Back in September, Laura Avery, manager of the big Santa Monica Farmers Market and longtime O.C. resident, gave me a hot tip on fresh bagels. She said I Love Bagels in Mission Viejo is so good she’ll hop off the 5 when driving by, just to restock her freezer.
Now that I’ve tried them, I have to agree. I Love Bagels reminds me of the long-closed, pre-corporate Western Bagels’ tiny storefront bakery in Tustin’s Larwin Square—a nuts-and-bolts no-junk bagel-baking operation I loved. Who knew, down there in South County, a similarly single-minded bagel baker was at work?
I know now. And have had the cream-cheese smoked-salmon beefsteak-tomato sweet-onion caper-garnished glass-of-sparkling-rosé dinner of my dreams TWICE in as many weeks.
There’s a “combo,” or what most of us call an “everything,” on the menu, which reminded me of the is-he-serious claim by Joe Bastianich that he invented this particular bagel as a teenage bakery worker. I can tell you the combo is excellent, and that my husband approved I Love Bagels’ use of the correct salt on his favorite salt bagel—crunchy opaque chunks sometimes called pretzel salt instead of the too-fine kosher type, which is a total cop-out.
I Love Bagels, 24172 Alicia Parkway, Mission Viejo, 949-770-7100 (Other locations: 32545 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, 949-443-3300; 28985 Golden Lantern, Laguna Niguel, 949-249-9300)