Ah yes, nothing gets a New Yorker’s morning off to a better start than a bagel; whether it be egg and cheese, a variety of cream cheeses or (for the purists) just a plain bagel with butter. The crispy exterior, yet fluffy insides make this quintessential breakfast item the perfect start to the day.
We have complied a list of the top bagels in NYC based on a combination of the crunchy yet chewy texture of the bagel itself, the cream cheese/other fillings and of course how fresh the bagel is.
10. Russ & Daughters
Let’s start this list out with an absolute classic; Russ and Daughters has dished up bagels, bialys, latkes and smoked fish since 1914. They have locations in the Lower East Side, in the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side and in Navy Yard in Brooklyn. Now, although this iconic bagel shop may be high on every bagel seeker’s must-have list, the quality of their bagels themselves are “just” above average. However, where Russ & Daughters excels is the freshness of their fish, they will cut several hearty slices of a variety of salmon and slap on scallion or regular cream cheese right in front of you to create a mouth-watering lox bagel. Yes, the price might be a little hefty, but you better believe that it is worth every penny, just ask customers from the last 100+ years.
Photo Credit: Yelp user Tracy T.
9. Best Bagel & Coffee
When it comes to breakfast food within a block of Penn Station, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a high-quality, classic NYC institution. Best Bagel & Coffee certainly lives up to its name. Its location near Penn Station leads to long lines, but lines that move fairly quickly. Their egg and cheese (+/- sausage or bacon) on a variety of chewy, scrumptious bagels are some of the best in the city and is the perfect order at this bagel shop. Their savory breakfast bagel sandwiches are the perfect start, middle or even end to a day. Enjoy this classic on your commute out of Penn Station.
Photo Credit: Yelp user Stacie K.
8. Barney Greengrass
Much like Russ & Daughters, the bagels here are not anything to write home about, however the lox here is unparalleled which makes this Upper West Side Jewish deli worth a visit. While Barney Greengrass is “The Sturgeon King,” the melt-in-your-mouth salmon placed on a solid bagel with a hint of scallion or regular cream cheese is the ever-so-classic lox bagel that we New Yorker’s know and love. We recommend the Nova Scotia Salmon on your favorite bagel with plain cream cheese; the classic. While Barney Greengrass is not an ideal grab ‘n go venue, it is a great spot to sit down for breakfast or lunch and watch the Upper West Side go by.
Photo credit: Yelp user Sarah Y.
7. Tompkins Square Bagels
When you think of a classic bagel, I’m sure you think of a birthday cake flavored cream cheese on a French toast bagel. While Tompkins Square Bagels boasts a plethora of cream cheese flavors (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chipotle Avocado, Peanut Butter, Cucumber Dill to name a few), their spot at number seven is due to their hand rolled, kettle boiled, oven baked bagels. These crunchy yet chewy bagels are so heart-warming that you could even get a plain bagel with no toppings and be happy. For a sweet bagel with cream cheese, we recommend a cinnamon raisin bagel with Apple Cinnamon or Walnut Raisin cream cheese. You can also opt for a variety of their savory cream cheeses. No matter what you get here, be sure to get more than one bagel and be adventurous with your cream cheese selection.
Photo credit: Yelp user Lauren B.
6. H & H Midtown Bagels East
These bagels are “proofed, kettle boiled, bathed in cold water, and baked on burlap covered wood boards in our vintage revolving tray ovens…each step in our process is crucial to making the finest old world bagels.” With a description like that on the website, expectations are sky high and H & H lives up to these expectations and more. When ordering, be sure to ask “anything hot?” This is a phrase that should be branded in the vernacular of any bagel seeker. If any type of bagel is indeed hot out of the oven, get that bagel (despite your bagel type preference) and do not get it toasted. There is something spectacular about a fresh-out-the-oven bagel from H & H. All types of bagels and flavors of cream cheese are very solid here, our recommendation (as simple as it sounds to some) is to get your favorite combination!
Photo credit: Yelp user Jonathan C.
