We’re on a lifelong mission to find and eat the best bagels in NYC! Read on to discover our favorites. Did your favorite make our list?
Bagels provide a looking glass into New York City and the culture of America as a whole.
Jewish immigrants from Poland most likely brought the original bagel concept to New York when they sailed to Ellis Island over a century ago. Over time, the bagel has changed and grown; in some cases it’s really grown.
Now, while traces of the bagel’s history can still be chewed and tasted, New York’s bagel has taken on new life. Much like New York pizza has grown and changed, bagels have evolved too. If you walk into New York’s most famous bagel emporiums, the varieties of available bagels are both astounding and overwhelming.
We adore eating bagels in the big apple and crave the New York food icon when we’re not there.
What Is A New York Bagel?
A true NYC bagel is rolled and baked properly. Its crisp crust has a slight crunch and the crumb isn’t too airy. It also has a slight yeasty flavor and sweetness. Traditional flavors include garlic, onion and poppy with new ingredients joining the fray with mixed reviews.
“…If God had wanted sun-dried tomatoes put into bagels, he would have put more bagel bakers in Italy,” said noted food writer and historian Ed Levine in 2003.
Levine had a point but we don’t fully agree. Like him, we’ve seen the world change and grow, especially through our travels which exposed us to bagels in disparate cities including Edinburgh and Shanghai. However, we feel the interplay of cultures can make food beautiful and tasty.
Growing up eating bagels may have hardwired us to crave an everything bagel with lox and a schmear, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate a rainbow bagel loaded with wasabi tobiko cream cheese every now and again.
Our Favorite Bagels In NYC
We bonded over New York City bagels the night we met and haven’t stopped eating them yet. It’s a shared passion that keeps us busy and fills our bellies every time we return to America’s largest megacity.
After years of bagel research in New York City and beyond, we’re now ready to share our picks for the best bagels in NYC.
Ess-a-Bagel is one of the great pioneers of bagel making. They’re Daryl’s first bagel love and one of the best bagels in New York City and therefore the world.
Are these bagels perfect? No. Some believe that a perfect bagel shouldn’t be too big, thinking that one person should be able to eat one bagel comfortably without feeling overly full. We don’t care. There’s something about the yeasty flavor, the density and way the bagel supports various toppings that makes it great.
Daryl can still recall walking just a few blocks from his brother’s apartment to the original location on 19th Street and 1st Avenue. (They’ve since moved across the street.) The long lines used to snake out of the simple shop on most Sunday mornings. After having one monstrous bagel, it became almost inconceivable to him that there could or even would be anything bigger or better than than the fresh bagels at Ess-A-Bagel.
He was wrong. Ess-A Bagel no longer bakes the largest bagels in NYC. Tompkins Square Bagels most probably owns that title now. But it doesn’t matter. These bagels are dense. They’re chewy. They’re not too sweet. In other words, they’re legendary.
Considering New York’s century long bagel history, Ess-a-Bagel’s roots are relatively recent, only dating back to 1976. That’s when doughnut shop owners Florence and Gene Wilpon and Florence’s brother Aaron Wenzelberg used their doughnut baking know-how to rethink bagel excellence. And for that, we are much appreciative.
Don’t be deterred by Ess-A-Bagel’s inevitable wait. These bagels are worth it.
Ess-A-Bagel has multiple NYC locations. We’ve eaten bagels at several and our favorite is located at 324 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10009, United States.
2. Absolute Bagels
We couldn’t help but notice a buddha shrine to left of the entrance when we walked into Absolute Bagels the first time. The shrine would be odd at most classic New York bagel shops but not here. After all, Absolute’s owner, Sam Thongkrieng, is from Bangkok.
Thongkrieng learned the bagel ropes at Ess-A-Bagels (see above) and other bagel shops before he opened his Upper West Side bagel shop in 1990. His bagels are outstanding despite his Southeast Asian heritage or maybe because of it. (Many of NYC’s best bagel rollers are Thai.) He also serves a great Thai iced tea.
We’re fairly sure that Buddha would include Thongkrieng’s bagels as one of his favorite foods – with tofu cream cheese, of course – if he lived in NYC today. We’re not so sure how he’d feel about the crowds of people who typically queue for Absolute’s bagels though.
The crew at Absolute arguably makes perfectly sized bagels for one person. They’re not overly dense nor overly large.
We couldn’t resist ordering a golden-yellow egg bagel during our first visit and, despite being tempted by the shop’s pimento cream cheese, we added a schmear of lox spread. We also ordered an everything bagel for ‘research’ purposes.
Both bagels were great. The egg bagel was easily the sweetest egg bagel we’ve ever tasted but it somehow stood up to the salty flavors of cream cheese and fish. The everything bagel was sparsely adorned but its crust was thick and chewy. We later returned and bought a mix of egg and everything bagels and froze them to eat later.
Plan to eat your bagel on the go since Absolute Bagels doesn’t have tables or chairs.
Absolute Bagel is located at 2788 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, United States.
3. Utopia Bagels
Open since 1981 and located off the tourist trail in a Whitestone (Queens) strip mall, Utopia is neither the oldest nor newest kid on the New York bagel block (or, in its case, parkway). There’s nothing remarkable about its nondescript space other than its outdoor tented seating.
And, yet, Utopia’s lack of curb appeal doesn’t stop crowds from streaming through its doors every day starting at 5am sharp.
