These are the city’s finest any way you fill ‘em
By Amber Sutherland-Namako
Much like pizza, New York City bagels are the subject of endless debate, competition, and consideration. Is it something in our water that makes them so special, and, what exactly is the ideal accouterment to enjoy them in peak form?
These are our favorite spots in the city right now:
Ess-a-Bagel has been a Manhattan staple since 1976, and local love for the family-owned business radiates throughout all of the five boroughs. Now, its expertly rolled, boiled and baked beauties are available right here in Brooklyn. Choose your own adventure with a doughy, fluffy everything, pumpernickel, or cinnamon raisin bagel, and schmear it with all manner of decadent cream cheese options. Or, leave it to the experts and choose a sandwich from their curated menu of NYC faves.
This Fresh Meadows maker has been spinning “all-natural, handmade” kettle-boiled then-baked bagels since 1961. Varieties like onion, everything, and blueberry each have a crisp crust and interior so chewy and ideal it almost takes the edge off the word moist. Practically a landmark, Bagel Oasis is also open and eye-popping 24 hours a day, every day.
Upper West Side
Anecdotally larger than a lot of its peers, Absolute actually has seats inside, or you can take it a few blocks away to a park bench. You’ll have plenty of time waiting in line to plan your order, but get a head start with visions of cream cheese flavors like blueberry, sun-dried tomato, and walnut raisin.
A Tribeca staple since 1994, Zucker’s got that way by hand-rolling and kettle-boiling its bagels with the best of ’em. It now has five other shops around town, and you can mix and match a bunch of bagel varieties with schmears, and sandwiches.
Russ & Daughters
Lower East Side
Russ & Daughters has been New York’s pinnacle appetizing store since 1914, furnishing the whole city with lox, herring, and bagels from its iconic little Lower East Side shop. It also has a morning and afternoon cafe nearby on Orchard Street and a fantastically gleaming retail factory not too far over the bridge in Brooklyn.
Upper West Side
This Upper West Side institution was founded by Louis Zabar, a Ukrainian immigrant, in 1934. Still a family business in its third generation, its present 20,000 square-feet hosts a feast of savory and sweet treats, including its signature malt barley flour bagels.
Bo’s bagels opened its brick-and-mortar store in Harlem in 2017 after previously testing the waters with friends and family and as a pop-up operating out of a commercial kitchen. Pair its daily bakes with cheese and cream cheese flavors like tofu scallion, maple walnut, and berry almond.
Black Seed bagel shop quickly generated a lot of buzz for its hand-rolled and poached Montreal-style bagels when it opened its first shop in Nolita in 2014. Today it has seven NYC locations where you’ll find its hit titular bagels, plus house-made spreads like scallion cream cheese.
Upper East Side
Still named for the family that ran it from 1916-2008, Orwashers has expanded all the way from the east to the west side in its century-plus in existence. In addition to bagels, which are among the most sandwich-able of the form, Orwashers overflows with an abundance of baked goods, which incorporate local ingredients wherever possible.
Upper East Side
Though the original H&H closed in 2011 after 39 years, others have opened in its stead, including a return to the old Upper West Side neighborhood this past spring. Options across its spots include everything, cinnamon raisin, and pumpernickel, all kettle-boiled and baked to create a product “like no other bagel in the world.”
Court Street Bagels
Baskets of bagels, hand-written signs, and a couple of tables fill this narrow space on its eponymous spot in Carroll Gardens. Choose from freshly baked onion, poppy, sesame, and everything options and layer them with thick coats of cream cheese or breakfast and lunch sandwich fillings.
Baz Bagel and Restaurant
Baz is a kind of cool kid bagel shop, but it still uses the boil-and-bake method perfected by its established predecessors. Here, they just happen to fashion the wares into nouveau takes like tie-dye in addition to more standard types.
Presented as regally as can be, stacked on dowels into towers, these beauties are announced—”hot bagels!”—as they’re marched through the dining room. The glossy, slightly smaller-than-average, boiled-then-baked, VIBs (very important bagels) come in varieties like everything and salt and pepper.
Lower East Side
Bialys may seem to say it all at this 30s-era Lower East Side Jewish bakery, but the bagels are among the city’s best, too. They’re kettled-boiled, baked on burlap boards, and finished on a stone. Malt syrup creates a rich sweetness in the end product.
This Bronx shop is approaching 30 years in operation in its narrow storefront on Riverdale Avenue. It has a dozen different daily baked bagel varieties, a bunch of breakfast and lunch sandwich options, and oodles of baked goods like muffins, cinnamon rolls, and danishes.
This West Village standby has been slinging superlative bagels in several varieties – poppy, cinnamon raisin, and sesame, since 1996. The lines can be a little chaotic, but the spot somehow cranks through crowds clamoring for its fresh goods before you can even figure out where to stand.
Tompkins Square Bagels
Tompkins Square Bagel’s menu includes the expected options like plain, poppy, and pumpernickel bagels, plus specialty selections like French toast and chocolate chip. Sandwich ‘em or select from fruit or nut spreads and cream cheese options.
This Park Slope bagel counter specializes in hand-rolled, kettle-cooked bagels in varieties like cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, and garlic. Adorn them in a vibrant array of flavored cream cheeses (mixed berry, guacamole), or with the bodega-breakfast-of-champions, and cheese.
Upper West Side
Tal has a few locations around town with reliable options all around. They’re good to keep in mind when you want to grab and go and still get a bagel, rather than a circle of bread sans center.
(Courtesy: Time Out)