DINING DOLLARS

Stuffed bagels are my latest go-to brunch bangers

Calic Bagel serves sandwiches and baked bagels galore.

By JASON PHAM
Calic Bagels offers a variety of brunch favorites, according to columnist Jason Pham. Head over to the spot for fantastic stuffed bagels. (Jason Pham / Daily Trojan)

Happy summer, Trojans! This is my first break based in Los Angeles, so I’m excited to continue exploring the food landscape that the warmer weather has to offer. 

As the Californian sun returns, and since I have a few mornings off during the work week, I’ve found myself in a brunch mood, frequenting more outdoor cafes to fill up my free time. Sorting brunch plans in the school year is difficult, with morning classes and weekend club events always on the radar, so I’m glad to be taking advantage of my last summer break. 

My first stop on my newfound summer cravings and explorations was Calic Bagel. First introduced to me through a viral TikTok post, the restaurant has garnered widespread recognition for its delicious take on bagels that are difficult to find on the West Coast. After viewing mixed reviews online, I set aside a Thursday morning with a friend to try the spot for ourselves. 

Calic Bagels is located inside MarkEat 8, a plaza near Koreatown that houses several other local businesses, such as Seven Tigers Pie Club and Groundwork Coffee. The restaurant features various signature sandwiches and endless iterations of bagels on its menu, from different spreads and schmears to their highly publicized stuffed versions. 

Once we arrived at premier brunch hours around 11:30 a.m., the restaurant appeared busy but not too much to scare us away. Their website suggests arriving early in the mornings as stuffed bagel quantities are limited, but we had no issues with our day and time. 

The space appeared as a fast-casual environment with few seating options and many customers taking their orders to go. The ordering process was completely self-serve, with digital menus and pay screens for a no-contact service style. 

Although the space was not the most inviting in terms of face-to-face customer service, the prices were somewhat reasonable for a hot new restaurant on the market. 

Priced between $3 to $5 for schmears and $8 for stuffed bagels, the restaurant can easily satisfy your brunch cravings for a few dollars. Those with a larger appetite can fuel up on the sandwiches priced from $8 to $15 as well as a wide selection of sides and drinks — including draft beer and wine (although maybe an interesting choice at 11 a.m., personally). 

The real crowning glory for me was Calic’s stuffed bagels. I ordered the Signature Calic stuffed bagel, which included garlic butter dipped with garlic cream cheese for a tasteful yet subtle delivery of seasoned flavors. Paired with the freshly baked, sweet breading, the stuffed bagel made for a satisfactory brunch that left me wanting to come back and try the other versions. 

The cream cheese sat perfectly piped between cut sections of the bagel for easy pull-apart action and sharing with friends. The thick bagel bread was soft yet dense, which made for a filling meal. 

With habanero and pizza stuffed bagel options on the menu, the restaurant also offers savory options for those with more of a lunch craving. 

I also ordered the Calic tots off the sides menu, which featured a tater tot base with eggs, cheese and mixed greens piled on top. The dish seemed mouthwatering in my head, but the Calic tots unfortunately didn’t taste very cohesive. The eggs and cheese dried up fast, becoming stale on top of the already dry tater tot texture. 

Calic Bagels was created and advertised under ALMG Hospitality, a group focused on “redefining” and rebranding the entertainment scene in L.A. and Koreatown through innovative content. Restaurants such as Yup Dduk and Egg Tuck are also created and advertised through ALMG Hospitality. 

Since arriving in California and exploring the different local eateries, I’ve noticed sister restaurants and larger management groups are more common than my experiences at home in Oregon. Another one of my absolute brunch favorites is NP Cafe in Fountain Valley, owned by Kei Concepts, a restaurant creation group also known for The Vox Kitchen and INI Ristorante.

Although these sister brands and corporate ties are new to me, I’ve grown to love exploring the different restaurants a branding group has to offer if I already enjoy one of their eateries. It’s almost like a filter or menu of new restaurants that I know will be reliable. 

So, if you’re out for a casual brunch or want to try a taste of ALMG Hospitality, Calic Bagels is a delicious destination for your next L.A. itinerary. But if you go, stick to the bagels. 

Jason Pham is a rising senior writing about affordable eating and restaurants in his column, “Dining Dollars.”

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