New York City's 10 Best Bagel Shops

In the city that never sleeps, it's almost imperative to start the day with a bagel — preferably untoasted with lox, tomato and cream cheese. Here are 10 places to try them at their best.

Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Winnie Jeng ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

The Hole Truth

New York City has a lot of signature foods: The coal-oven pizza is hailed across the world. The hot dogs are iconic, and the pastrami has inspired movie scenes. The list could go on indefinitely. But perhaps nothing sets the city apart quite as much as the bagel. It seems like every block has a bagel shop, along with a devoted following of locals who dash in for coffee and their favorite combination each day. From traditional schmear shops to newfangled delis, here’s where to sink your teeth into the best bagels in town.  

H&H

Back in 2011, the 40-year-old legend H&H shuttered its doors, leaving carb fanatics lost and forlorn. H&H Midtown Bagels East isn't officially affiliated with the famous Upper West Side shop, but it was connected in the past: The original owners went their separate ways decades back. The recipe, however, honors the old ties, and that’s what’s important. These bagels are lofty inside, surrounded by a thick crust with a sweet finish. The nearly 20 different varieties are always fresh. They're good on their own or with one of the 15 different spreads. Expect to see the classics (scallion, veggie and plain) as well as bold choices like bacon-and-apple butter. Sandwiches come piled high with deli meats or filled to the brink with lox and cream cheese. In response to high demand, the shop is expanding, with a Columbus Circle outpost opening in winter 2016.

Go to: H&H Midtown Bagels East

Ess-a-Bagel

Crowds line up around the Midtown block every day to get a taste of what many consider the best bagels in all of NYC. Hand-rolled in-house, these classic specimens are boiled for a few minutes before getting baked. The result is a thick crust around a dense and fluffy center with strong malty notes. They’re offered in all the usual flavors — poppy, sesame, everything — as well as oat bran, nine-grain and pumpernickel raisin. Eggs, deli meats and the traditional toppings are displayed in an illuminated glass case running nearly the length of one wall. Heaping pans of multihued cream cheeses range from simple scallion and veggie to over-the-top banana nut and Oreo. Word to the wise: Keep it simple. These bagels are so good that there’s no need to overpower them with novelty flavors.

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Ess-a-Bagel

Bagel Hole

As the name might suggest, this Park Slope bagel shop is a true hole-in-the-wall. The nearly bare storefront houses just a drink fridge, a few shelves and a case of fillings. Options include Boar’s Head cold cuts, cream cheese (flavors include scallions, walnut-raisin and just a couple of others), housemade lox, and salads like tuna, egg, chicken and the acclaimed whitefish. Small, with a crisp crust and a well-seasoned chewy center, these bagels are old-fashioned and completely addictive. They’re so beloved throughout NYC that they can be found at top spots across the boroughs, including world-famous Russ & Daughters. The ingredients are key: Malt is used instead of sugar, so they’re complex, not sweet. These are so good and so texturally perfect that when they’re fresh, there’s no need to brown them again — so even the biggest fans of toasted bagels need not ask. 

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Bagel Hole

Sadelle’s

Part takeout shop, part Jewish bakery, part high-end cafe, Sadelle’s is the place to go when you want bagels for brunch. The bright, stylish dining room features exposed brick walls, vintage bistro tables and patinated metal chairs. The restaurant offers a splendid fish tower complete with three tiers of ingredients, in the same resplendent vein as afternoon tea. The stacked plates feature sturgeon, salmon, house lox and smoked sable from Acme as well as plenty of veggie accoutrements. Housemade bagels are stacked on oak dowels in revamped versions of old favorites, such as salt and pepper (flavored both inside and out) and everything 2.0 with fennel and caraway seeds. If you don’t feel like going dining exclusively in-house, feel free to pick up a sandwich — or a dozen — from the counter. 

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Pedriani 

Go to: Sadelle's

Black Seed Bagels

Co-founded by the father of New York’s deli renaissance — Mile End’s Noah Bernamoff — along with partner Matt Kliegman, this place is not your average bagel shop. The original Nolita storefront is filled with luxe touches like reclaimed sycamore, beveled walnut and Carrara marble, and the larger East Village outpost is equally chic. As nice as the design is, the Montreal-style bagels are what draws the crowds. Slightly smaller than New York’s signature rounds, these little guys are hand-rolled, then poached in honey water before hitting the wood-fired oven. The flavor is complex: slightly salty, slightly sweet, with a hint of smoke. The texture is just as interesting: The perfectly browned crust yields a dense yet fluffy interior, seasoned well throughout. The bagels are available in all the usual flavors, including a killer plain one. Fillings range from egg, cheddar, avocado and smoked salmon to beet-cured lox. 

