OK, OK, we get it already: St. Louis is not New York. It's not even Buffalo. Nowhere near being Albany, even, let alone Ithaca. The consensus is that we hayseeds have nothing to contribute, bagel-wise, to the pool of human thought. Our bagel is usually a tuft of dough rolled wormlike and connected mouth to ass and shoved in an oven. The Bagel Factory, however, does it the right
way: Like a majestic Manhattan bagel, the Factory's are water-boiled before they're placed in the oven, which results in a much moister, more substantive bagel. "I think we're the only place in St. Louis that boils them," says Jeff Harlow, one of the bakers. "The process doesn't require oils, so there's no fat in the bagels. Then we throw them on wet burlap belts and stick them in the oven until they get a crisp skin on them, then flip 'em." They sell a dozen-odd varieties out of a tiny storefront on Olive Boulevard near New Ballas Road. Chewy but not gummy, a Bagel Factory bagel is a meal -- and at 48 cents a pop (a half dozen for $3), it's the cheapest breakfast (lunch, or dinner) in town.