Fast Casual Review: NEW! Pretzel Bagel Poppers from Einstein Bros.
One of my favorite memories from summers as a kid was going to Orioles Games in downtown Baltimore. Not only were the Birds halfway decent in the mid-1990s, but games provided me the opportunity to indulge in the mindless carbo-loading of a big, soft and fresh pretzel. No, not the kind you get at the skate rink or your middle school cafeteria, but the fresh baked and coarse salt-coated kind of pretzel with that knock-your-socks-off doughy interior and salty-turn-sweet salivating taste.
I haven’t had a pretzel like that in some time, but thanks to Einstein Bros. Bagels, those memories might just turn into a weekly treat. That’s because Einstein has just launched two new pretzel themed items on their menu, including the new Pretzel Bagel ($1.29) and Pretzel Bagel Poppers ($2.99). I checked out the new Poppers on a recent morning coffee run, hoping to recapture some of those ballpark memories of my childhood.
Einstein has had great success with the Bagel Poppers in the past, but the flavors have been exclusively on the sweet side of the spectrum up to this point (see past GrubGrade reviews: Pumpkin, Double Chocolate, and Blueberry). Attempting a savory flavor is an interesting change of pace, and I give them credit for it. Like all the Poppers, these involve miniature bites baked out of one of Einstein’s bagel bases (in this case, the potato bagel base). I didn’t notice any of the potato flavor I usually get from the regular potato bagel, but found the bites to have good texture overall.
They are chewy and doughy on the interior, while their exterior – covered in delicious and grainy pretzel salt – is fairly firm but not in any way stale or rough. They don’t wow you in terms of a genuine Philadelphia style pretzel taste, but they do yield that slightly sweet sensation after chewing much like you’d get from any respectable, vendor-approved soft pretzel. I detected a slight note of sourdough, but wouldn’t describe it as authentic or particularly memorable. On their own, the pretzel bites become a bit repetitive and boring after a while.
Still, I liked these. A lot. The honey mustard sauce is really very good. The label on the container says it’s from French’s Mustard, and it has a good balance of sweetness, dijon flavor, and spiciness. The first note you get is a genuine honey sweetness with a smooth initial bite, but it is soon followed by the dijon flavor and even a little sinus kick from a flavor almost horseradish in nature. It really compliments the salty, doughy nature of the pretzel pieces.
This product is available for only a limited time, but if Einstein’s can work out some kinks, I think it ought to stay on the menu. One problem I had was detaching the honey mustard sauce from the top of the container. Believe it or not it was kinda tricky, and probably would give drivers fits while trying to grub on the go. Likewise, the amount of sauce isn’t quite enough for all the pieces, which on their own get a bit repetitive after a while. Finally, I’m not sure this pairs too well with my morning coffee. I like the idea of a pretzel bagel for sandwich purposes, but a plain pretzel bagel or the Popper’s just don’t fit in well with the flavor profiles of coffee. If Einstein really wants to make these memorable, I suggest coating them is a rich dark chocolate cream cheese to get that classic sweet-salty combination. Nevertheless — despite my complaints — I know I’ll be coming back for more, and not just because of nostalgic memories.
Pros: Nice, semi-stiff exterior yields to doughy and chewy interior. PRETZEL SALT! Honey Mustard sauce is complex, sweet and spicy. Actually tastes like honey and Dijon mustard, as opposed to HFCS and cheap ground mustard seed.
Cons: Not the most authentic or deep of pretzel flavors. Could have a little more natural sweetness or richness. Could use more sauce. Questionable item to have available at 6:30 in the morning. Looking like an idiot trying to open up the container. Would benefit from a chocolate glaze.
Grubbing on-the-go: 6.75/10
Overall GrubGrade: 7.75/10
More Info: EinsteinBros.com