Bagels are a delight to eat — chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, with an array of different, delicious flavors, toppings, schmears, and fillings to choose from. Simply put, almost everyone loves a good bagel, emphasis on good.
A real bagel is a true delicacy — a perfect vehicle for both savory and sweet, delicious on the weekend or during the week. The best bagels are, undeniably, those that are hand-rolled and boiled before being baked in a wood-fired oven; skip any of those steps and you will surely be faced with a sad, doughy ball with a forgettable flavor and no crust to speak of. Don’t even mention those giant lumps of bread that just happen to be round and hole-y that one finds upon supermarket shelves (even the best supermarkets in America) in bags of six! Stay away! It’s not worth it! Buy a proper bagel instead!
“But how?” you might be asking. “I don’t live in the Tri-State area, and after all, the best bagels are only to be found in New York City, right?” Wrong. We scoured the internet, voraciously read reviews and reached out to locals in various states to come up with a concise list of some of the best bagels outside of New York City — hurrah!
Thirty miles north of Atlanta, Georgia, this bagel shop is quite possibly serving up the best bagel in the Southeast. BB’s bagels are hand-rolled and kettle-boiled, and come in plenty of varieties along with a wide selection of cream cheese flavors. But if you stick with the classics — namely the smoked salmon platter with a plain bagel, tomatoes, capers, onions, and cream cheese — you’ll know why BB’s is so high on the list. On the weekends they also bake fresh bialys.
At both Bagel Boy locations in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the bagels are made from scratch and freshly baked all day long. They use all-natural ingredients and boil their bagels before baking them to achieve the traditional and much loved texture of a “real” New York bagel.
Bialy’s Bagels is a no-frills Ohio bagel shop, serving up bagels and bagels only. Want it sliced? Do it at home. Want lox or cream cheese? Grab a package from the cooler. Want to pay with a credit card? Go somewhere else. Ask what’s hot and eat it right out of the paper bag.
All of the classic bagels served at Eltana in Seattle, Washington, are hand rolled, boiled in honey-sweetened water, seeded on both sides and then baked in the wood-fired oven. They have all of the usual suspects, from plain bagels to everything, poppy, sesame and more, but they also feature a Middle Eastern-inspired za’atar bagel every Friday if you are in the mood for something different. The Middle Eastern flair also makes an appearance in their spreads with offerings like ras al hanout-infused butter, harissa hummus, spicy garlic cream cheese, honey almond cream cheese, fig apricot compote, and more!
This Wisconsin-based bagelry boasts hand-rolled bagels, artisanal cream cheese, and fair trade coffee as well as a long list of whimsically named sandwiches to choose from, like the Bronx Bomber (Italian meats, provolone, greens, tomato, hot giardiniera) the O.M.F.G (bacon, fried egg, Cheddar, chicken cutlet, spicy aïoli) the Long-Guy-Land (roasted turkey breast, fontina, arugula, tomato, mayo) and the Yellow Cab (Cheddar, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, mayo).
You’d be hard-pressed to find a New York-caliber bagel in Chicago proper, but if you drive about 16 miles north you’ll come across Kaufman’s, which recently reopened after undergoing an extensive renovation due to a fire. Not only do they serve up the best bagel outside of New York, they’re also home to a full bakery and Jewish deli, making their own pastrami and corned-beef in-house. All the baked goods served here are made from scratch using the same technique since Maury Kaufman first opened it in 1955. Go for the chewy, just-dense-enough bagels, but stock up on other baked goods while you’re there; it’s also one of the best bakeries in the country.
Owners Janna (a 10-year food industry executive) and Pete (a native New Jerseyite and descendant of immigrant Eastern European bakers) seriously love bagels. After many, many visits to the East Coast and the subsequent trips home with suitcases stuffed full of NYC bagels, they decided to set up shop in Kansas City (they have locations in Missouri and Kansas). Their motto is “Bringing New York to Kansas City, one bagel at a time” — which they do with their home made bagels, made using artisan flour, a mix of yeast, malt, sugar, and salt, and the essential step of boiling their bagels before baking.
