"Bagel Famine Threatens in City" proclaimed The New York Times, "Labor Dispute Puts Hole in Supply". The date was December 17, 1951, and Bagel Bakers Local 338 was on strike: bad news considering demand over just one weekend totaled 100,000 dozen. The union continued to have the bagel-loving world at its mercy until the ‘60s, when bagel-making machines made their first appearance. Far from extinction, the tradition of the handcrafted bagel––boiled in alkalized water then baked to produce its crusty exterior and warm, chewy inside––is alive and well at these independent upstarts and old favorites.
Lower East Side: A Taste of New York History
Anthony Bourdain called Russ & Daughters' bagel with cream cheese, nova, and smoked salon the best meal he's ever had in New York. The "appetizer" shop has had a lot of time to achieve perfection: it's been hand-whipping cream cheese, hand-rolling bagels, and hand-selecting smoked salmon for nearly 100 years.
Multiple Locations: Fast and Fresh
Though the staff hand-rolls, boils, and bakes each of the 13 varieties of bagel each day, they rarely have time to admire their own handiwork. That's because the long-lines keep the fresh-baked buns flying off the shelves. A rousing “who's next?” gets customers in and out quickly.
Clearview & Auburndale: Bagels, Bialys, and More
There's no password to remember at Bagel Club. Thankfully, since your brain will be busy deciding between a bagel or its Polish cousin the bialy. Instead of a hole, the bialy has a slight depression, which is filled with sweet or savory ingredients before baking. The choices continue with a lineup of more than a dozen specialty spreads.
Chelsea: Traditional New York Bagels
The best bagel in New York City by more than one opinion, including those of Serious Eats and Arthur Schwartz, Bagel Hole's crew learned its craft from a baker who started making bagels in Germany in the 1940s. These are small, chewy, and crispy, properly boiled-then-baked—for many, the definition of a classic New York bagel.
Upper East Side: Bagels Anytime, Anywhere
H&H Midtown Bagels East refuses to deny any bagel craving, even if it's 3 a.m. or you live 1,000 miles away. Those in the neighborhood can pop in 24/7, and the shop will even overnight their bagels, smoked fish, and spreads across the country to give displaced New Yorkers a taste of home.
Gramercy Park & Midtown East: Hand-Rolled, Kosher Bagels
New York Magazine called these hand-rolled, kosher bagels "one of the city's best", citing their "flavorful, gnaw-worthy" crusts and "pillow soft" insides. Of course, it helps when you come from a long line of Austrian bakers, as owners––and brother and sister team––Aaron Wenzelberg and Florence Wilpon do.
Greenwich Village & Upper East Side: Baked All Day
The oven stays hot all day at Bagel Bob's so that the bakers can keep tossing in new batches of hand-made, boiled bagels in flavors such as cinnamon raisin and pumpernickel. And forget the baker's dozen: on weekends, an order for a dozen gets you no less than 15 bagels.
Kips Bay: Bagel Sandwiches
Everything's baked in-house at Bagels & Schmear—the traditional black-and-white cookies, the apple danishes, and, of course, the bagels. Baked salmon and white fish salads, honey mustard tuna, and even omelettes make for a more substantial stuffing than cream cheese, though there are plenty of schmears––at least 7 varieties––as well.
Multiple Locations: Organic Options and Unusual Spreads
In addition to the usual flavor suspects, these bakers craft 100% organic spelt-flour bagels, as well as a whole-wheat oat-and-raisin variety. More than a dozen spreads include flavored butters, jelly, and cream cheeses such as baby dill, bacon scallion, and blueberry.
Upper West Side: Worth the Wait
It'll cost you an extra dime if you want your bagel toasted here—but the quick-moving lines are tackled with such speed that your bagel won't have been out of the oven long by the time you get your teeth into it. Come prepared: those hot bagels are cash only.