There are multiple theories as to why New York City bagels are the gold standard.
Some people will tell you it’s the perfect calcium-to-magnesium ratio of the New York City water used to make them, so much so that one of the most popular bagel shops in Colorado recreated the water for its recipe more than 1,700 miles away.
Others say it has much to do with hand-rolling the dough and letting it slowly ferment for up to days at a time — creating true depth of flavor — and then boiling it briefly before baking. This gives the bagel a chewy, glossy crust and doughy, soft interior.
“If it’s not boiled, it ain’t a bagel,” Dianna Daoheung, executive chef and head baker at Black Seed, told The Daily Meal. The renowned bagel shop has six locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, though the baking happens in the East Village and Nolita only.
Outside of New York City, many bypass the boiling process and opt for baking the dough straightaway in order to save time. To get as close as possible to tasting like the real deal, bakers might use dough conditioners or steam, Daoheung said — but this doesn’t create the same results. Instead, they’re just ring-shaped rolls.
Black Seed’s bagels aren’t truly New York-style, though. Unlike institutions like Ess-a-Bagel, Absolute Bagels and Tal Bagels, Black Seed makes a hybrid between New York bagels and Montreal-style bagels, which are smaller, crunchier, sweeter and more dense because they contain honey (instead of New York’s traditional malt) and are baked in a wood-fired oven. Black Seed’s bagels are larger than what you’d find in Montreal, and they also contain salt.
But technique isn’t the only reason Big Apple bagels reign supreme. With shops in every neighborhood, bagel culture is cutthroat, and competition between businesses is an incentive to keep quality high. If you’re looking for the holy grail, you’d be hard-pressed to find a roll with a hole as good as the bagels in New York. But there are delicious bagels that exist outside of the five boroughs, and here’s where you can find them.