Roxane and David Tackett opened Morningside Bagels in in Arkansas in 2007 to satisfy their love for New York-style bagels. They make a wide variety of bagels (baked fresh daily) including apple cinnamon, Asiago cheese, honey oat, and spinach Parmesan as well as the classics like sesame, everything, and plain. The also serve “stuffies” (bagel bites with cream cheese baked inside) in various flavors.
Montreal native Loyd Squires began making bagels when he was just 15, learning the art of bagel making from Myer Lefkowitz, an Auschwitz survivor and master of wood-fired Montreal-style bagels. Their Burlington, Vermont, bagel shop menu features the classics — bagel with lox, for example (served with cream cheese, red onion, capers, and tomatoes) as well as more unusual offerings like the Conquistador, the Henchman, the McMyer (as seen on Man vs. Food), and the Ivan, to name a few!
Thirteen miles outside of Chicago is the New York Bagel and Bialy Corporation, which reportedly goes through over a thousand bagels every day. They’re dense, crusty, and chewy, and the best-seller is the "mish mosh," which is coated in poppy, caraway, and sesame seeds, dried garlic and onion, and salt, and is the perfect Chicago answer to the everything bagel. Bagels are just $0.75, and their selection of lox, smoked fish, and other "appetizing" is second to none. Oh, and they’re open 24 hours.
The certainly make a proper bagel at Proper Bagel in Nashville, Tennessee! Their bagels and bialys are made from scratch every day, kettle-boiled, and baked in their stone-lined oven. They strive to deliver their customers “old-school flavors with a new-school edge.” Their menu features delicious breakfast bagel sandwiches (like ricotta and egg with rosemary and chive spread or the New Yorker, which comes with a farm egg, bacon or local sausage, white American cheese, and ketchup), as well as bagels with homemade butter (butter pecan, fresh strawberry, and apple, to name a few), homemade jam, and custom cream cheeses (bacon jalapeño, lavender honey, Nutella peanut butter, and lox cream cheese with capers are among the array of choices). Yum!
Los Angeles, California is home to plenty of New York transplants, so when a phony bagel is placed before many Angelenos, they can tell the difference just by looking at it. Not so at The Bagel Broker, where bagels have been handmade since 1987 by two generations of the Tarnol family. There are some crazy flavors (jalapeño-Cheddar, etc.), but their plain bagel with lox and schmear is as good as any in New York, and they always seem to be fresh out of the oven. And we hear that they also make a mean bacon, egg, and cheese.
Beginning at 1 a.m. every morning, 20 varieties of bagels are made at The Bagel Factory in Missouri the same way that they’ve been made since 1974, getting a boil followed by a quick trip through a ripping-hot oven. The finished product is not too big, crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and sells for less than $1 each. It’s a small place with nowhere to sit, and it’s cash only, but with bagels this good, no frills are necessary. Another plus: They don’t toast. If you want it toasted, they make you do it yourself. Bagels this fresh don’t need reheating.
This whimsically named family-owned café was established in 1995 and has multiple locations throughout Mississippi. Their freshly baked bagels have been satisfying customers for over 20 years with a variety of sandwich options and a huge range of bagels to choose from. They offer an array of delicious bagels to choose from both classic (sesame, onion, everything, etc.) and less traditional (jalapeño Cheddar, sourdough, Asiago cheese).
Yes, it’s a bit of a gimmick to claim that the secret behind these bagels is that they’re boiled in "real Brooklyn" water, which is replicated in the Delray Beach, Florida, bagel shop’s own water treatment facility so it has the same properties as in the motherland. That said, these are still some high-quality bagels, and the fact that they produce their own water is a testament to just how faithful to the Old World style these bagels are. Crunchy on the outside and light on the inside, they’re so popular that there are already many locations, with more in the works.
In 2010, New Jersey native and former bakery supply salesman Scott Campanozzi opened Wholy Bagel in an unlikely place: Austin, Texas. His bagels, while of the larger variety, are made by hand, kettle-boiled, and generally are sold out by 1 p.m. every day. Are these the best bagels in the Lone Star State? We think so — and you can find the rest of the best food and drink in Texas here.
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