The Best New York Bagels (and What Makes Them So Darn Special!)
New York bagels are world famous and there's a reason why: they're delicious! In this article we unveil some of the secrets of the New York bagel and the top places to buy the most delicious bagel in NYC!

How Bagels Landed in the Big Apple

Bagels aren't a New York invention. Nope, they came on ships. 

Sort of. The bagel probably didn't arrive by ship, but the immigrants did. And with them came the recipe for bagels.

To be more precise: Polish Jews brought with them the recipe. How the bagel was first invented is hotly debated, but you can read all about the myths, legends, and the actual truth in our other article: The Hole Truth: The History of Bagels Unveiled.

The Difference Between a New York Bagel and a Montreal Bagel

There are bagels...and then there are bagels.

Originally, all bagels were baked in stone ovens, because that's what was available. But over time, things changed. The steel oven came along. That meant that most places in New York moved over to using a steel oven...but in Montreal, stone ovens were still considered superior for baking bagels and continued to be used. 

In New York, bagels are baked on burlap planks (i.e. planks that have been soaked and covered in burlap, or sometimes: semolina or cornmeal), something which isn't done elsewhere. Halfway through the baking process, the bagels are flipped over.

There's also something thing about the ingredients in a New York bagel. Back in the early 20th century, the bagel union was formed and members spoke Yiddish and would not share the secret recipe to their bagels. 

While some bagel recipes remain closely guarded secrets the ingredients of a New York bagel are wheat flour, yeast, salt, water, and barley malt. Furthermore, barley malt is added to the water the bagel is boiled in.

In contrast, a Montreal style bagel contains less (or no) salt, may have added sugar or honey, and is boiled in water which honey has been added to.

And it's also about that NYC it's soft, in Montreal hard, which leads to a difference in texture in the bagels (or so some experts say, while others hotly disagree).

The Montreal bagel is said to be smaller, thinner, sweeter, and denser. It's also shaped slightly differently with a larger hole in the middle.

Why the hole to begin with? Likely because it was an easy way to boil the dough---you threaded the bagels on a stick, put it across the pot, and then removed it. Unlike a round bun, the interiors are also more evenly cooked (though an oval bun would have the same effect it would be harder to boil without the stick).

Of course, carrying bagels on a stick was also much easier than in a sack if you wanted to peddle them in the streets. With a stick everyone could see your wares.

While on the question of why...why boil the dough? It makes the bread denser and chewier, while the baking in the oven results in a nice crust.

Note that most store bought bagels today have been steamed and are made by machine. Not so in the traditional bagel shops in Montreal and New York. There the bagels are proudly boiled.

You'll find lots of different styles of bagels all around the globe. And did you know that in St. Louis they sometimes slice the bagel eight times vertically...and then somehow manage to stuff it with filling.

The Best Bagels in NYC

The Big Apple should potentially change its name to the Big Bagel. After all, it seems to have more bagels than apples...

The bagel bakeries that have been rated the top five are:

1. Utopia Bagels (because the pros say so)
2. Ess-a-Bagel (legendary + epic toppings)
3. Bagel Pub (enough cream cheese flavors to satisfy anyone)
4. Russ & Daughters (oldest place in town)
5. Liberty Bagels (because the rainbow bagel had to make the list)

Some other epic bagel bakeries include:

1. Absolute Bagels (absolutely fresh and many flavors)
2. Murray's Bagels (deli meat and fish sandwiches galore)
3. Bagel Hole (fresh bagels, that's all)
4. Tompkins Square Bagels (pretty, oh so pretty, and tasty...both sweet and savory)
5. Popup Bagels (the new kids on the block with an award winning recipe...they're taking over town)

Now, let's deep dive into the top five and their delicious creations.

Utopia Bagels

Born: 1981

These guys have a very specific method for making their bagels and it appears to have paid off as they've been in business for over 40 (!) years.

Sam Silverman, the bagel ambassador of New York says they have the absolute best bagels in town, so who are we to disagree? Making over 100k bagels per week, there are a few (and by that we mean many) people who agree with Silverman. Given their exacting standards for making bagels, it's clear it's not a lucky coincidence that so many people favor this Queens bagel bakery.

Of course, all their bagels are hand rolled and kettle boiled (all 100,000 a week!).

Interesting fact: Their carousel oven is from 1947. Let's hope it lasts another decade.

Born: 1976

Ess-a-Bagel is often the first place people mention when talking about bagels in NYC. Why? It's because they've been around for a long time and are still considered one of the best places in town to have a crispy bagel that's still incredibly fluffy inside.

Be prepared to line up for your bagel here, but here's a tip: if you want a bagel with cream cheese (and nothing else), you can wait in a shorter, and much faster, line. 

Interesting fact: The founders were Austrian and it's still a family run business today!

Bagel Pub

Born: 2012

The name sort of give them away: this is a place where you come to sit down and enjoy a bagel (not a pint). Which is unusual when it comes to bagel places (most are takeaway only). The interiors of their various locations also remind you of a pub.

Of course, you can order to go. And there are so many different cream cheese flavors you might think you've walked into a gelateria, not a bagel shop. So if you're all about the schmear, this is the place to go.

Interesting fact: They've teamed up with a lot of different artists to recreate famous paintings to include bagels in the paintings. The wall art in some of their places is interesting, to say the least. 

Russ & Daughters

Born: 1914

If you thought some of the other bagel places were old institutions, think again. This is the original and, some claim, best bagel place in town.  Their cafe opened in 2014 to mark their 100th birthday. Finally, people had somewhere to sit (and not just stand in line). The success was instant and the cafe became as well loved as their takeaway bagels.

Russ & Daughters is somewhat unusual in that they don't serve only bagels. They're a deli. If you love high-quality smoked fish, caviar, or deli meat, this is the place to go.

If you're a history buff, this is also the place to go. In their own words, "In 1907, Joel Russ immigrated from the shtetl of Strzyzow, now part of modern day Poland. He got his start selling schmaltz herring out of a barrel to the throngs of Eastern European Jews on the Lower East Side. It took him seven years to work his way up from that first herring barrel to having a pushcart operation, a horse and wagon, and then, in 1914, a brick and mortar store. The original store was on Orchard Street. In 1920, he moved the store around the corner to 179 East Houston Street, where it has been ever since."

Interesting fact: Joel had no sons and in 1935 he made his three daughters partners in his business. It was the first shop in America to have "& Daughters" in the name. At the time, it was highly controversial. Applause!

Liberty Bagels

Born: 1995

These guys have an award winning "everything bagel" but are often mentioned because of their rainbow bagels. They've also been chosen as the no. 1 bagel place by many connoisseurs and magazines/websites. 

Interesting fact: They were the first shop to make the now iconic rainbow bagels. They also tend to go all out for holidays and color their bagels to suit the holiday.

Our Bagels

We sell Swedish New York bagels made by Bageri BAK in Stockholm. They're handmade and incredible. Well, everything BAK does is incredible.

How can we sell fresh bagels from Stockholm? Easy. We freeze them as soon as they leave the oven. In Switzerland they arrive frozen and in the rest of the world thawed (but still cold) and ready for the oven.

We swear they're as good as the ones you find in NYC, otherwise, we wouldn't sell them. And unlike most store-bought bagels, these are hand made, not machine made.

Crispy, chewy deliciousness. That's all.

Already have fresh bagels? Buy the toppings. There's nothing like Swedish toppings, after all.