The Gaslamp got a new bagel shop in August, and like North Park's new iteration of Nomad Donuts, this one's offering an artisanal take on Poland's chewy and beloved boil-and-bake pastry. However, while Nomad has thus far kept its wood-fired bagel options fairly traditional, Spill the Beans Coffee & Bagels adopted a creative approach straight out the gate.
555 Market Street, Downtown San Diego
Brought around by Verant Group, the same team behind Barleymash, the new café sits roughly kitty-corner to its sister restaurant. It's barely separated from the same group's new BBQ and cocktails property, Smoking Gun.
Chef Kevin Templeton created the menu for all three places, and for Spill the Beans that meant creating unique from-scratch bagels.
Whereas Nomad Donut's new bagels hailed from the Montreal bagel tradition, Spill the Beans goes a different direction. However, they're not New York style either. Instead, Templeton's branding these as California style bagels.
That's probably a wise move, since apparently the most fun thing a native New Yorker can do in life is loudly declare that any attempt to make a New York-style bagel outside the five boroughs threatens to unravel the moral fabric holding together all civilization, or something.
I went by to try out a California-style bagel and Dark Horse Coffee Roasters cold brew. I typically order a sesame bagel, but Spill the Beans deviates from the usual bagel lineup. These add a few twists on the usual ingredients. So instead of jalapeño and cheddar, here you'll find serrano, habañero, and jack cheese. Rather than cinnamon raisin, there's a bagel with pear, cranberry, vanilla, and cinnamon. I would guess a common first order here is the bacon and white cheddar bagel. There's also a gluten-free vegan bagel, which sounds like a neat trick. They're all around four bucks apiece, but that includes butter and/or a bevy of house cream cheese spreads.
There most normal bagels here would be the so-called Plain Jane, and the common catch-all everything bagel. I went for the nearest thing to sesame: the Seed & Grain, which adds rolled oats, wheat bran, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and sea salt. Not only is this a few hemp seeds away from being the most California bagel imaginable, but counter staff confirmed it features a greater number of ingredients than the shop's everything bagel. So, everything plus.
For a bagel not trying to be a New York bagel, this one comes fairly close in terms of density. It's perhaps a little lighter, with less toothsome crust. For the most part, the added ingredients makes the difference (and, okay New Yorkers, it's not made with the city's magic water).
The seeds and sea salt encrusting the big, doughy bagel gave it plenty of flavor, even just eating it whole, untoasted, without any schmear. I did dip into a caramelized shallot and chive spread, and can vouch for it. The menu notes its cream cheese spreads are made with "local and organic ingredients," and they all sound pretty good, especially strawberry, basil, and balsamic; white truffle and parmesan; and homemade nutella.
I've long wondered what the craft/artisan/hipster approach to bagels might look like, and if Spill the Beans and Nomad Donut's are San Diego's first taste, consider me all in.