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Published: Thursday, 9/13/2007

Restaurant review: Barry Bagels****

Barry Bagels, a local chain that has been part of the Toledo dining scene since 1972, offers food that fressers (a Yiddish term that means one who snacks ravenously) and other hungry souls would find at almost any delicatessen in the country.

We're talking corned beef, pepper beef, pastrami, smoked turkey, lox and cream cheese, beef salami, hard salami, chicken salad, oversized baked potatoes with a variety of toppings, matzo ball soup, fat kosher pickles, Beaner's coffee, and of course, bagels made fresh daily.

What you won't find are some of the other staples often found in bona fide Jewish delis, such as tongue, chopped liver, brisket, chicken livers, blintzes, knockwurst, knishes, gefilte fish, liverwurst, challah, kugel, and egg creams.

But Barry Bagels has never claimed to be anything more than what it is: a cafeteria-line eatery devoted to the baking and selling of bagels, along with generously stacked sandwiches. soups, cheeses, and exceptionally good side dishes sold, like bulk meats and cheeses, by the pound.

Barry Greenblatt, founder and owner, operates five bagel shops in Toledo, Sylvania, Maumee, Perrysburg, and Ann Arbor - six if you count PJ's Deli in the lower level of the Gardner Building downtown, a former Barry's that was bought by a longtime employee a couple of years ago. Its menu is a near-duplicate, and the breakfast and lunch-only operation has the same purveyor as Barry's.

His bagels, 80 cents each or $7.99 for a baker's dozen, come in all sizes and flavors, from bagel thins and teething bagels to onion, garlic, egg, pumpernickel, blueberry, asiago cheese, and other plump varieties. "Chewy" and "bagels" usually go together, but not here: The ones I tried were toothsome and eminently edible, alone or as slices on a sandwich.

They also have inspired the "eggel" - bagel sandwiches with egg as the primary ingredient, wed with various cheese and meat choices in the $2 to $3.50 range.

Among our lunch and take-home choices ($4.39 to $6) were such traditional sandwiches as thickly stacked corned beef on rye (also available on a bagel, wheat bread, or potato bread), plus pastrami, pepper beef, and fresh egg salad, all similarly good.

On a couple of occasions, the beef seemed piled unevenly on one end of the sandwich while the other end more or less flopped in the wind. On the other hand, the $6.39 lox and cream cheese on an onion bagel was as good as I've had, the cheese providing a subtle complement to the scrumptious lox.

Another irresistible temptation is a baked potato ($3.39 to $5.89) topped with one of a dozen possibilities - everything from sour cream, chives, and bacon to broccoli and tuna or chicken salad. The potato topped with beef tips amounts to a full meal unto itself.

Not least in the pecking order of good choices are Barry Bagels' well-known potato and macaroni salads ($2.10 for a half pound). I've been eating the former for years and have now extended my enthusiasm to the latter - shell macaroni with vegetables and dressing that should include a container label warning against the possibility of lifelong addiction.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com

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