Lox, stock and bagel 

Toco Hills' Bagel Palace is good deli

"It may not be kosher, but it sure is good deli," one customer explains to another during a bustling lunch at Bagel Palace, a Jewish bakery and eatery ensconced in Toco Hills Shopping Center. The long-standing, classic Jewish deli serves kosher-style foods (but not actually kosher) with an obvious appeal to a colorful cast of regular customers who come in for a baker's dozen bagels or a round of raspberry rugalach to go. Others stay and find their way to their favorite table after exchanging personal greetings with the equally interesting staff.

"You need to sit there!" demands one rather aggressive waitress who has worked here for years. She does dole out excellent service along with her motherly commands and might even tell you what you need to eat if you let her. Which makes it all more than a regular restaurant ... it makes for good deli.

Like classic delis, Bagel Palace has a large menu featuring overstuffed sandwiches big enough for two to split, breakfast all day, traditional soups, and a plethora of baked savory and sweet stuff, salads, and hearty sides.

It's not easy being cheap: With the large portions and quality homemade items featured at the Bagel Palace, it's easy to go overboard. But the restaurant is still a deal with some ordering prowess. Skip the à la carte breakfast -- it can set you back. Go with a combo instead. Stop in before 10 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays for the best bet, a $3.89 special that includes two eggs cooked to order, a pile of hash browns, the bagel of your choice (there are 18 varieties) and coffee.

Kissable blintzes and knish wishes: Other deals at the deli sure to please the belly include homemade potato latkes with apple sauce or sour cream ($4.05), a short stack of challah French toast ($3.50), or sweet-potato pancakes ($5.65). And of course a meal can easily be made from the bagels with endless choices of cream cheeses (try the zingy horseradish), cheese blintzes with fruit preserves or Coney Island potato-stuffed knishes.

There's a generous kids' menu with items such as "the Eric," featuring scrambled eggs with a bagel, pancake or fries, a beverage, and a cookie for just $3.19. Lunch items such as the combo salad platter ($11.29) are plenty for two to share. A mixture of whitefish salad, potato salad and an exceptional kippered salmon salad served with veggies, hard-boiled egg and a bagel was a light but satisfying choice. Hearty appetites might try the half sandwich and soup ($7.99). Mix the lean half pastrami on rye with a cold bowl of borscht (beet soup) made pretty and pink by mixing in sour cream. Eclectic offerings include a sardine sandwich or potato skins stuffed with whitefish salad and bacon.

A bevy of baked goods: Kids and adults alike will have a hard time passing up grabbing a goodie to go from the Bagel Palace's bakery counter. Cookies as big as a baby's head are glazed with pastel icing in whimsical animal shapes. Cheese biscuits, mandel bread, kickle, ceremonial challahs and nutty breakfast rings are among the offerings available for every occasion -- from celebrating high holy holidays to the casual coffee klatch. Now that's good deli.

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