I could not deny the 'Zombie Leg' for lunch
Sometimes it is the reputation of a restaurant that keeps new and old customers sauntering in; other times it is the uniqueness, whether in name or menu. In the case of Bagelicious, it was both factors that led me into the small deli and bakery for lunch one workday. My spirits have been dampened by the array of Ocala lunchtime options, as it seemed the majority had a golden arch or a dozen other locations. This makes Bagelicious all the more exciting, as it is not only reasonably priced but a tasty local option with a menu for everyone.
Open from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, this hole-in-the-wall in a small plaza off of SW 27th Avenue certainly deserve its reputation. If its popularity wasn't extremely apparent from the line of hungry patrons continuing behind my coworker--and I was almost out the front door, then it was the number of tables inside that were filled and even a few outside. The available bagels were also on display at the counter, and it was clear many of the diverse flavors, including Italian, spinach everything, blueberry, and sunflower, were sold out or sparse by our noon lunch outing.
The menu for this breakfast/lunch joint was quite extensive: a list of made-daily bagels alongside a lengthy list of sandwiches, melts, pizzas, salads, wraps, soups, and burgers. The indecisive foodie was feeling the pressure until my gaze fell upon the Specials board, which announced three different sandwich options. The "Zombie Leg Panini" (image right and above) not only caught my attention by name -- sound familiar -- but I could not deny the ingredient combination. My coworker chose the same sandwich, but I decided on the cucumber salad as my side while he chose the cream of chicken and artichoke soup.
For $7.75, the price another appealing aspect of this special menu item, I received the sandwich, a side, a drink, and a cookie. I felt the need to distinguish my sandwich by putting the sandwich ingredients on one of the deli's other specialties and one of my favorite carb-loaded foods: a bagel. It was not 5-10 minutes after ordering before both our sandwiches arrived at the small table, entrees surpassing monetary value presented in front of us. In between a slightly toasted sun dried tomato bagel were mozzarella and cheddar cheeses melted atop thick strips of grilled chicken breast. The light freshness of a slice of tomato and lettuce accompanied hot sauce and ranch dressing spread on the bread. It was so flavorful yet relatively simple, the ranch cooling off the hot sauce's heat and playing well into the savory cheeses atop the perfectly grilled chicken.
Typically, the sandwich comes on grilled garlic flatbread, which my coworker ordered, and it looked pretty tasty. This was certainly not a gracefully eaten meal, but it was so satisfying I ate every bite. While I do feel the bagel could have been toasted slightly longer and was probably a tad fresher earlier in the morning, it was an excellent backdrop to some delicious flavor combinations. My cucumber salad was a refreshing intersection to the meal, chunks of cool cucumber, tomato and onion marinated in a light vinaigrette. My coworker finished every last drop of the soup and could not get enough, so that is promising, as well. Even the chocolate chip cookie -- again, probably a bit fresher earlier in the morning -- was loaded with chocolate-y goodness and good to the last calorie.
Not only was the service very accommodating and patient with a couple of newcomers, but the patrons waiting in line to order behind us --clearly regulars to Bagelicious -- were very friendly and jumped right in to help me figure out my meal choice. It seemed that they had ordered everything on the menu previously, so their opinions were greatly appreciated. The cozy yet busy ambiance reminded me of Gainesville's Bagel Bakery, only I feel that Bagelicious surpasses the Gainesville bagel joint in service and taste. I will certainly be back to this reasonably priced Ocala shop for a breakfast bagel or perhaps the chicken salad melt. It is a welcome part of the Ocala food scene for this Food Adventurer.
The Pluses and Minuses of the Bagelicious:
Bagelicious (+) indicators: Good value, reasonable prices, fresh tasting ingredients, large and diverese selection, meat and vegetarian options, breakfast and lunch, friendly and accommodating staff and customers, local.
Bagelicious (-) indicators: As with so many places, too many meals here can't be good for the waistline.
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