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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Deal or no deal, our editors strongly recommend these businesses based on their reputation, popularity, and quality of service.