What’s Up with Montague Street Bagels?

If you’ve visited Montague Street Bagels during peak hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning, then you’ve experienced the slow-moving line, the rapid-fire ordering process, and, finally, the tenuous five-to-ten-minute period during which you wonder whether the bagel you desire will actually be the one you receive. Also, you’ve become sort of intrigued by the honor system at the register. (“What kind of cream cheese did you order?” “Um, is plain the cheapest?”)

Let me just say that the bagels at Montague Street Bagels are delicious: chewy and crisp and soft in all the right places. The cream cheese variety is pleasing, as are the multitude non-cream cheese options and other foodstuffs opposite the counter. But this is New York City, and we take our bagels very seriously. We rely on our neighborhood bagel joints to provide a sense of comfort and routine almost as much as we do a satisfying meal. And when you’re pretty much the only bagel shop in a neighborhood, as Montague Street Bagels is, that is quite a burden to bear.

Joe Terranova, the new owner of Montague Street Bagels, understands this responsibility, and during a recent conversation, acknowledged that there are problems with his shop’s operations.

“If you look around, besides our bakers and our kitchen people, our front counter is totally new people,” he said in a phone interview yesterday. “It’s been a little bit of a challenge.”

Since taking the reins three months ago from previous owner Paul (“a good friend,” Terranova says), he has been working on creating a more efficient system because, in his words, “On Saturdays and Sundays especially, it’s a disaster.”

For the record, Terranova sounded as frustrated with the situation as I was, apologizing emphatically and not making any excuses. The constant mistakes and delays are, he thinks, the result of employees not taking their time. “We’re trying to have them slow down, write down orders,” he said, and promised that he’s going be more hands on behind the counter as well.

As he considers possible solutions to the problems, like moving the register to a different location or establishing a number system, Terranova wants you to know he feels your pain. “I see it everybody’s face,” he said, adding, “I’m aware of it, and I apologize.”

Also in the works for Montague Street Bagels: more additions to the recently established steam table; an expansion to the existing bagel menu; and personal 9-inch pizzas that will certainly satisfy the after-midnight crowd.

How would you improve the situation at Montague Street Bagels? Am I overreacting?

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  • Thomas

    No overreaction here, they have the worse system ever at this otherwise awesome place. easy fix would simply be for guys behind counter to take only one order at a time instead of having multiple going at the same time. One guy, one order, customer pays when all food’s ready and done!

  • A. Kemmerer

    After waiting for 15 minutes two weekends in a row only to find out they forgot our order and then gave us the wrong thing, my wife and I and several of our friends no longer go there. So no you are not overreacting.

  • Remsen

    How on earth do you buy the place, recognize the problems and then have no idea how to fix the issues??? Microcosm of that what is Montague Street…

  • Matt

    I did not know the Store changed owners, but its not like before this every order was correct. Many times I was given the incorrect order. I don’t know why lines have been longer all of a sudden as the ordering “system” is pretty much the same as it has always been. If there is a long line in the store and I really want a bagel i’ll just go to Lassen and Hennings and pay the extra quarter.

  • MadeInBrooklyn

    It’s all gone down hill with the new staff who seem a bit lost,, alrhough all nice enough Yesterday my sausage, egg, and cheese featured two slabs of unmelted cheese… How can you mess up the simplest of breakfast sandwiches? I’ve been a loyal customer for years – actually since they opened – but it’s getting harder and harder to be.

  • Jo

    For starters, now is not the appropriate time to introduce new offerings. At this point, the staff can’t handle what they have now, and this could only get worse with new options. However, a simple tear-off ordering number system may be an easy fix for now.

    Second, ensure cashiers know the menu, know the cash register functions, and the cost of items inside out. It shouldn’t be their job to coordinate the individuals in the back, only to check individuals out and hand them their items.

    Three, until those making the orders have shown they can remember the orders, require them to write it down on a paper receipt and read it back to the customer ensuring that everyone is in agreement. The extra 15 seconds now is better than the minutes of rework (and the lost cost of goods) associated with a bagel getting lox cream cheese instead of low fat vegetable.

  • north heights res

    Why is the staff all new? Did the people who used to work there get fired? Or quit under the new management? It really is a disaster in there now, and like others, I hesitate to go, where it was previously the only place in the neighborhood I’d go for a bagel.

  • David on Middagh

    At one point, the top bagel bins were too high for the shortest employees, so they just gave you what they could reach!

    Thankfully, that’s been remedied.

  • BKHeightsGirl

    Often, when I go place an order, the guy taking my order will have to ask for it at least 3x, sometimes even after writing it down in sloppy handwriting. I don’t understand — if you’re gonna bother asking my order the first time, shouldn’t you be listening? Right there is a big time waster.

    Another occasion, I ordered something with tomato on it, and then went up to the register to wait for it….and waited….and waited… until I finally asked the guy who took my order where my food was, and he said, “Oh, we’re out of tomato, so I didn’t make it.” And then I said, “Well, couldn’t you have asked me if I’d take it without tomato instead of just letting me wait here for nothing?” And he said, “I couldn’t see you.” Effin’ geniuses.

