There have been a lot of times I've gone to one restaurant or another on the strength of recommendations I've seen or heard from friends, acquaintances, web sites and local newspapers. The place I chose today, I chose because it came in tops in one of those meaningless "Best Of The City" articles, probably in the local throwaway weekly, but maybe in the regular so-called local newspaper.
I pass the Bagel Factory, at 15909 US 281 North, between Thousand Oaks and Brookhollow, several times a week on my way to the gym, but since the access road is one way the other way, I have never stopped there. I've had some of their bagels a couple of times, giveaways at the gym during occasional promotions, but it's hard to judge a product fairly when it's been sitting around in the open air for hours. (Of course, it probably makes no real difference, since otherwise it's been sitting around in a large display case just as long. But best to make the trial as fair as possible, and avoid even the appearance of circumstantial bias.)
So this morning I picked up my friend Rick after my workout and we headed on over to the Bagel Factory.
When you walk in, you're greeted with a call of "Welcome to Bagel Factory" by people behind the counter. I've seen the same thing at Cici's Pizza, but with more feeling. Here, it struck me as an unenthusiastic and automatic greeting. Maybe it would have helped if the employee had actually looked at us when we came in, but she continued doing whatever it was she was doing.
In addition to about 18 different types of bagels, the store offers sandwiches and drinks. That was what we had come for. I chose the "supervisor," a breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese and bacon (sausage, ham and chorizo also available). Choosing the type of bagel was difficult, but I narrowed it down quickly. I couldn't see having such a sandwich on a chocolate chip bagel, for example, or orange-cranberry (though that might've been good...). I finally settled on the honey-wheat variety. Rick went with a "Polish bagelache," a link of Polish sausage wrapped in bagel dough and baked. (The menu offers a choice of three add-on items; his had cheese and jalapeños, but I'm pretty sure he didn't order it that way.) We both had coffee.
The shop offers two types of coffee, plus decaf: French Roast, and Café Blend. We both went with the Café Blend, which was powerfully strong but not quite as potent as the acid sold as coffee in certain national chain coffee houses. It's a good sign when a single packet of sweetener is sufficient for a cup of coffee. This cup required two or three.
Rick's "bagelache" seemed to have been heated in a microwave, because the bagel dough, while soft and tasty, was chewy in the way that microwave radiation produces. The thing was so hot on the outside that it was impossible to hold long enough to take a bite; and when it had cooled off enough to hold, the sausage proved to be almost cold inside.
My bagel sandwich wasn't any better. The bagel itself seemed dry, the bacon was undercooked and limp and strangely flavourless, and the egg was utterly tasteless. It looked like some kind of pre-fabricated egg-substitute, dragged out of a freezer and zapped. Only the cheese had flavour.
The place was clean and spacious, and even had three shaded tables outside, which is nice in good weather; although the traffic noise of 281 might make that a dubious virtue. Prices were reasonable, and might even be considered excellent value if the actual product were better.