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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.

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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.  

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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.
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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

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Photo: Winnie Jeng ©

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

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