While I was in upstate New York at the beginning of October for a wedding, I had a chance to spend a few days in Ithaca. This included, to my delight, the ability to visit Cornell University. I went to University of Chicago for my undergraduate, but there was a summer semester that I took at Cornell, and which I look upon very fondly. It was an intensive class meant to cover a year during that summer timeframe, so I was in class from morning to mid afternoon, and then I spent some time in the labs in the evening as well. This basically made the experience like camp for us because my classmates and I were constantly seeing each other basically all day every weekday, in constant conversations and discussions.
I subletted a studio during my stay just off campus (in the aptly named Collegetown) during that summer semester. Every morning on the way to my 8am class I would stop at Collegetown Bagels for my usual toasted bagel with butter. I had never really eaten bagels much- my experience with them had been they were chewy and too dense. But also most of my bagel experience was at the college cafeteria. These were different. These were so much better. These were New York bagels. I also discovered that I liked bagels with melted New York cheddar. I’m not kidding when I say I was here everyday.
I was glad to see they were still there when I visited- in fact, they have been there since 1976, still opening early and late, matching the hours of the college crowds. It’s still a small independently owned business, and still completely and utterly charming to me, from the overwhelming chalkboard menu to the assault on the eyes of stuff to look at, even read, just everywhere, just like you would expect if you were a young college student decorating your dorm room for the first time with “art” aka “posters you tape up everywhere”. I can’t even recall exactly how many posters I had when I graduated college- probably 30?
I admit I went slightly out of my way to visit them, because it was the same day I needed to go to Cooperstown, and this was the opposite direction. But I refused to leave the area without a visit. I found parking a couple blocks away and dug in the bottom of my purse, trying to find change to feed the old fashioned meter. The service was just as quick, efficient, yet friendly as I remembered (I’m not a morning person, but could always get in and out with my bagels every morning in less than 5 minutes, including the toasting!). I wanted to purchase a t-shirt to remember it buy after the bagel was gone, and the young girl brought every color of that shirt design in my size for me to choose from, and after opening up the shirt and realizing it was a little big, she did the same thing in the next size down- and did so cheerily.
And the bagels were still just as delicious as I remembered, doughy but crispy at the edges but not heavy so it didn’t take too much chewing.
For 5 minutes or so while I was eating this bagel with melted cheese, still a little bubbly, I was 19 again.
I totally bought a bagel (cheddar, buttered) to go as well. I wish I had been able to buy a whole dozen of bagels to take home to freeze, but I knew I still had several days vacation left. Collegetown Bagels is forever remembered by me where I learned how good bagels could be, and will be the best bagels ever.
Do you remember a place fondly that you would always be at when you were going to college, the first place you were a “regular” when you left home? If you were in the area again, would you go out of your way to visit it?