If You Post a Delicious Bagel Sandwich on the Internet, Do You Have to Say Where You Got It?

Jun 17, 2023 9:43 PM

If You Post a Delicious Bagel Sandwich on the Internet, Do You Have to Say Where You Got It?

A TikTok hunt for a New York bagel started as a joke beef over “gatekeeping”—and ended as a story about how going viral doesn't always have a happy ending.

June 13, 2023


Last month, the New York-based model, art student, and TikTok user @Casketpaint posted a video of his gooey egg bagel sandwich, proclaiming it the best he’d ever had—but taunted his viewers he would never reveal the bagel shop or his exact order: “Just know that the sandwich is good, and you’ll never have it in your life.” He captioned the video, “☠️☠️☠️ God tier gatekeeper.”

Fans quickly started tagging Trevor Rainbolt in the Instagram comments. Rainbolt has become a TikTok star for his videos showing off his skill at the game GeoGuessr, which asks you to guess the spot of a random location from Google Street View from around the world. Rainbolt is astoundingly good at the game—he’s essentially memorized the globe, and he’s parlayed this niche skill into posts where he reveals the locations of misdelivered packages, music videos, and memes. If you want a location found on the internet, he is your guy.

So Rainbolt got to work. He played the video over and over. He scoured Casketpaint’s other accounts. He enlisted the help of a New York bagel expert. He found the bagel—and then got it named after him at the restaurant. But what should have been a fun goof for all involved ended up in a mess of online harassment and resentment. It’s a story of how going viral should be fun, but actually often sucks.

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“I initially spent two weeks [searching], probably,” Rainbolt told GQ. “There's a couple of guys who are [GeoGuessr] pros—or partial pros—and we have a Discord call. We all just sit there go through all the different possibilities, trying to decipher frame by frame. Like, what can we pull from this?”


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Technically, Rainbolt found the bagel shop on the first day. He noticed that the shot where Casketpaint is eating the bagel inside appeared to actually be some sort of university or office setting, not the inside of the restaurant. But the bagel was still warm—which meant that the shop must be near to where it was taken and eaten. Casketpaint’s social media accounts show that he’s an art major at Pace University in lower Manhattan, so Rainbolt started looking at bagel shops within walking distance of the campus. Bagel Market is just a block away from Pace, making it an obvious choice.

However, when Rainbolt messaged Caseketpaint to ask if it was the egg, cheese, and avocado bagel from Bagel Market, Casketpaint said no (this was a partial miscommunication—the location was right but the sandwich ingredients were wrong). Rainbolt then noticed the website for Bagel Market said the location near Pace would open on May 21—nearly two weeks after the video was posted. He moved on with this search, scouring Google Maps for hundreds of bagels.

Eventually Rainbolt and his friends hit a wall. He tweeted out a plea for New York City bagel expertise in finding the location: “i'm going to be vulnerable: i've spent 38 hours this week (42 hours last week) looking for a bagel on google maps. the bagel is in nyc. i have all possible bagels narrowed down. i will find this bagel. and i will not give up,” he wrote.

“I like being kind ironic, like, Oh, look at me, I spent 40 hours looking at bagels,” he told GQ.

Sam Silverman, who gives bagel tours of NYC and founded the Bagel Fest consumer and trade show, reached out to help. Instantly, Silverman recognized that sandwich—the pale blue paper bag in the background was a dead giveaway. “I can recognize the wrapping, the shape of the bagel, the height, the American cheese on it,” Silverman told GQ. “To me, it was so clear it was the Bagel Market sandwich.”

Silverman assured Rainbolt that it had to be Bagel Market, despite the website’s opening date. Silveman personally knows Bagel Market’s owner, Jimmy Stathakis, and called him to confirm the store had soft-opened two weeks before the publicized launch date.

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Rainbolt posted a new TikTok, stitching the original and revealing the exact location of Bagel Market. And he took it one step further—Silverman arranged with the owner that the specific sandwich would be called “the Rainbolt” on the menu.

