handled.

    Get off your high horse, realize YOU may be part of the problem and find someone else to go after.

    In the meantime I won’t miss not seeing you there while we wait in line. (waiting in line because they are the best around)


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