The artisan bagel wave has rolled down the Shore, and it’s hit a promising dead end. That’s because the Ocean City block where 11th Street stops at the bay is now home to the Dead End Bakehouse. The Idell family — which has produced several other updated breakfast concepts for this venerable Shore town in recent years, from a cafe and doughnut shop serving high-end Counter Culture coffee (Drip 'N Scoop) to an upscale bruncherie with a bayside view (Dockside Kitchen) and the cheery Sunrise Cafe — is smartly filling an underserved hole in the bagel market. The Hot Bagels & More chain is the only competition for fresh bagels nearby.
Dead End’s hand-shaped rounds have a lighter body than a traditional New York-style bagel, but they still have a nice little chew at the center, and shiny crusts deliver a satisfyingly salty crackle. (An extra toasting is beneficial.) Some of the creative specials — black squid ink bagels, Flaming Hot Cheetos spread on an orange bagel — aren’t for everyone. Actually, I’m curious who does buy them. But there’s plenty to choose from for purists like myself, such as high-quality smoked salmon from local Water Dog Smokehouse for classic embellishment and some well-composed sandwiches, like the reasonably priced $5 pork roll, egg, and cheese.
As the Bakehouse name implies, there’s more going on here than bagels, including cinnamon buns, breads, and muffins. But the surprise hit is another variation on the bagel dough, which gets rolled into ball-shape, dinner-roll-size “bombs” that are stuffed. The jalapeño-cheddar bomb is one of my new favorite post-beach snacks. Now if only the young staff were taught how to properly use their fancy espresso machine, this dead end could become my coffee stop, too.
— Craig LaBan