5. Absolute Bagels
This Upper West Side bagel shop has a religious following in and outside of the area for good reason. They churn out hundreds of hand-rolled, boiled and rotating oven-baked bagels a day and are even open on Christmas due to the high demand. Columbia students will know how deliciously crispy yet soft a hot-out-of-the-oven bagel can be. More so than most bagel shops, try to get there early to get a fresh bagel. Our favorites are the everything or yellow, buttery egg bagels with scallion or plain cream cheese or a variety of their sweet cream cheeses such as strawberry, blueberry or apple cinnamon on a plain, cinnamon raisin or pumpernickel bagel.
Photo credit: Yelp user Jenny W.
When New Yorkers line up for over an hour for a bagel at the Midtown East (crowd-favorite) location, you better believe it’s worth every second. Ess-a-Bagel has been serving up some of the freshest bagels in the city for over 40 years. The delicate balance between a crunchy exterior and soft interior is close to perfection here and their variety of cream cheeses and sandwich options make it so that there is something for everyone. Pro tip, skip the long lines and go to the express line at the back of the store, they are constantly turning over fresh bagels in that line and you can get a bagel that has quite literally just come out of the oven. You can order a tub of cream cheese and spread it on your fresh-out-the-oven bagel yourself to maximize your ideal bagel to cream cheese ratio.
Photo credit: Yelp user JL C.
3. Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company
“Every crunchy bite of our high-quality bagels leads you through a delicious journey into the chewy center.” Wow, this quote from their website has us hooked! Their location in Astoria (not in Brooklyn oddly) is by far our favorite, and despite the efficient way they move their long lines, their dedication to every customer speaks to the popularity of this establishment. They have quite large bagels that are chewy beyond belief without losing their crisp exterior. We love their apple cinnamon cream cheese, some the best sweet cream cheese we’ve had, but you honestly cannot go wrong with any cream cheese flavor or bagel type; the lox, the scallion, everything at Brooklyn Bagel lives up to the hype demonstrated by a 20 minute line at 11 AM on a Tuesday. Again, when New Yorkers line-up this long for bagels, listen to them.
Photo credit: Yelp user Lindsay H.
2. Utopia Bagels
To get to Utopia Bagels, you’ll have to venture far into Queens to the suburban neighborhood of Bay Terrace, but the journey is well-worth it. Utopia Bagels is an establishment that swears by the “old-fashioned way,” which is hand-rolled (not machine-rolled) placed in a refrigerator, and kettle boiled to perfection where the cook has a feel on the paddle for the perfectly boiled bagel. The bagel then goes into a rotating oven and flipped once to a crispy, brown perfection. It is unbelievable that these bagels alone cost $1 as I could eat these heavenly fluffy bagels by themselves with no cream cheeses, toppings or anything else no problem. Add the variety of cream cheeses here as well as the many sandwich options and you have a bite of heaven that you won’t want to end. We recommend getting some bagels to bring home, they even have gluten-free bagels.
Photo credit: Yelp user Alice N.
1. Baker’s Dozen Bagels
This Kew Gardens gem has it all; a variety of cream cheeses, a variety of types of bagels and a rotating oven that churns out the most mouth-watering bagels in NYC. The lines here can get up to 30 minutes on a busy day, which says a lot given that it is fairly isolated in Kew Gardens about a 45 minute subway ride out from Manhattan. Similar to Utopia Bagels, Baker’s Dozen is dedicated to the “old-fashioned” hand-rolled way of making bagels (we think we see a trend here). On an early cold winter morning, there truly is nothing better than a fresh-out-of-the-oven crisp, chewy, heavenly bagel with the perfect amount of cream cheese to warm your insides and set you off for your day. For a sweet bagel, the cinnamon raisin or plain bagel with cinnamon raisin cream cheese is the perfect treat. For a savory bagel, there are a variety of sandwiches, but you can’t go wrong with an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese. Definitely get some bagels to bring home as you will not encounter this type of perfection in a bagel anywhere else.
Photo credit: Yelp user Marlena K.
Our top two bagel spots were very close in the rankings. Our top three are all in East Queens, perhaps Queens and Long Island aren’t lying when they say they have some of the best bagels in the country.