For a long time it was just known among my friends as The Deli. When we came back from Champaign during undergrad, it was definitely stop number two right behind Lou Malnati's. Now my parents have made a miniature tradition of going there after the weekly dog class with the Waitz family. This past weekend I came in to meet them for lunch. We were also graced with the presence of my Aunt Carin and Renee Klass.
The way the Original Bagel and Bialy works is through an old fashioned counter system. You take a number and wait till it gets called. Of course this leads to a variety of problems between people not paying attention when their number's called, and people not realizing that they had to take a number in the first place. The seating is up for grabs, and there's probably room for 50 people at all of the assorted tables. The counter is arranged with deli foods (assorted salads, meats, and cheeses) on one end, and all of the baked goods on the other. Despite this seemingly well arranged layout, everyone orders from the middle.
I've been here a ton of times, and one issue is the time for your number to be called can be anywhere from 0 to 45 minutes. In this last case it was 45 minutes. It's pretty frustrating to wait that long at this place, especially when you realize that there aren't that many people ahead of you, they're just understaffed. They could probably take some notes from Once Upon a Bagel in Highland Park.
The cost is pretty reasonable, but that's because you get so much food. Omelettes are $6-$7 and are a large amount of food. Sandwiches are between $6-$8. My go to meal is a half sandwich and soup for $8. It's also a great place to get a tray of food from for any big gathering. For $12.25 a person you can get a fish tray and all the bagels you need.
Since I've been there so many times, I could probably tell you about anything on the menu, but I'll stick to the order this time around. My mom got the Split Pea Soup and Half Tuna Sandwich, my aunt Carin and my Dad split the Lox Platter and the Cabbage Soup, Dave Waitz got a Mushroom and Onion Omelette, Susie Waitz got a Lox Omelette, Renee Klass got the Chicken Caesar Wrap, and I got the Matzo Ball Soup and Half Brisket Sandwich. Because everyone was so generous, I got to taste a little of everything (this may also have something to do with the very large portions).
The Cabbage Soup
The Split Pea Soup
The Matzo Ball Soup
I've always loved the soups here. The Split Pea was thick and delicious, although it's not my favorite type of soup to begin with, and I think Capt'n Nemo's is better. The Cabbage Soup has just the right amount of sweetness, but I always seem to splatter some of it on myself (not the fault of the restaurant). The Matzo Ball is a gigantic and pretty light (not as light as 11 City Diner), but the whole thing is a little too salty. It's pretty nice that you get a challah roll on the side of the soups which is perfect for dipping.
The Lox Omelette
The Mushroom Omelette
The Lox Platter (I believe for 2)
The Half Tuna Sandwich
The Chicken Caesar Wrap
The Half Brisket Sandwich
The Omelettes are large, light, fluffy, and come with a lot of whatever ingredients you ask for. The hash browns on the side are grated and crispy. The Lox Platter is very good and comes with all of the appropriate trimmings, but if you order it by yourself it's $12 (not that that's not the norm for lox platters, but it's still a little rich for my breakfast blood). The sandwiches are usually pretty good. I thought my mom's Tuna Salad was a little heavy on the mayo. My Brisket tasted a little dry and low on flavor, but they gave me this amazing jus on the side for dipping which brought the whole dish together. The challah soaked it up nicely, leaving me with a juicy bite. In the past I usually go for the turkey sandwich, but it's kind of dry, so I've moved on.
The Sugar Cookie Platter
A key part of a deli is the quality of their bagels. These are pretty good, but nothing spectacular. They're not necessarily hard like The Bagel or really soft like Einstein Brothers, but right in the middle. I think what you should look for is a tougher texture on the outside and a soft inside, but the texture is completely uniform on these bad boys. It should be mentioned that to accommodate for our wait, they brought out a plate of sugar cookies (which I despise in general, but everyone else at the table seemed slightly less perturbed after this nice gesture).
It's tough to write about somewhere you've been to so many times. I know how good it can be, but I've also experienced some off meals. I think the breakfast dishes like the french toast and the omelettes are pretty good, but more standard than some of the specialty types you might get in the city. You can't beat their Lox, but some of the other deli sandwiches can be dry occasionally. What you can always count on is an above average meal, and tons of it. I'm giving the Original Bagel and Bialy 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.