Fragels Rock: A Bagel-Doughnut That Tastes Like Home
Rooting for Ohio State isn't an easy thing for a native Michigander to do. But we Midwesterners believe conference loyalty trumps internecine rivalries (I'm told SEC fans take a different approach), so last night I cheered for the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl -- a task made exponentially easier by the presence of tight end Reid Fragel.
There are a few words that will make former Ann Arborites quake with nostalgia: Bo. Drake's. Fragel.
Like the town itself, a fragel's both utterly Midwestern and proudly urbane. It's a doughnut-bagel hybrid that for years was available only at The Bagel Factory, a bakery that in 1969 took over the South University location where Domino's founder Tom Monaghan made his first pizzas. When I was in high school, fragels were the only acceptable snack to bring to club meetings and post-game parties, which may explain why our teams weren't the terror of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Fragels are such a critical component of Ann Arbor's culinary identity that WikiTravel advises tourists keen to get a sense of the town to find themselves a fragel.
The Bagel Factory shut down in the mid-1990s, but fragels are now sold at a strip-mall store called Bagel Fragel -- and, apparently, no place else.
I can't imagine why the fragel phenomenon hasn't spread. Unlike the everything bagels Paula Deen tossed in the deep-fryer back in 2008, proving the North wasn't safe from her high-fat techniques, fragels aren't ever boiled. While The Bagel Factory never revealed its exact recipe, the preparation involved deep-frying fresh raisin bagel dough -- which presumably didn't have as much sugar and egg as doughnut dough -- and then rolling the result in cinnamon sugar. Bagel Fragel seems to be putting cream cheese on its fragels, but that's entirely unnecessary: Plain, unadorned fragels are sweet and airy and chewy, and the perfect snack for Sunday mornings after football Saturdays.
Have you tried a fragel? Or (I've got my fingers crossed here) spotted one outside the confines of Washtenaw County?
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.