Quest for the World’s Best Bagel
Chelsea Bengier takes one (two or three...) bites for the team to bring you the ultimate bagel breakdown. Read on to find out which bakers are making the serious dough.
Austrian kaiser rolls. Chinese girde nan. Turkish simit. Finnish vesirinkeli. No matter how appetizing they are, none quite live up to the hype of the American bagel. As a self-identified carb connoisseur, I’ve tried my fair share of these doughy, delicious treats (and by that I mean every morning… and sometimes another in the afternoon). And while I would travel far and wide for a fresh blueberry bagel with a thick layer of maple walnut spread, others prefer the traditional (poppy seed, slightly burnt with nova lox) or the downright bizarre (rainbow-colored with funfetti cream cheese).
So, what makes a perfect bagel? For me, the best ones are soft on the inside, not too dense or chewy; toasted until golden with a slightly crunchy crust. It’s a tough balance to get exactly right, and even harder to pick favorites, but I took one (two… or three) bites for the team, so I could bring you the ultimate bagel breakdown. Here are the bakers making the serious dough.
Absolute Bagels, New York
To New Yorkers, bagels aren’t just a food staple — they’re a way of life. So, picking the top bakery, bodega, or street-stand in the city is no easy task. But if the obscenely long lines outside Absolute Bagels are any indication, this Upper West Side spot knows how to do it. Go for the classic, a toasted poppy seed with lox, tomato, red onion and a thick spread of scallion cream cheese.
The Bagel Store, New York
The wacky rainbow bagels at this popular Williamsburg deli look like something out of a Willie Wonka factory (if W had invested in wheat over sweets, that is). Pick from a wide selection of handmade cream cheeses like the birthday cake funfetti, bacon and cheddar, cannoli, jalapeño, spinach artichoke and more. And don’t forget to snap a pic of the colorful creations, perfect for your Instagram feed.
It’s not news that Montreal makes a mean bagel — the Canadian equivalents being skinnier and sweeter — and the ones here are no exception. Boiled in honey water then baked in the wood-fired oven, they’re crispy on the edges, but airy and warm on the inside. The sesame bagel is so good on its own, you don’t even need a topping (though a bit of butter never hurts!).
Schragels, Hong Kong
Owner Rebecca Schrage, the daughter of a New Yorker and a Hong Kong native, quit her day job as an investment banker to open a bagel shop. The recipe for her hand-rolled dough is a well-guarded family secret that was passed down from her grandfather, who owned a Jewish deli in New York through the 50s and 60s. We love the cinnamon raisin bagel and honey pecan cream cheese, sourced from New Zealand.
Green Cow City Cafe, Beijing
When you first open the heavy metal door of Green Cow, in the heart of Beijing, the last thing you expect to find is an American diner. But there’s a reason expats flock to this hidden gem: The bagels are some of the best around. Get an onion-flavored one freshly toasted with farmhouse herb cream cheese.
Max Bagels, Cape Town
Chefs Matthew Freemantle and Andrew Kai’s main goal was to introduce South Africans to new foods. So they opened Max, where they sell savory bagel sandwiches from the Reuben (pastrami, swiss cheese and sauerkraut) to the salt beef, pickle and mustard. Our favorite? The smoked turkey, brie, cranberry and rocket.
Photo by @saacery02