Comparing San Diego's Newest Bagels | Nomad Donuts Wood-Fired Versus Spill The Beans California-Style

August 26, 2017

Two new bagel shops have premiered in America's Finest City in the past couple weeks - the second outpost of Nomad Donuts and Verant Group's Spill The Beans Coffee & Bagels. This Jersey boy had a hankering for a fresh, hot bagel this morning, so I checked out both spots for SanDiegoVille's first comparison article. Let's dive in!

I wanted to be as fair as possible in my comparison, so at both Nomad and Spill The Beans I went with my go-to bagel shop order - an everything bagel with whatever scallion/chive-based cream cheese they offered and a regular coffee with cream and sugar, to-go.  

Nomad Donuts
Following many months of construction, Nomad Donuts’ has finally opened their new North Park location and in addition to coffee and donuts, the eatery has introduced a lineup of Canadian-style wood fired bagels and breakfast sandwiches, as well as a "Chef’s Counter" featuring savory and sweet baked goods per the whims of Executive Pastry Chef Kristianna Zabala (coming soon). We ordered an everything bagel with bacon-chive cream cheese ($3.50) and a regular drip coffee made with Nomad Signature Drip Blend from Global Coffee Trading ($2.00).

The first thing I noticed about Nomad was how packed it was! I arrived before 8am and there was already a line, and by the time I left it had tripled. Despite the queue, service was friendly and my order came out way quicker than expected. The coffee was a little weak for my liking, making me regret not opting for an added espresso shot for $1. As for the bagel, the first thing I noticed was that it was somewhat small. It was also the first time I had seen sunflower seeds on an everything bagel, and there was no salt, which is a faux pas in my book. An everything bagel should always have coarse salt crystals. Generally, scallion cream cheese is my favorite, so I ordered the bacon & chive, but there was not nearly enough spread and the chive flavor was overwhelmed by the smokey bacon, although still very tasty. The bagel texture was soft without the hard exterior of an East Coast-style bagel, and it had almost the right amount of chew and was still warm when we got it. Overall, it was tastier than most bagels we've tried in San Diego.

Spill The Beans Coffee & Bagels
Taking over the space that last housed Blush in downtown San Diego, the Verant Group installed dual concepts Smoking Gun bar and BBQ-centric eatery and neighboring Spill The Beans, both with menus from Executive Chef Kevin Templeton. Spill The Beans offers a lineup of freshly made "California-style" bagels in non-traditional flavors and coffee creations from San Diego's Dark Horse Coffee Roasters. In addition to a variety of housemade cream cheeses, the eatery also offers two infused compound butters and a menu of breakfast sandwiches. We ordered an everything bagel with brown butter & garlic and caramelized shallot and chive cream cheese ($4) and a regular drip coffee made with beans from Dark Horse ($3).

There was no wait at Spill The Beans when we arrived around 8:30am and the counter server was cordial and pleasant. After ordering, I sat at the bar and sipped on my coffee. Damn, was this coffee good! Like really good. Upon first inspection of the bagel, I noticed that it also had sunflower seeds, two in one day, but it was bigger than Nomad and also had salt, although I could not see where but definitely tasted it. The caramelized shallot & chive cream cheese is a brownish color that slightly resembled tuna salad, which isn't visually appealing, and like Nomad, there wasn't nearly enough of it. The bagel was soft and fluffy, with a croissant-like texture - a cragel, if you will. There was certainly a deep flavor throughout, but it was not a traditional bagel and cream cheese. 

Spill The Beans edged out Nomad in both the bagel and coffee categories, although we prefer Nomad's ambiance, speed of service and extended menu. Spill The Beans also needs to work on their sugar & milk station, as it was a bit cluttered, and they took about three times longer to fulfill my order than Nomad, who was feeding around 20x the people based on the line. Our preference on taste came down to the small details - both the bagel & cream cheese and the coffee at Spill The Beans just had more depth of flavor, and the bagel was normal size and cut in half, unlike Nomad. Maybe it was Chef Templeton's compound butter that put it over the top. If Nomad beefs up their bagels, increases their schmear, adds salt to the everythings, and cuts the bagels in half upon serving, they're going to offer a really amazing product, as it is overall a more authentic bagel.