1. Bialy’s Bagels (University Heights, Ohio)
The story proceeds roughly as follows: In the 1960s, a Brooklyn-born baker in quest of an unexplored market chose Cleveland, perused the phone directory for Jewish-sounding last names, and began making phone calls to determine where he should establish his bakery. Terry Skolnick and his descendants ran the finest bagel shop in the area for more than thirty-five years, a shop that Rachel and Sarah Gross frequented as children and which inspired them to open their own establishment. This never occurred, which was for the best, because in 2017 they purchased Bialy’s and continued the tradition of producing some of the finest New York bagels west of the Allegheny River. Not only are everything (here known as a Mish Mosh) and sesame identical to the original, but they are frequently superior.
2. Bo’s Bagels (Harlem, New York)
A bagel is a bagel, it is not a pastry, but once you sink your fangs into one of the plain marvels at this new-wave Harlem institution, fresh from the Picard and glistening with butter, you’ll be dammed if the lines haven’t begun to fade, just a bit. The exterior’s crackling and bite, the interior’s exquisite delicacy, and the way it virtually melts on the tongue—there isn’t a better bagel in Manhattan right now, and if there is, it’s playing hard to get. Everything you sample at this modest, contemporary establishment on West 116th Street will likely be beautiful, from the most traditional to the most whimsical. (Elsewhere, a blueberry bagel might border on transgression, but here, it’s practically required, yielding delightfully acidic flavors that will linger on your tongue and in your mind for hours.) How else to express it? Ashley Dikos, Andrew Martinez, and their team are producing some of the finest New York-style bagels in the nation.
3. Brooklyn Bagel Bakery (Los Angeles, California)
When your father is one of the founders of the renowned New York Beigel Bakers Union, you may not want to be constantly judged, which is likely why Seymour Friedman moved west in the 1950s to pursue his bagel fortune. This modest, primarily wholesale business, which remained in the family until 2015, was a Beverly Boulevard landmark for generations, serving as a pillar of the stretch of the boulevard adjacent to downtown. Since then, the bakery has undergone renovations to make it more retail-friendly, but the bagels are still fluffy, approachable, and made in the traditional Los Angeles style. An essential element of bagel heritage on the West Coast.
4. Call Your Mother (Washington, D.C.)
Back in the early days of this “Jew-ish” deli, which has quickly become an institution throughout and beyond the District, you could roll up to Georgia Avenue for one of the country’s best bacon egg and cheese sandwiches, a perfect sesame bagel with a too-generous schmear, and great cappuccinos to boot. The prices were competitive, but did it matter when everything was so flawless? On its finest days, the diligent staff behind the counter produced nearly ideal modern New York-style bagels—not too small, not too large, confidently upright, and never congested within. There are now multiple stores, with more on the way, and the pandemic has presented the usual continuity-related challenges; however, on most days, the Everything bagels are still, well, everything.
5. Cleveland Bagel Co. (Cleveland, Ohio)
The direct route from New York to Ohio is over seven hours of mainly lonely, mostly bagel-less road; however, upon entering either of Dan Herbst and Geoff Hardman’s densely subscribed stores on a weekend morning, you feel as if you have hardly traveled any distance. (It is evident that Herbst has resided in New York long enough to know how a classic bagel store appears and operates.) Bagels are prepared in a traditional manner at this establishment; no-nonsense, nothing excessively elaborate, just excellent technique.
6. Courage Bagels (Los Angeles, California)
What better time during a pandemic to take your nascent business to the next level than Arielle Skye’s thoroughly modern bagels-by-bicycle plan? However, the clue is in the name. Skye has been incredibly dedicated to developing the kind of bagels she wanted to see in the world, regardless of what Angelenos and grouchy New York expatriates desired. These are brazenly rustic, sourdough bagels in what Skye refers to as the Montreal/California style—one of the most thrilling additions to a bagel scene that has evolved and expanded tremendously over the past decade.
7. Ess-A-Bagel (Manhattan, New York)
There are now only a handful of traditional mom-and-pop bagel bakeries left in Manhattan and even fewer in Midtown Manhattan; this makes the Wilpon family’s continuous cultural contribution more important than ever. Since the 1970s, they have been a colossal presence on the East Side, and you can now find them in three locations, including one near Penn Station. At first glance, these bagels appear to be like countless oversized, unimpressive, modern-day New York bagels, except that they are the finest of their kind, still made with far more care than most. The majority of people will be knocked unconscious by one with a schmear, but what a way to die! A cornerstone of many New York City pandemic coping strategies.
8. Feldman’s Bagels (Burlington, Vermont)
So endearing is the straightforwardness of this bright establishment on busy Route 7 as you approach the center of Vermont’s largest city, one of America’s best-kept bagel secrets. Why shouldn’t you expect a respectable New York bagel up here in the mountains, it seems to ask? Why, indeed—open for a few years without much attention-seeking, this is not one of those places that invite you on a voyage through the intricate process of their artistry; this is a place for excellent sesame with cream cheese, in and out, bing bang boom. There are four locations nearby.
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