Tucked away in the sprawling Toco Hills Shopping Center, the Bagel Palace Deli & Bakery has been around for at least a couple of decades. Somewhere in between Emory University and Druid Hills, the Toco Hills neighborhood is home to Atlanta’s most concentrated Jewish population. It seems appropriate that one of the more widely known delicatessens is here.
At any given time, especially on the weekends, there is bound to be a bit of a crowd meandering around this two-tiered eatery. Lined with a handful baking cases and a number of free-standing tables, the Bagel Palace has everything in place for a successful meal. Despite that fact, and despite the benevolent adoration from those around these parts, Bagel Palace is a bit of a mixed bag. Against the Atlanta backdrop, this is about as good as you’ll find in the deli-bakery hybrid so popular in The Big Apple. Still, it doesn’t mean that it gets a total pass.
Regardless of the harshness that is about to follow, I will tell you that I do scoot over to TBP about once a month. I need my bagel and lox and this is just about the only place in town that doesn’t totally destroy the composition.
In reality, the Palace is one big casual eatery; although, the upper and lower dining areas are separated by a doorway and three or four steps. Everything from the tables and chairs to the floor screams casual. Do they even have any artwork? (The answer is yes – but it’s easy not to notice it).
The wait staff is a constant fixture, and though they are very nice, I don’t seem to recall any real “system” bestowed upon them. This isn’t a knock, just an explanation of the reality. The girls are there to get you your food and check in every once in a while to make sure you gotz your goods. They do that just fine, though not with the willing proficiency displayed by any delicatessen worth its weight in gold. To put it another way, you might have to relax a little longer than you’d ideally like. They aren’t incompetent, they just dance to a different tune. When particularly busy, the lack of a tightly organized staff doesn’t bode well. [Side note: You take your bill to the register when done.]
The menu reads like that of a typical Jewish delicatessen. You’ll find whitefish, herring, chopped liver, latkes, knishes, and the rest of the usual grub. In addition, there are a handful of omelets, some sandwiches, and a slew of flavored bagels at your disposal. Those bagels come with any one of ten types of cream cheese. It’s worth noting that I always ask for a second helping of cream cheese since the thimble on ‘roids doesn’t cut it with me.
Being preferential to the unhealthy stuff, I usually pass on the whitefish and herring. For me to enjoy “Jewish fish,” I really need to be knocked on my butt. These are what they are. The latkes are small in stature and reasonably good … but then again, how hard is it to screw up fried potatoes??? They go down pretty easy and always make me smile, but there isn’t anything about these that makes them noteworthy. The knishes are a little more disappointing. There are actually several styles of knish, and I’ll forgo the opportunity to phonetically bastardize their names. In the meantime, these are those thick square samplings with a thin dough batter and minced potatoes inside. The predominant flavor that creeps past your taste buds is that of the oil. Thus, these are pretty bland. Like the latkes, these are best considered craving “satiators” and not fine examples of traditional Jewish cuisine.
The chopped liver, which is a distant cousin to pâté, is probably the best of this bunch, and also my least favorite relative to the knishes and latkes. Scratching your head at this one??? Here’s the deal: The liver used is definitely cooked properly in good oil and supplemented with onions and what not. When run through the processor, the consistency is typical of any better than average chopped liver. However, there is an abundance of sugar in every bite. Without more salt, I can’t say I enjoy BP’s chopped liver. However, it is well prepared. Hence … it’s the best dish, but my least favorite.
The boiled bagels tease you with potential, enough so that they will satisfy. Though they are cooked onsite, they come across a bit chewy, especially when compared to a “perfect bagel.” Consequently, I usually have them toasted to help with the eating process. Relative to the rest of Atlanta, these are some of the better bagels. However, anyone who has spent anytime hunting in the streets of New York will know better. These aren’t “craptastic” (a word I’ve used more than once on this blog), however, they aren’t knock my socks off either. The cream cheese is, like everything else, reasonably representative of a basic item with nothing wrong and nothing outstanding. When price isn’t an object, I still order my bagels from Zabar’s mail order. Even with the day delay, they are vastly superior to any purchased bagel I’ve ever tasted inside the Peach State.
The omelets are omelets, the sandwiches sandwiches, and so forth and so on. The Bagel Palace’s baked goods are can do the job as the focus is on cookies and cake. Keep in mind, BP is not Alon’s, nor is that the goal.
When you ask someone about “Jewish food,” the words under-seasoned and bland pop up more often than not. It’s unfortunate that Bagel Palace probably won’t move you away from that stereotype, but that doesn’t mean you’ll hate the food. Like anything I say, you’re bound to find people that agree with what I just said, and people that don’t. There are people out there that downright love this stop.
The high price point, the loose around the edges service, and the bland flavor profiles may not make you feel great … but they aren’t so out of whack that they’ll make you cower in the corner. It’s in the same vein as good as Goldberg’s, though BP does offer a few more traditional dishes.
POST SCRIPT: This isn’t kosher, there is bacon to be had!
Atlanta Foodies on The Bagel Palace
Bagel Palace Restaurant Address & Information
2869 N. Druid Hills Rd NE Atlanta, GA 30329 // 404.315.9016