My Love-Hate Relationship With a Bagel Shop
It began like so many other relationships. A friend introduced me to Horace two years ago, and after our initial encounter, I was smitten. For a while we spent every Friday together. Now we’ve reverted to lazy Sunday brunches. The initial passion has lessened, and at times we’ve gone months without seeing each other, but my love is still strong and enduring. This is because I’m still crazy about so many of Horace’s attributes—the lightly toasted bagels, the Eggbeaters, the sautéed tomatoes and chilies and the crucial sharp cheddar cheese. Before trying Horace’s Special at Zim’s Bagel Bakery, I had no idea I could feel this strongly about a bagel.
If I’ve ever had any trouble with Horace, it’s been because of The Zim’s staff. Their personalities don’t match up with the cheerful teal and pink walls, the blue sponge painted tables with quotes and pictures on them, or the colorful chairs that have things like “A day at the circus is good for the soul,” or “Who is the apple of God’s eye?” written on the back slats. Except for a few employees that I’ve come to be friends with during my years with Horace, the people who work at Zim’s are relatively unfriendly and inconsistent.
They once mixed up my order by forgetting to substitute out the American cheese on Horace. When I returned to the counter, asking only for a slice of cheddar to put on in place of the cheese I had scraped off myself, the manager told me I’d have to pay for the extra slice. Another time I arrived at Zim’s at 11:50 on a Sunday. The grill for cooking eggs isn’t supposed to close until noon, but they refused to serve me breakfast. Other times they have mischarged me completely. Even if I order the same thing from week to week, my bill often rings up to be something arbitrary. I’ve stopped arguing it at this point. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less, but I like to think it evens out in the long run.
The hardest things about eating at Zim’s are the weekly question of “Will I have the Sorority Melt (tomatoes with melted cheese—I add mushrooms) or Horace?” or “Will I have Georgia Lee’s Melt (chicken salad with melted cheese) or Horace?” or “Will I have the Guiltless Gobbler (turkey, veggie cream cheese, red peppers and cucumbers) or Horace?” And on top of that, I have to choose between a bagel or multi-grain, honey white or marbled rye bread. Zim’s doesn’t skimp on variety. The prices for all their sandwiches are reasonable, too, ranging from $2.40 to $5.95 and including chips and a pickle. Some people might have a hard time picking a cream cheese flavor, too, as Zim’s offers a variety such as veggie, strawberry, scallion, peach pecan and sun-dried tomato basil. I go straight for the walnut carrot cinnamon raisin. It’s a mouthful to say, but it’s so soft and sweet, like a creamy carrot cake turned into a spread, to me, there is no other cream cheese.
It’s the buffet that will leave you with empty pockets. A church potluck’s dream, the buffet features ever-changing and hearty favorites like crunchy parmesan chicken, old fashioned meatloaf, creamed spinach, honey roasted carrots, and garlic mashed potatoes. It’s strategically placed in front of the ordering counter, but the buffet is a dangerously costly move—you pay $6.99 per pound. Scrutinizing every roasted chicken breast to try and find the biggest, while at the same time lightest, piece is not my idea of fun dining. Unless you just fill up your plate with Jell-o or pudding, stay away from that temptress.
That’s why I stick with Horace. He’s loyal and he doesn’t disappoint. Most all of Zim’s food appeals to everyone, from families on their way home from church to hung-over sorority girls in their pajama pants, but Horace, coming in at only $3.05, trumps all other bagels and breakfast options. And that’s why, no matter how mean they are at Zim’s; no matter how many times they turn me away before noon or charge me for cheese, my love for Horace remains strong. And in the end, I will keep coming back for more.
Zim's Bagel Bakery is located at 196 Alps Road in Athens, Ga. 706.353.2947