Rainbolt tweeted that naming the sandwich after himself was so “if he ever wants his bagel again he will have to order in shame.” But he told GQ he also had a kinder motivation: “The main reason I reached out to the Bagel Market about the name was because I thought it would be a clever way to get them more business.”

“The biggest reaction on Twitter is that they love how petty I am,” he said. “But it's all supportive, they really have my back. I was kind of worried about that—I don't want to be the evil guy.”

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Of course, Casketpaint’s original TikTok about “Gatekeeping” a bagel was a joke. “Gatekeeping” is a term originally meant to describe withholding access to who can be in a community or other things of actual significance. Now it’s used with ironic hyperbole to describe mundane things, like a TikToker promising not to “gatekeep” where he found his vintage Levi’s.

Rainbolt’s epic quest to find this was also jokey—he doesn’t even care about bagels (he told GQ he had only ever had a bagel with plain cream cheese). His anger about “gatekeeping” was also a joke. The two men had been DMing and being friendly—if lightly teasing—each other, all in good fun. Casketpaint posted a lighthearted response video with the caption “U win☠️”, laughing, and joking “go get a job at the CIA.”

But not long after, things took a turn. Casketpaint, who requested to not use his real name to preserve his privacy, started receiving racist and homophobic harassment on Instagram and TikTok. He also feels uncomfortable that Rainbolt hadn’t given him a heads up before having the restaurant name the bagel (in its slightly incorrect form) after him. “It’s made me feel like our conversation wasn’t in good fun, like this was his motive all along,” Casketpaint told GQ. “I felt snaked.”

Two days after Rainbolt’s video reveal of the location, Casketpaint posted a new video saying it would be the last time he addressed the bagel due to the harassment.

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Rainbolt, for his part, clearly would have preferred the trolling stay performative and friendly. He told GQ over email, “anyone that is attacking Casketpaint online in anyway is not someone that is representative of my community/fans, and I do not advocate for that in any way.”

Stathakis, the owner of Bagel Market told GQ that this has been good for his business—they sold 127 of “the Rainbolt” sandwiches on Saturday—though he went on to point out that this combination has always been a popular choice. He met Casketpaint when he came into the shop last week, and they discussed adding “The Gatekeeper” as a sandwich on the menu (with the correct ingredients—added ketchup, hot sauce, salt and pepper). But when he learned that Casketpaint had been harassed, he decided against promoting it on the official Bagel Market social accounts.

“Once I heard that, I couldn't be a part of that,” Stathaki told GQ. “No matter how this played out, it helps me. But some of the nuances… Sam [Silverman] needs to get more credit, and the bullying I don’t like.”

Anyone who has a sizable following and puts themselves out there on social media is going to receive some negative comments, but the bagel incident flipped a dynamic that incited something. Casketpaint has a decent TikTok following—250,000-strong—and his fans presumably appreciate his persona and understood the joke about a bagel sandwich being so good he had to gatekeep it.

But when Rainbolt’s much larger 2.3 million followers were exposed to the video, they lacked the full context. The fact that Rainbolt appeared to be also trolling him (even if behind the scenes, the two men were being friendly), emboldened fans who couldn’t get the nuance to actually troll him in a vile way. And so when a popular white creator with a massive following pretended to feud with a Black creator with a smaller audience, it inadvertently opened the floodgates of abuse on the Black creator. The tale of the mystery bagel ended up being a perfect encapsulation of how so much online culture works now: a petty challenge, crowdsourcing, flattening of nuance, bitterness over credit, and, ultimately, a descent into a pit of online harassment.

Bagelgate started as a cheeky play-fight over ironic “gatekeeping” between two extremely online influencers. All the elements were in place for a serendipitous moment only the internet could bring. “It's the most internet thing ever,” Rainbolt said. “I met a random bagel expert on Twitter who helped me find a bagel that was being gatekept on TikTok.” But it’s also the most internet thing in that it ended up in the cesspit.