Hit Bagels and Company on any given morning, at any given moment, and you'll find yourself waiting on line at the counter or for a table. Weekends aside, this popular neighborhood spot is never not thronged with northern Miami-Dade residents thrumming fingers impatiently for toasted bialys with whitefish salad, homemade blueberry blintzes with sour cream, or three-egg tomato-Swiss cheese omelets with a side of corned beef hash.
Unless, of course, you go for dinner, when you can have your pick of the speckled Formica booths and tables.
Formerly a breakfast-lunch joint, the L-shaped delicatessen opened for dinner this past October. The full menu is available, but the real treats are the newly added dinners. Including soup or salad, plus starch and a vegetable, they are reasonable prix-fixe meals that eat like an upgrade of an early-bird special. Very few neighborhood patrons, though, seem to have discovered the expanded hours.
Too bad, because Jewish specialty items like chicken-in-the-pot -- half of a chicken boiled in flavorful broth with chunks of carrots, celery, onions, egg noodles, and a fluffy matzoh ball that has just enough body to be convincing -- is a dying art form 'round these parts. Used to be you could get chicken-in-the-pot, bones and all, and its extended family (roasted half-chickens, corned beef and cabbage, grilled or poached salmon, grilled London broil, brisket with mushroom gravy) just about anywhere in Miami.
But with the increase of interest in dining-as-entertainment this past decade, people have failed to go out for more simple suppers, preferring to eat such dishes for lunch and save the sophistication for the evening. Thus those of us who crave chicken-in-the-pot -- or say, meat loaf like Mom's, with soul-warming mashed potatoes -- have been pressed to shop for the goods at Epicure.
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What you can't get in a market, though, you can get at Bagels and Company. And that includes hot open-face sandwiches, made with freshly carved turkey or roast beef. The beef slices, in particular, are pleasantly rare at the outset, so warming them up doesn't turn them into tough flaps that resemble the interiors of leather shoes. Instead you can still chew all the layers of bread, meat, and mushroom gravy together -- even without your dentures.
Ditto a very pleasant, herb-inflected chicken Parmesan, served over a pile of linguine and under a blanket of pliant mozzarella. You can score the equivalent at any decent Italian restaurant around town but not, perhaps, for the ten-spot it'll cost you here. Add in the cup of Manhattan clam chowder or house salad (a crunchy if unremarkable assortment of greens, cucumber, and tomato) and you've reached out to embrace all the food groups for less than you'd spend at Publix.
Desserts aren't included in the deal, but an extra $1.95 for a cup of old-fashioned, cinnamon-scented rice pudding won't stretch the budget too much. For stretching the waistband, try the New York cheesecake, washed down with a few cups of brewed decaf.
Stay for awhile. Joke around with the waitstaff. Chat up the other diners -- at the moment, they're few enough to make everybody feel like one big, happily estranged family. Buy some bagels to toast for breakfast at home the next day. Because when word gets out about the authentic deli dinners, as it is bound to, relaxing at a table for any length of time will no longer be an option.