    Definitely downhill.

  • http://heatherquinlan.com Heather Quinlan

    Interesting … I thought the previous staff was horrible. Obnoxious to the point that I gave up eating bagels. For six months I was in great shape. Then I started going back one the new regime began. I will say that sometimes the wait takes time, but that’s the same anywhere. The bagels are worth it and the staff is much friendlier.

  • Resident

    Stopped going in there after the new owners took over. Service wasn’t exactly great before, but it’s certainly gotten much worse. Used to get something from there probably once a weekend, now we only go if we want a bunch of uncut bagels, can’t screw up that order (mostly).

  • Stephanie

    One time I got a toasted bagel and when I got home realized it was not toasted at all. Extremely upsetting.

    Another time I asked for hot coffee and handed them my own mug. The guy said he first had to put it in a cardboard cup and have me pay for it and then I could pour it into my own mug. Hello, trying to reduce garbage… That’s the whole point of shlepping around my own mug and washing it every night. Come on…

    Don’t go there anymore, I take the extra few blocks to La Bagel on Court.

  • AL


    Once you got a toasted bagel….? If you GOT a toasted bagel, how did it untoast itself on the way to your home? I think you must have meant to say that once you ORDERED a toasted…. If this is typical of how you communicate, no wonder they got it wrong. And you really found the lack of toasting EXTREMELY upsetting? Oh, my.

  • tb

    Sleep nights, Al.

  • Emily

    Hot Bagels needs a Professional Organizer!

  • nabeguy

    Why doesn’t the new owner just run down the block and take a quick look at the 5 Guys order system? It’s called division of labor.

  • helloheights

    besides crap service – their bagels aren’t really that great in the first place….
    it’s no H&H!!
    BH needs a Lenny’s.

  • cristina

    gave this place 3 tries, then they struck out. we now only go to la bagel on court – worth the extra 5 min walk – they put those bozos at montague to shame.

  • David G

    It’s kind of sad, there isnt even a good bagel place in BK heights. so sad.

  • The Bear

    It’s always been bad. order something, wait forever for it, a pile of foil wrapped but unmarked items dumped on counter. everyone opening and closing it to figure out whats what.
    then when you get home, you realize it’s wrong, or missing something.
    hopefully it will get better.

  • BronxKid

    The overall quality at the Bagel store has gone way done. Service is absolutely awful; the employees have no sense of customer service. I waited on line one morning for 15 minutes to get a few bagels. There were 2 people in front of me — and about 4 people behind the counter. When I finally managed to make my way to the cashier, a man who had just entered the store, cut into the line behind me and asked for bagels. So the cashier stopped ringing up my order to take care of him — until I started raising a fuss. Haven’t been back there since and don’t plan to. Judging by all the comments here, this will be the next store to close on Montague Street – a shame since not all of us find it convenient to go the bagel store on Court street.

  • AEB

    OK, good bagels or good bagels for BH? The last time I was there, it was almost the latter. Almost.

  • tastey

    there is one reason it’s not the same…RAJ. What happend to RAJ…he was the best.

  • my2cents

    Now if Cranberry’s could get their act together too…that place takes forever in the morning as well.

  • Andrew Porter

    I usually buy two salt bagels every Friday night, then heat and butter them on Saturday and Sunday mornings. There is seldom a line when I’m there. I don’t understand why people don’t buy food before they want to eat it. Maybe it’s a generational thing: they want it *NOW*…

  • TS McGee

    A good hot bagel is worth the wait. 2 day old salt bagels are a soggy mess.

  • gozno

    Who cares about their service when the bagels are horrible to begin with? New or old management, they are still the same crap bagels- neither crispy or chewy. BHB is delusional as usual.

  • AEB

    Yes, in terms of cuisine, the BH bar must be raised. And some enterprising chef/entrepreneur/good food-lover/restaurateur must make a commitment to the neighborhood.

    And of course find a place to do it in. That’s another problem: a dearth of real estate that’s affordable to the above willing to take a risk.

  • George Earl

    I’m sure the current salespeople need their jobs at this place, however they don’t seem to be caring all that much about the service they’re providing. They often seem to be packaging the wrong bagels, even after having been told three times what I desire. And the last time there, the wrong quantity was written with a wet “seep-through” felt pen on the outside of the brown paper bag used for packaging. And that amount was twice what was in the bag. I told the cashier what was inside, but she still had to check. Taste of their product? Great, but somebody (probably a new one to New York) seems to be leaving his bagels a’ baking away, for they’re all coming out of the oven all too brown and dry.

  • Mickey

    What a whiny bunch you are. Read through this thread … y’all sound like a group of cranky toddlers. WAH I have to wait too long for my bagel. WAH it costs too much. WAH the counter people don’t know what they’re doing. You’re embarrassing yourselves!