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Watch now: Bagel creations added to menus of Mattoon restaurants in honor of Bagelfest

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McQuarter's Pub kitchen manager Ron Maggi prepares a California turkey bagel sandwich with steak fries on Monday at this restaurant at the Cross County Mall in Mattoon as a Bagelfest week special.

MATTOON — Bagels have become the featured ingredients in Mexican entrees and appetizers, California turkey sandwiches, mini pizzas and other specials at several local restaurants this week.

City Tourism & Arts Director Angelia Burgett said Bimbo Bakeries USA, which purchased Lender's Bagels and its Mattoon plant in early 2020, went around to Mattoon restaurants and offered them free bagels for making special items during the ongoing Bagelfest that will conclude Saturday evening.

Burgett said the menu items add to the long-standing traditions of the Lender's plant supplying the festival's free bagel breakfast, set for 8-10 a.m. Saturday at Peterson Park's Demars Center, and its bagel-themed parade, set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday from downtown to the park. Burgett said she is glad see the plant's new owners bringing new ideas for engaging with the community.

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"It's good energy," Burgett said.

The participating restaurants offering bagel specials are Angelo's Pizza, 1020 Lake Land Blvd; Honey Bee Cafe, 319 N Logan St.; Juanito's Mexican Cocina, 808 Lake Land Boulevard; and McQuarter's Pub, 700 Broadway East Suite 25 in the Cross County Mall.

There menu items range from Angelo's serving a pizza bagel with a variety of toppings to Honey Bee offering specials that change daily, including a steak, egg and cheese bagel with grilled onions on Wednesday.

Bagels are not usually on the menu at Juanito's Mexican Cocina, but it answered the call for local restaurants to create Bagelfest-themed specials.

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Juanito's cooking

Juanito's Mexican Cocina co-owner Manuel Mejia and chef Alex Xala prepare a Bagel Molletes appetizer sandwich and a Bagel Sopes Plato entree on Tuesday. The items are part of a promotion involving local restaurants as part of this week's Bagelfest celebration.

"We sat down and asked our staff for different ideas," said Juanito's co-owner Daisy Pimentel. "It was fun getting creative with it. I am glad they gave us the opportunity to participate. We love doing creative things."

Pimentel said replacing the crusty bolillo bread in their molletes appetizer sandwich with bagels was a natural choice. These sandwich bagels are topped with refried beans, chorizo, pico, and Mexican cheeses.

For Juanito's other special, Pimentel said they substituted a fried bagel for the fried corn dough cake that is usually in their sope entree. The fried bagels are topped with refried beans, the customer's choice of meat, lettuce, tomato, crumbling cheese, and sour cream. She said the fried bagel held up well to the toppings and has a texture that is, "a little bit crunchy but still chewy."

McQuarter's cooking

McQuarter's Pub kitchen manager Ron Maggi prepares a California turkey bagel sandwich with steak fries on Monday at this restaurant at the Cross County Mall in Mattoon as a Bagelfest week special.

McQuarter's kitchen manager Ron Maggi said he really enjoys light and dark roast turkey, especially paired with bacon and avocado, so he decided to serve up these sandwich fillings on a plain or onion bagel. His California turkey bagel is also topped with melted Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and a spicy southwest sauce.

Maggi said he is glad to take part in Bagelfest and help promote Lender's Bagels, particularly to those who are new to the community are are not aware of the plant's history in the community. The plant opened in 1986, and Bagelfest began as a way to welcome Lender's to the community.

"It's a good company. It's been here a long time," Maggi said.


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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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