Island’s best bagels may be best anywhere
Tim Kilkenny, a retired DODDS education specialist, is not prone to hyperbole. So when he declared he had found the tastiest bagel ever, even better than in New York, it warranted serious consideration. After all, the Big Apple is known for its fresh New York-deli bagels – but Okinawa?
What is unusual is that the bagels made by a small café in Okinawa were able to elicit an exclamation of delight from a normally understated, if not taciturn, gentleman. That is what made the search for the source practically imperative.
Café Cactus Eatrip is not easy to spot. It is set back from Highway 58 in a nondescript building with only a small sign marking its presence.
Parking is limited and usually so packed with cars that people must sometimes leave their food to move their vehicles out of somebody’s way. However, this only adds to the informal atmosphere of the place.
Entering is like stepping into a Venice Beach or Greenwich Village coffee house of the past. Mellow jazz flows out of the big speakers, mismatched furniture creates an ambiance of relaxation, an invitation to be at ease and loosen your tie.
Bring your laptop, if you must, since the place is wired and costs you not a yen to troll the internet. This is the 21st century, after all.
A large blackboard above the display of goodies offers a dazzling array of choices. That may be the only anxiety associated with the establishment – what to have. Prosciutto and cheese, avocado and tomato, roast chicken, and what about the flavor of cream cheese? There’s blueberry, maple, rum raisin, even caramel?
These are just some of the items to ponder.
Try the traditional smoked salmon, also known as lox, and cream cheese with capers. Take lots of napkins because the piled-high cream cheese and lox ooze out as you bite into the warm, perfectly made bagel.
You can top it off with a special drink of the day. The mango shake is thick and exotic, but you might prefer to savor the caramel banana drink. All told, the tab should run about ¥1,000 for the all-homemade lunch. Coffees, teas and alcoholic beverages are also available.
Owner Ryuta Katsumi learned how to bake from his parents in Kamakura, where they operated a cooking school. He came to Okinawa because of the weather eight years ago after spending time in his youth in London absorbing the scene and learning proper English. Three years ago he opened the little restaurant with his wife, Makiko.
Making the delicious circles of bread is an art unto itself. After forming, the dough is left to stand in a cool place for about 12 hours. After that, it is boiled in water, sometimes with flavoring ingredients added, then baked until the cook deems it ready.
Katsumi and his assistant pretty much run the place by themselves. While they specialize in bagels of all kinds, they also offer Italian focaccia bread and will cater special events on request.
After a visit, few will disagree with Kilkenny; if these are not the best bagels to be found anywhere, one will be hard pressed to find better.
Café Cactus Eatrip is a block and a half south of the intersection of Highway 58 and Highway 81, at the end of the NEC building (Okinawa Denshi Company). You can check them out online at <www.cactus-eatrip.jp> or call (098) 890-6601.
This story was originally published in Stripes Okinawa, Oct. 8, 2010.