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As the United States tour continues (soon to be over, I promise), I also continue to wonder at how consistently Americans pay attention to detail in their eatery design and layouts (and envy our lack of attention to such in our country – which is inevitable, really if you consider it. Every time I have this conversation nowadays, I am always reminded that Kenyans don’t particularly care for décor, as long as the meat is tasty and the beer is cold).

We went to a joint the other day after an errand called Finagle A Bagel – first of all, the name alone had me sold.

When’s the last time you heard the word finagle used in any type of regular spoken English, much less in the name of a place to eat? I mean, most people don’t even use or know that word – which means, by the way, to obtain (something) by devious or dishonest means – but in this particular case, just buy, unless it’s a bagel heist.

The wall detailing how bagels are made at the Finagle A Bagel in Newton, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The wall detailing how bagels are made at the Finagle A Bagel in Newton, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

I had a pretty good bagel in New York, but after being informed that my experience may or may have not been sub-standard, I was eager to try a brand new experience.

And so, Finagle A Bagel. The ‘Corporate World Headquarters’ are in Newton, which is 10 minutes out of Boston, and which makes it sound like they’re into some kind of bagel-induced world domination spree.

My favourite thing about bagel/pastry/bread joints is that as soon as you walk in, it’s warm (hey, Fall Weather!) and it smells like good things that are coming into your tummy. With Finagle A Bagel, that was no different.

As usual, I was confused by the menu, which was large and mildly confusing for we Kenyans are used to fewer choices. I eventually went with the recommendation of my company, which was a Santa Fe Smoked Turkey Melt. This made me slightly nervous, however, because the Santa Fe bagel was made from jalapeño dough. You are right in asking what exactly jalapeño dough is – they literally put in little bits of the pepper into the dough to make it spicy, and hence call it a Santa Fe bagel – because it has a kick.


You would think that tasted nasty, but, as I gathered, it wasn’t. And it wasn’t too spicy either, luckily for me, because I don’t do well with too spicy – a difficulty I would have had to get over sooner rather than later had the bagel chosen a different direction to go in.

This place was technically a test kitchen, which is different from the regular franchises or outlets, in that it is where they literally test new flavours or foods on willing customers before they make it on to the official menu.

The front of the Finagle A Bagel Bakery and Cafe + Test Kitchen. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The front of the Finagle A Bagel Bakery and Cafe + Test Kitchen in Newton, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

In my experience, the test kitchens here are often similar to the original restaurants in the first place, but are usually opened to act as an add on to when the main restaurants are full, or to make customers feel special – first with the world domination theme, then with the secret lab testing feel. I assume.

I loved that on the walls, (part of the design I was talking about) they put up the entire process of what makes a bagel, how the dough is made, pulled, stretched, seeded, etc., so that you have something to read while you’re waiting for the deliciousness.

Speaking of deliciousness, what else was on the Santa Fe bagel? I’m glad you asked, because for me, this is what swung the vote: smoked turkey with a black bean spread, fresh avocado, and raspberry pepper dressing, topped with cheddar cheese.

You think it sounds like a bit of a mishmash of flavours, but it was simply delightful. That raspberry pepper was the sweetness needed to take it to the next level, and you can never have too much avocado.

Wondering where to get the 411 on what’s happening in and around Nairobi’s foodie scene? There’s a lot of places you could go, but here’s where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.