During some culinary exploration in South County last week, I pulled in to a ghastly new-OC type plaza on El Toro Road and smelled . . . bagels. Real bagels. Good bagels. I thought I'd been hallucinating because OC's bagel scene is pretty dire.
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I was pretty surprised, then, when I walked into Bagel Shack and got a poppy-seed bagel with cream cheese. Great crust; a little spongy inside, but a bite of a raisin bagel I bought for a friend didn't have that problem. Now, H&H they're not; they're not Ess-A-Bagel either, and they're not even Bagel Nosh (the Santa Monica bagelry owned by a family from New Jersey), but these were a cut above most other bagels in Orange County.
Next thing you know, there'll be great pastrami down there. (Is there? IS THERE?)
Keep surprising me, South OC.
The Bagel Shack, 777 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 388-0745; 23653 El Toro Rd., Lake Forest, (949) 305-2034; 31876 Del Obispo Rd., Ste. 1, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 488-8023; thebagelshack.com.