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Fragels Rock: A Bagel-Doughnut That Tastes Like Home

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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?

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