Restaurant review: Block's Bagels, Bakery and Deli

G.A. Benton
Good Old Goodale Sandwich on Sesame Bagel with Reuben Bites

One person's “sticking to tradition” is another person's “stalled progress.” The latest iteration of local icon Block's Bagels, Bakery and Deli mines a rare middle ground: It's a restaurant where tradition is staunchly honored and gradually built upon.

This year, Block's is marking a half-century of producing credible, boiled-and-baked, New York-style bagels (plus other deli delicacies). Rather than standing pat, the moderately modernized new Block's run by 31-year-old Jeremy Fox moves the tradition-rich brand forward.

Fox, who got his food-business start with his Short North Bagel Deli food cart, is a longtime associate of Block's co-owners Harold and Steve Block. Upon opening his retooled version of Block's in the Bexley Centre strip mall four months ago, Fox began offering the company's classics — which are still available at its flagship shop near Reynoldsburg — along with a few newly minted items.

Another shrewd business move: the new restaurant, which effectively replaces a shuttered Block's in the same general area, is appreciably closer to the firm's strong customer base in Bexley.

This more user-friendly, tiny patio-equipped Block's is roomy, bright and tidy. Its long-and-narrow space is outfitted with white walls, a white ceiling, simple wooden tables, TVs and photographs alluding to vintage delis. Subway tiles gleam behind the counter where orders are placed.

Breakfast, which is offered all day, is a strength. One of my favorite morning meals here is the Corned Beef & Two Eggs ($7.45), which comes with a great house bagel.

Following a server's recommendations, I got the high-quality corned beef mixed in with the scrambled eggs, and had my just-crisp, perfectly chewy, whole-wheat everything bagel topped with spicy, first-rate jalapeno cream cheese (about a dozen Block's-made cream cheeses are available). Add on a large iced coffee ($2.25) prepared with locally roasted beans from One Line Coffee, and you've got a breakfast of champions.

I enjoyed the “all the way” Lox Sandwich ($8) at least as much. Good-tasting, not too-salty cured salmon — I call it “bacon of the sea” — is accompanied by its classic partners of capers, red onion, tomato and cream cheese. About two dozen bagel varieties are offered to encase the delicious filling, but for this combo, I suggest the poppy seed or whole-wheat sesame-seed option.

For a side, you can go with a Potato Knish ($3) equal in quality to the type purchased from New York street carts. The Matzo Ball Soup ($4.25) stars an impressively supple dough ball that far outshines an oddly light broth in need of more chicken character.

Among the 15 “specialty sandwiches,” the Two Scoops ($6.65) showcases terrific meaty-yet-fluffy, mayo-restrained house chicken salad.

The Good Ole Goodale ($7) is a combo Fox brought from his food-cart operation. It's a messy but big and irresistible sandwich of exemplary deli turkey, cream cheese, melted colby, avocado, honey mustard and lettuce all piled high into a bagel. The comforting construction is steamed for a softer, easier-to-chew texture.

Two other new items might also strike deli purists as heretical, but I liked them: Reuben Balls, ($6.50), which resemble fried sauerkraut balls improved by diced corned beef, and French Toast Bites ($5), a generous collection of not-too-sweet, snack-sized puffs made of fried house challah nubs decorated with icing, cinnamon, plus a little powdered sugar.

“Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as … as a fiddler on the roof!” is a title-identifying line from an icon of American musical theater that, like Block's, premiered about 50 years ago. Because (as I was informed) 80 percent of the menu here is still traditional Block's fare, I'd describe such a metaphorical musician as being steadily perched, but not overly complacent, atop this newest Block's.

Block's Bagels, Bakery and Deli

3012 E. Broad St., Bexley