From Melanie Hudson. Email her at melanie[AT]borderstan.com.
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.
Boasting handmade bagels, fresh baked super-sized muffins, bialys and overstuffed sandwiches (and lunchtime pizza on weekdays), Bethesda Bagels has finally opened in Dupont Circle. Half a block north of R Street NW on the west side of Connecticut Avenue, they took over the space formerly occupied by Johnny Rockets and opened last Friday.
Their menu lists 21 regularly offered flavors of bagels and five more specialty bagels you’ll have to watch closely or show up early for. They also offer an assortment of bagel pizzas and daily sandwich specials, with deli meats and cheeses for the lunch crowd.
Welcome to Dupont, Bethesda Bagels! Those of us who stumble to the Sunday market will surely be stopping by for a visit!