While Italian immigrants were busy making this city great by giving us pizza, their Eastern European counterparts set to pickling cucumbers and tomatoes, smoking fish, and rolling bagels and bialys by hand. Long New York’s unofficial breadstuff, an outstanding bagel starts and ends with proper technique and a near-continual cook, ensuring a fresh product throughout the day. And like our beloved pizzerias, it’s this dedication to quality and respect for the practice that makes for a superior bagel shop. Whether your go-to order is plain with butter or a toasted everything with scallion cream cheese and private stock sturgeon, there’s no wrong way to eat the right bagel made by a shop with character. Here are the 10 Best in NYC.
10. H&H Midtown Bagels East, 1551 Second Avenue; 212-734-7441 The currently defunct H&H trademark has been sold with plans to reopen the franchise, but for now, the legendary H&H name lives on at this Upper East Side bakery that does the original proud with thick-crusted, puffy rounds. Sandwiches come overstuffed, piled high with lox or an entire Philadelphia’s-worth of cream cheese. If you’re looking for something a bit less filling, the plain bagel is rolled thinner than the rest. It’s as fine an expression of the craft as any.
9. Ess-A-Bagel, 359 First Avenue; 212-260-2252 You can thank this pair of respected bagel shops for the proliferation of colossal bagels around town, as owner Florence Wilpon has been serving her uniquely engorged dough mounds since 1976. Perfumed with yeast and malt, they make for particularly good egg sandwiches at breakfast, with pronounced, crackled crusts that help hold everything together while eating. Smoked and pickled fish platters — from belly lox and lake sturgeon to pickled herring and smoked trout — are the freshest in the area. The bagel jerks get a little overzealous with the cream cheese, but the puffed up breads are up to the task.
8. Hot Bialys & Bagels, 116-63 Queens Boulevard, Queens; 718-544-0900 Was your case dismissed at Queens County criminal court? Run down Queens Boulevard like the free bird you are to this old school deli baking extra crisp bagels and bialys. The slightly sour, imperfect rounds are dense and puckered but still manage to pull apart. They’re excellent supporting various pungent appetizing options like chopped herring or whitefish salad. Bonus: thanks to the shop’s proximity to a house of law, you’re likely to hear colorful conversations as you tuck into your breakfast or lunch. [
7. Terrace Bagels, 224 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn; 718-768-3943 Louis Thompson bakes bagels larger than most, but that quirk makes sense given the man’s many years spent in the deli business before opening his Windsor Terrace Italian-influenced appetizing store. The chewy bread becomes a canvas for Thompson’s many antipasti, flavored cream cheeses, and cold cuts, resulting in an inspired mash-up that’s 100 percent Brooklyn.
6. Dyker Park Bagels, 713 86th Street, Brooklyn; 718-836-6336 Locals flock to this 24-hour for the selection of offbeat bagel flavors, including French toast, sundried tomato, and blueberry the color of Violet Beauregard, but the standards are also well represented. There are plenty of specialty cream cheeses to pair with your bagel, but the store is perhaps most famous for its “Chicken Ridiculous” sandwich, a mess of grilled chicken, mozzarella cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato on the bagel of your choice. It has its own Facebook page with over 800 fans.
5. Kossar’s Bialys, 367 Grand Street; 212-473-4810 Since taking over the city’s most famous kosher bialy bakery last April, Evan Giniger and Marc Halprin have been slowly tweaking operations in the name of quality control. As far as we can tell, it’s working. Bialys, bulka (sandwich rolls), bagels, and pletzls (oblong bialy/roll hybrids) are all squeezable and chewy, but only the bagels have an audible crunch. Although the shop is kosher, it’s now open on Saturdays through some legal sorcery: Ownership of the lease is transferred over to a non-Jewish co-owner who then returns the favor post-Sabbath.
4. Bagel Oasis, 18312 Horace Harding Expressway, Queens; 7180-359-9245 There’s a reason this 24-hour spot has “oasis” in its name, and it’s not because the owner was in a white hot UK rock band. Unless you live in the neighborhood, this one’s going to be a trek. But make the journey and you’ll be rewarded with some truly unparalleled specimens, with equal parts crunch and pillowy chew. Best of all may be their cheddar bagel, wherein blistered cheese adheres to the baked good’s exterior. [
3. Beygl, 291 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-788-1741 Run by Joey and Robert Massa, this chic Park Slope carbohydrate atelier features natural wood, white tile accents, and heavily-seeded bagels that are slightly sweet thanks to the addition of brown sugar in the water used for boiling. The menu employs bagel Darwinism, placing flavors like egg onion and marble rye in the “traditional” category, while rosemary olive oil and jalapeno cheddar get the “artisan” moniker and a 50 cent price hike. But check out the wide selection of smoked and cured fish: The sandwiches start at $9 for whole whitefish, and the list tops out at $12 for a sable sandwich — not a bad price, especially in this neighborhood.
2. Absolute Bagels, 2788 Broadway; 212-932-2052 Thai expat Sam Thongkrieng opened his Manhattan Valley carb canteen over 20 years ago, and the place has been a hit with Columbia students and other locals ever since. Choose from a wide variety of doughy offerings including several heartier options like oatbran, whole wheat sesame, multigrain, and rye. Bulbous specimens, they’re surprisingly yielding despite their bulk. King among them is the egg bagel, tinged yellow with creamy yolks. The result is a best-in-class baked good with pastry aspirations. Choose from 14 kinds of cream cheese, which range from tame (scallion) to quirky (bacon and cheddar.)
1. Black Seed Bagels, 170 Elizabeth Street; 212-730-1950 Noah Bernamoff and Matt Kliegman’s buzzy Nolita bagel shop is as scorching hot as the wood-fired ovens from which its shapely, deeply browned bagels emerge. There are eight varieties to choose from, and everything is made in-house, from the fish spreads featuring bluefish and tobiko to beet-cured salmon that adorns many signature sandwiches. Our favorite of the bunch is the meaty smoked rainbow trout, which flakes like kippered salmon but with a much gentler flavor. As these are Montreal-style rounds (meaning there’s honey in the dough and the parboiling water), sesame is a safe and delicious bet.
All ten shops fit inside an 85-square mile triangle:
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