Bagel Rock Coffee
It’s yet another rainy day—we’re on our fifth straight day of dreary January-like weather. I’m still feeling fully deprived of a sunny summer and our usual hot and windy fall weather as well. The chill and damp have infiltrated my bones and my psyche, so what do I feel like doing? Eating. Eating something warm, soothing, and yes, high calorie.
And that’s how I find myself at Bagel Rock Coffee, sipping a cup of Hawaiian hazelnut coffee, flipping through a leftbehind copy of today’s paper and eating a bagel. Now before you start to tune out, this is not your average bagel. It’s chewy, it’s big and it’s filled with peanut butter chips that have melted in the toaster and mingled with the butter, making it so much more than a round piece of dough with a hole in it. This bagel is humble and unassuming, as is the whole establishment behind it.
Filled with mismatched furniture, posters and a computer desk plunked right down in the middle of everything, this is the antithesis of those totally commercialized bagel shops. You know, the ones filled with mass-produced signage, logo coffee cups and a thousand flavors of bagels and cream cheese.
The two men you’ll find behind the counter most days, Rufino Ramirez and Armando Garcia, greet every customer who walks through the door. And they appear to be doing so because they want to. They smile at you like an old friend. With their charm and their gift for upselling, you might find yourself buying a dozen bagels when you meant to only buy a coffee and a muffin.
On another visit earlier this year, I was lucky enough to walk in as the four-cheese bagels emerged from the oven. Baked on parchment paper, the cheese was still bubbly and brown and crispy where it spread out beyond the circumference of the bagel. Before I could even utter the word “yes,”
Rufino was slicing one open, spreading it with cream cheese and topping it with sliced tomato and onion. Yes, that was me, wolfing the whole thing down in the car as I drove to my next appointment. Rufino says their bagels are different because they are made with love. It must be love because otherwise how can you explain that this bubbly man who moved here from Mexico 30 years ago, shows up for work at 2:30am, six days a week? He works so hard and has such a loyal following that in 2008, the Ventura County Star nominated Rufino for “Hardest Working Guy in Ventura.”
The bagel and pastry recipes belong to owner Masud Ahmed, whom you’ll sometimes find in the shop in the afternoon and on weekends. As I talked to Rufino, amidst conversations with customers, he explained that the bagels are not boiled (like many traditional bagels). Instead, once they are formed, they rest for around 24 hours, and then bake for 30 minutes.
What I know for sure is that their baked goods—like the cinnamon coffeecake muffin (with ground espresso on top), the jalapeño mushroom bagel, the blueberry muffins and the buttery croissants—are one of a kind, just like the gentlemen behind the counter.
Bagel Rock Coffee
2781 E. Main St., Ventura