It shouldn't be surprising that the Einstein Bros. chain (150 stores in 15 states) is brought to us by Boston Market, another franchise that bucked the traditions of boxed burger wafers and brown/red/yellow color schemes.
Einstein feels about as hip as a fast-food chain can. The restaurant's earth-toned, wood-appointed interior is something any domestically well-adjusted 20-something would appreciate. They're a common sight at this store, near the University of South Florida.
Moreover, a quick perusal of the menu _ bagels and bagel sandwiches, salads and soups _ will leave you feeling that you're about to do something relatively good for yourself.
The bagels are baked fresh on the premises all day. There are 17 varieties, including dark pumpernickel, Poppy Dip'd, chocolate chip, wild blueberry, spinach herb and sun-dried tomato.
A forest of spreader handles jut from the tubs containing the various cream cheeses and toppings. Wild berry lite, maple walnut raisin, smoked salmon, Chive Jive, peanut butter . . . just point and pick and it's made before your eyes.
The bagel sandwiches make for interesting alternatives to their conventional counterparts (the Tasty Turkey sports tomato, sprouts, cucumber and Chive Jive cream) but can be messy.
_ MICHAEL CANNING
EINSTEIN BROS. BAGELS
5003 E Fowler Ave.; 988-0088
HOURS: Mon.-Sat.: 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sun.: 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
PRICES: Split bagel with topping, 70 cents to $1.80; bagel sandwich, $3.05 to $5.15; cold salads, $1.65 to $3.55; espresso drinks, $1.25 and $1.95.