Go to: Black Seed Bagels

Baz Bagel & Restaurant

Pleated vinyl booths flank the palm-tree-papered left wall. Behind the Formica bar, a big photo of Barbra Streisand hangs on the light pink perimeter. The retro ambience is Miami-meets-Lower East Side (the neighborhood that introduced the Eastern European bread to the city). Here you’ll find a timeless array of Jewish soul food, including some fine bagel specimens. The selection here includes delicious hand-rolled, kettle-boiled and baked bagels in options like plain, salt, poppy and multiple everything variations. Baz Original sandwiches dictate which toppings should be paired with what type of exterior. The Baz ($12) features the everything pumpernickel filled with nova, scallion cream cheese, tomato and onion. It’s a combination excellent enough to warrant the namesake. The Waldorf ($11) has chicken salad, apple and lettuce on a cinnamon raisin bagel. It’s the right balance of old-school traditions and a hip twist.

Go to: Baz Bagel & Restaurant

Bagel Pub

This Park Slope storefront is sunny and cheery, feeling more like a health food store than a bagel shop, with a high pressed-tin ceiling, brick and yellow walls, and a glass-front case filled with colorful spreads and salads. It does serve fresh juices and smoothies — but don’t eschew carbs here. Rolled, kettle-cooked and baked on the premises, the massive bagels are a tad sweet and supple. They’re offered in all the regular flavors, with a multitude of cream cheeses (ranging from scallion and veggie to bacon-cheddar and mixed berry), fish and numerous options for egg sandwiches, put together by the friendly staff. There’s a Western Omelet Breakfast Sandwich with ham, onions and peppers as well as a Garden Omelet with kale, onions, feta and peppers. The most popular is the ABC with avocado, crispy bacon and cheddar cheese, which is great on the pub’s patio in beautiful weather. 

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Bagel Pub

Murray’s Bagels

Named after owner Adam Pomerantz’s father, this Greenwich Village shop is a labor of love for the former finance honcho. While working obscene hours, Pomerantz fantasized about owning his own business off Wall Street. After toiling away, he found his ideal bagel recipe and opened his first storefront in 1996. Hand-rolled, boiled and then baked fresh, bagels here are full-figured, chewy and fluffy. Flavors like everything, salt, sesame and cinnamon-raisin are imbued with a slightly malty taste, earning them consistent high praise. Pomerantz takes texture so seriously that there’s no toasting allowed; however, those looking to keep it interesting can try a few creative spreads, such as strawberry, maple-raisin-walnut and garlic-and-sun-dried-tomato cream cheeses. The breakfast sandwiches and the omelets on a bagel (selections include veggie, pastrami and Hebrew National salami) are great. The Eastern Nova Scotia salmon with cream cheese is particularly good. 

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Murray's Bagels

Absolute Bagels

Set behind a nondescript storefront on the Upper West Side, Absolute is always a top contender for bagel supremacy. Lines snake out the door throughout business hours — there's no escaping the hordes eagerly awaiting these perfectly chewy morsels. Each one offers a subtle malty flavor and a thick and chewy outer crust. Behind the glass that separates customers from wire baskets filled to the brim with 16 different varieties of golden rounds, you can watch the masters at work. All day long, steam rises from vats of hand-rolled bagels boiling away. Right in front of your eyes, just a mere 15 feet away, the bagels are moved to industrial-sized trays in the massive see-through ovens. If your chosen style is sold out, feel free to wait for a fresh batch. Warm specimens are pulled out on a rotating basis. These bagels are not only first-rate, but also as fresh as you’ll find anywhere.

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Absolute Bagels

Barney Greengrass

Since 1908, Barney Greengrass has been known as “The Sturgeon King” of New York. The Upper West Side institution has long lured locals and celebrities, including Alfred Hitchcock and Groucho Marx. It has been in movies and TV shows ranging from Deconstructing Harry to 30 Rock and Sex and the City. It even nabbed a James Beard Foundation Award for being an “American Classic.” The entire perimeter is lined with shelves stocked full of dry goods, almost like a corner store. One of the two counters has baked goods, including clear bins filled with chewy bagels from a wholesale bakery in Queens. The other glass-front counter holds stacks of gleaming cured fish. Experts know to combine the two. The sturgeon and lox are musts. Each comes on a bagel of your choice with fresh vegetables and a hearty slather of cream cheese.

Photo courtesy of Winnie Jeng

Go to: Barney Greengrass

More from:

City Guides