Sometimes the craving hits, no matter how healthful your diet might be. Carbs. Comforting, soul-soothing carbs. And if you happen to be looking at Goldberg's Bagels' Instagram account when that happens, the struggle will be real.
If the West Hartford bakery-café's photo feed doesn't make you salivate, you might want to check your pulse. This is a spot that isn't afraid of excess — robust, freshly baked bagels loaded with eggs cooked to order, thick-cut bacon, molten cheese and crispy hash brown patties, or specialty cream cheeses in whimsical flavors like key lime, birthday cake and Oreo. It's rainy-day, calories-be-damned, hangover-erasing, treat-yourself food.
Breakfast is available all day — well, until close at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends — with both standard and elevated sandwiches ($2.99 to $7.99.) Top eggs with sausage and cheddar on an everything bagel, or go highbrow with prosciutto, arugula and garlic mayo on a croissant. Like things hot? Korean-spiced steak with Sriracha aioli adds a shot of spice to an egg and cheese with roasted peppers and grilled onions, and the cheeky "Mother Clucker" with crispy fried chicken gets a little fiery with three pepper jack cheese. Eggs are also available in fresh scrambles with a variety of meats, cheeses and vegetables, with hash browns and choice of bagel or toast.
That Korean-spiced beef shows up again at lunch as a cheesesteak on a baguette with onions and peppers, and it's a fantastic twist on the classic Philly — although we think aioli with gochujang, versus Sriracha, would be a better nod to authenticity. The Mother Clucker's equally irreverent afternoon fried-chicken counterpart, the Clucking Awesome (try to order that without smirking; we failed) has three layers of heat with the same Sriracha aioli, jalapeno slaw and pepper jack. It's served on soft herb focaccia, but might need a denser bread type to contain all that's going on there. Luckily, Goldberg's lets you customize sandwiches on a regular bagel, brioche roll, or sliced bread, with croissants and specialty bagels available for an extra 50 cents.
With this many gourmet sandwich options ($4.49 to $6.99), it's hard to choose between contenders like the Schnitzel with Middle Eastern-spiced breaded chicken breast, hummus and Israeli salad; Zarek, with chicken salad, hash browns and Asiago cheese on a sesame bagel; Texan with house-roasted beef, melted aged cheddar and BBQ sauce, to name just a few. And that's before we even spied the specials board and promptly impulse-bought the Ultimate PB&J, a hot-pressed cinnamon raisin bagel spread with peanut butter, jelly and Nutella. It's a chewy, gooey, satisfying mess, and when we unwrapped it, we imagined that's what heaven smells like.
Lunch also features chopped salads ($4.99 to $6.99); burgers ($3.99 to $7.99 for a gut-busting "triple bypass" with triple beef, bacon and cheese), hot dogs and sides of fries, sweet potato fries, potato and pasta salads, tater tots, onion rings and fried pickles.
We have to admit we're a little jealous of Trinity College students, who have their own Goldberg's on the Hartford campus.
>>Goldberg's Bagels, 1131 New Britain Ave., West Hartford, is open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 860-231-8688 and goldbergsbagelcafe.com.