Food  |  News & Politics

If Joe Biden Wants to Unify the Nation, Why Did He Get a Toasted Bagel?

The President's trip to Call Your Mother has unleashed furious debates.

Photograph by Sergey Skleznev/via iStock.

Joe Biden got bagels at Call Your Mother this weekend. He ordered his toasted. Hoo boy.

As with so many mistakes, I have personal experience with this one. When I was a young rube, I blundered into La Bagel Delight in Brooklyn and asked for my bagel to be toasted. Silence. “We do not toast, sir,” the counterman finally said with so much gravity that I would have been too embarrassed to ask for a toasted bagel again even if their delicious bagels hadn’t quickly converted me to a position shared by many bagel aficionados: Good ones are better untoasted. (Let’s not get into whether you can get a good bagel around DC; life is too short to argue about, ahem, everything.)

I polled the Washingtonian food staff about which side of this ideological divide they fall on. Anna Spiegel is an unapologetic toaster, choosing Maillard-reaction bagels 100 percent of the time. “I like when a warm bagel lightly melts the cream cheese, or the contrast in texture between a crisped bagel and egg in a sandwich,” she says. For Jessica Sidman, quality determines whether she hits the lever: “A really good fresh bagel, I’ll eat it without toasting. An ok bagel, please toast.” Ann Limpert takes a similar approach: “Personally I like a fresh bagel untoasted, but if it’s a day old or frozen then I toast away,” she says, adding, “generally I hate the idea that there is a wrong way to eat something. If you like it, you like it.”

This week’s unexpected bagel discourse did not end with the President’s toasting preferences. Call Your Mother is co-owned by Jeff Zients, his Covid czar.

Also, Hunter Biden placed the order, so…

The bagel shop’s name came up:

And, as always, there’s a local angle.


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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.