Those who remember the loose and funky coffee shop Curious Liquids do so fondly, if for no other reason than that the café’s writing-covered walls played impish, long-haired hippie to the serious dome of the State House directly across the street. Even Abraham Abraham (yes, that’s his real name) sounds wistful when he talks about Curious’s demise — which is interesting, since Abraham bought Curious Liquids from his friend Patrick Luckly last year and turned it into the Bagel Plus Café. But Curious Liquids lives on in spirit at Bagel Plus.
The café’s menu trumps that of Abraham’s former-employer-turned-competitor, Finagle a Bagel, located only 50 yards up the street. Downtown Crossing workers, students, and trolley tourists enjoy an expansive line-up of bagels and associated spreads and sandwiches, baked desserts, breakfast, hot and cold roll-ups, personal pizzas, 27 varieties of tea, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and, well, you get the idea. The steak-plus roll-up ($4.95) puts most sub shops to shame with crisp greens, red peppers, red onions, mushrooms, and American cheese with tangy, shredded tenderloin, nestled into a white-flour tortilla. The thick and hearty vegetable-lentil soup ($2.85) is more than the usual repository of leftover vegetables, with plenty of lentils and just the right number of carrots. Although the veggie-burger roll-up ($3.95) upholds the assumption that vegetarians love sprouts in everything, it doesn’t overwhelm the romaine, peppers, and dressing wrapped in a spinach tortilla. And don’t forget the bagel: the plain toasted bagel of the Nova-and-cream-cheese sandwich ($4.95) is chewy and not too big to handle.
If you’re into people-watching, find an empty stool near the windows and study the pedestrian traffic on Tremont Street. If you’re adventurous, try one of Boston’s (up until now) best-kept secrets: the basement. The prop-department-meets-utility-closet ambiance of the Bagel Plus hideaway provides the illicit thrill of eating in a secret clubhouse while thousands of unaware city dwellers traverse the sidewalks just overhead.
Bagel Plus Café, located at 131 Tremont Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call (617) 338-0024.