By SUSAN ERICSON
Red Bank has seen its fair share of restaurants come and go over the years. Loyal customers wax poetic about eateries long gone.
Bagel Station on Monmouth Street, across from the train station, has managed to keep its doors open for 28 years now. Rolling with the times, the breakfast and lunch spot is as relevant as any of the newcomers to town, and more affordable than many.
Jackie and Angelo Merlino, along with their partner, Robert Gorra, offer 18 varieties of bagels. Handcrafted and kettle-boiled in traditional methods, they tend to be lighter, puffier and less dense than a conventional New York bagel.
Bagel Station was not their first bagel store: they had their start in Brooklyn, then opened shops in Belford, West Long Branch, and Bradley Beach.
“We were here when Red Bank was dead,” said Joe Merlino, a son of the owners. “We’re so conveniently located to the train that we have some commuters, but we also have people from the public works, soccer moms and plenty of school kids and professionals.”
Some of the customers were in and out the door quickly, having ordered their lunches in advance. Others waited their turns in line while some sat at the tables chatting over cups of coffee.
Menu options abound. Do you go with the traditional Jersey pork roll, egg and cheese, or one with a schmear of cream cheese and lox?
PieHole was feeling somewhat nostalgic for a traditional Sunday-morning New York-style bagel for lunch on a recent rainy afternoon. Ordering the whitefish salad on a sesame seed bagel, we decided to stay and eat at one of the up-to-date metal tables while schmoozing with the staff.
The bagel, bigger than average — one customer equated it to a wheelbarrow tire — is soft and pliable. The whitefish filling, something you don’t see on many menus, was a salty, silky refined novelty. A nice change from the usual tuna salad, it went well with the fresh lettuce and surprisingly juicy tomato on the sandwich. A bag of potato chips and a pickle rounded out the meal for a total of $6.31, including tax.
The menu also features hot sandwiches such as grilled chicken, corned beef and pastrami on your choice of sub, wrap or bagel.
Bagel Station is open 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and to 2 p.m. on the weekend.