Mister Bagel: Not just for breakfast

11/Octubre/2012 | 19:14

By Lance Brashear

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Though it has become a mainstay on the breakfast circuit for more than two decades, Mister Bagel is also a popular place for the lunch crowds and for those who just need an afternoon break.

Bagels are not very common in Quito, or Ecuador for that matter.  In fact, nobody seems to be making them except Mister Bagel, who, as a result, offers one of the more unique dining experiences in Quito.

For those who are not familiar with a bagel owner Hugh Gillis offers a few parameters as to how he creates them: “flower, sugar, salt, water, and yeast…it is mixed, leavened, boiled, and baked.” But he has enough variations to create seventeen different bagels, from whole wheat to blueberry, and even a local Andean version: quinoa.  

Despite the fact that bagel-making machines have been around for fifty years, Gillis says he continues to make his bagels by hand.   They now have two locations, but all bagels are still made at the main store to control quality.

And though bagels will keep longer than traditional bread, the eye popping displays of baskets are filled with only fresh bagels ($.75 each).  You can ask for day-old bagels at a discount ($.50) but by the third day all are converted into bagel chips (200 gram bag sells for $1.50), which is one of the many, small changes that has turned Mister Bagel into more than just a breakfast place.

Beyond Breakfast

The menu at Mister Bagel has grown slowly over the years to keep up with customer demand for lunch options.  A steady flow of customers are seen at midday and throughout the afternoon looking for salads, sandwiches, soups, and desserts. 

They have always offered a traditional lox (cured salmon with cream cheese) and a tuna option, alongside pizza bagels, a BLT, and sandwiches made with chicken or ham and cheese.  But the one thing they were missing was a heavier, meatier option, until now. 

“We had a lot people coming in looking for some kind of meat sandwich,” says Gillis, so he gave them what they asked for, a new roast beef bagel.

Additionally, as the holidays approach, look for Mister Bagel´s turkey bagel during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But just around the corner is Ecuador’s traditional Day of the Dead, or All Souls Day, which sees the proliferation of the traditional “colada morada” and “guaguas de pan.”   Mister Bagel, too, is offering colada morada ($2.75 a cup) during the entire month along with their adaptation of the traditional bread: their own, guagua bagel (at $1.25 it is like a bagel, but filled with jam and are a better bargain than most guaguas).

Gillis continually adjusts to his customer’s demands.  The popularity of his bagel chips lead him to offer a new “chips and salsa” menu item, with an in-house dip  made of tomato, onion, and jalapeño chili pepper, adjusted to fit each customer’s tolerance for spiciness.

And Gillis’s American heritage shows through in the apple pie (a la mode if you wish), which you can buy by the slice or order (in advance) a whole one to take home. 

Coffee Central

The one change that has had perhaps the biggest impact is the universal drink that goes with just about everything - especially bagels and apple pie - no matter if eaten in the morning or the late afternoon: coffee.

After years of serving excellent coffee, Gillis got even more serious not just about the quality of their bean but the way they prepare it. 

Mister Bagel uses two local brands – Café Velez and Passion de Express – both grown in the region around Loja in southern Ecuador.  And they utilize two different machines – one for extraction where they prepare espressos, cappuccinos, and mochaccinos using Velez coffee, and an infusion machine using Passion de Express for the American coffee. 

“Velez came in and provided training on the preparation,” says Gillis.  As a result, Mister Bagel has made adjustments throughout their process, turning a good cup of coffee into a great cup of coffee. 

And what goes well with a great cup of coffee (besides a bagel or slice apple pie) is a good book.  A tradition as old as Mister Bagel’s bagels is their book exchange.

Gillis says, “The book exchange works like this:  Bring a book. Eat something. Then you can exchange a book.”  The books are not for sale.  “Eighty percent of the books we have were donations from people leaving the country and they feel comfortable doing that because they know I am not going to profit from them.   So it is an additional service we offer, as is WIFI.” 

Gillis opened the first Mister Bagel in 1995 after years of making bagels out of his home.  Maurice Romero opened the first franchise 18 months ago and has seen more than 30% growth.  Gillis says Quito can expect a third location in the next year, as interest in franchising the business is growing.

With the right combination of unique food, great coffee, and a way to enjoy them without having to rush, we hope to see more Mister Bagel locations throughout the city.

The original Mister Bagel is on Portugal near 6 de diciembre.  They are open Monday-Friday, 7am-7pm, Saturday’s and Sundays 7:30am to 3pm.  For more information call 224-0978.

A second location on Luis Cordero, between 12 de octubre and Tamayo (just cattycorner and half a block down from Swissotel), is open Monday-Friday, 7:30am-6:30pm, and Saturday 8am-3pm.  Call them at 223-9729.



Ciudad Quito

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.