The Bagel Deli, gone but not forgotten, was a locally owned Northampton gem, one of the first of its kind. But that business, like so many others across the country, was replaced with a chain-a stark reminder that not even idyllic Northampton and Amherst are immune from the business model of standardization that has become the foremost trend in American food. This McBagel chain is a prime example. Its locations couldn't be better-one outlet right in the middle of Main Street in Northampton and another just off the Amherst Common. The reliably brisk walk-in business at each of these spots surely bolsters their sales of mediocre-at-best bagels and sandwiches. If you do have a bagel craving, though, Bruegger's is one of only two real options in town. You won't forget that it's a fast-food chain, but it's a bit brighter and airier than most. You can eat in at one of the plastic countertops or booths. The space has a feel that's particularly conducive to breakfast. The Amherst branch is livened up by a big mural of the town's various landmarks.
Most people, though, order take-out. The place is fine for one or a half-dozen to go with cream cheese. The dense, pasty bagels are baked in the store, but they won't exactly transport you to New York. Smoked salmon spread and chive cheese are both perfectly acceptable. We like the bacon and scallion cream cheese the best, especially with a garlic or onion bagel. The Fresh Samantha juices make us happy. Sandwiches like the Herby- Turkey (a bagel with turkey, sun dried tomato spread, lettuce, and onions with garlic cream cheese) are edible but unexciting. We prefer such sandwiches as "Softwiches," which are made with bigger, breadier, softer, and more square bagels that are, indeed as Bruegger's advertises, better suited to the sandwiches; among the Softwich breads, we favor the Parmesan asiago. Most unimpressive are the breakfast sandwiches, made with microwaved slabs of egg product that's peeled out of little plastic baggies, then paired with cold, processed bacon and cheese. For such compound breakfast items, you can do much better almost anywhere else-especially anywhere that owns a heating device other than a microwave.