The line for Utopia Bagels winds in a long yet rapid queue around the inside of the large store. While some people may consider this type of queue to be interminable, we didn’t mind the opportunity it gave us to scan the shop’s numerous racks with bins of everything, chocolate chip, rye, salt, and even pina colada (pina colada?!!) bagels stacked like spectators on bleachers at a nearby Mets game.
We also had time to check out the shop’s babka, cookies and drinks. Once we made our way to the front of he queue, we placed our bagel order with Utopia’s friendly counter staff.
And the bagels? They were excellent with a heft just big enough for a hearty one-person breakfast, brunch or lunch without being a total belly buster.
We ordered two bagel sandwiches during our visit. Daryl’s plain bagel had a substantial chew and dense crumb that complimented slices of smoked salmon and a generous schmear of cream cheese. Mindi went old school by ordering a sesame bagel sandwich topped with whitefish salad that tasted superior to supermarket blends served at many bagel joints.
We even compromised and ordered our first ever ‘rainbow bagel’ which, if you haven’t seen one yet, is a highly instagrammable bagel made with multiple strips of colored bagel dough (The rainbow bagel tasted like… a bagel!) However, we passed on ordering a pina colada bagel since that’s a flavor we’d rather drink than eat.
Don’t miss Utopia’s bakery section filled with various babkas, black & white cookies, eclairs, turnovers and knishes. These baked goods are ideal whether you’re hosting a brunch, headed to a brunch or simply have a sweet tooth
Utopia Bagels is located at 1909 Utopia Parkway, Queens, NY 11357, United States.
4. Murray’s Bagels
What hasn’t been said about Murray’s bagels?
These bagels have substantial size and heft. They have a dense crumb and chewy crust. The shop’s everything bagels are unique since the topping is applied to both sides of the bagel. When you bite into an everything bagel at Murray’s, the concentration of seeds, dried alliums and salt is substantial. It’s a bagel that you could certainly enjoy eating ‘open faced’ or one half at a time which is what many bagel lovers do here.
Adam Pomerantz, who previously worked in finance, opened Murray’s Bagels in 1996 to fill a need for great bagels on lower 6th Avenue between Chelsea and the West Village. Pomerantz’s bagel shop, which he named after his father Murray, has since become legend, with crowds of fans lining up for bagels all day, every day.
Murray’s makes classic New York bagels and sells them to New Yorkers at a convenient location. Chances are that you’ll be in Murray’s neighborhood at some point. It sits in a perfect position for a quick ‘grab and go’ before you head north on a subway to Penn Station or exit by car through the Lincoln or Holland tunnels.
While we’ve enjoyed eating their everything bagel many times, Murray’s was unfortunately out of everything bagels during our most recent visit. We had to ‘settle’ for a salt bagel with lox spread. After securing a spot at one of the shop’s outdoor picnic tables, we pressed forward and enjoyed what turned out to be a very good bagel.
5. Tal Bagels
The bagels at Tal Bagels would handily lose the hypothetical competition for the biggest NYC bagels. But who cares. These bagels prove that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to both bagels and life. And, to be clear, Tal’s bagels are far from petite.
However, Tal Bagels would certainly be a contender for the once again hypothetical best bagel fillings competition. Its compact shops offer a rainbow of cream cheese spreads as well as a cornucopia of cold cuts and a smoked fish fiesta.
Momentarily overwhelmed by Tal’s options and in need of coffee, we rallied and ordered a sturgeon sandwich on an everything bagel with tomato and scallion cream cheese. Premium priced at $17.95 plus tax at the time of our visit, the sandwich, with its generous amount of sturgeon, was a worthy splurge. Hey, it’s not like we eat sturgeon every day, much less every week, month or even year.
The staff at Tal Bagels slices sturgeon to order. It’s fun to watch and even more fun to eat.
Tal Bagels has multiple NYC locations. We at this bagel at the Upper East Side shop located at 1228 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10028, United States.
6. Black Seed Bagels
The Bagels at Black Seed Bagels combine elements of both New York and Montreal. Its bagels are both hand rolled in the New York style and wood fired like in Montreal. Founders Noah Bernamoff and Matt Kliegman, with roots in both cities, have created a unique product and niche.
The competition between New York bagels and their Montreal cousins is real. Some people prefer the Canadian version that’s smaller, sweeter and baked in a wood-fired oven. Others (like us) prefer America’s bigger, denser bagels baked in traditional ovens. But which is the better bagel and does it really matter? No, it does not.
Ironically, Black Seed’s chef doesn’t have roots in either Montreal or New York City. Instead, Dianna Daoheung was born in Florida and has Thai roots (a reoccurring theme in NYC). She’s now a partner and a two-time James Beard baking finalist.
Black Seed’s menu features signature sandwiches like the “Brick Lane” that channels beigel sandwiches we’ve eaten in London. It also features Stumptown coffee and Bushwick tea for those in need of a caffeine jolt. As for us, we went to Black Seed to taste their bagel.
We couldn’t resist ordering a poppy seed bagel at Black Seed, which appropriately had black seeds on both sides, and topped it with a schmear of lox & dill spread. While we loved the dill and salmon combination, we had to scrape off some of the tasty spread since it was overpowering its excellent bagel base.
Buy a bag of value priced day-old bagels if you have access to a freezer and oven.
Black Seed Bagels has multiple NYC locations. We ate this bagel at the Lower East Side shop located at 176 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10009, United States.
7. Tompkins Square Bagels
Tompkins Square Bagels is the brainchild of founder Chris Pugliese. He started working at Brooklyn bagel shops when he was only 15 and later set out to open a neighborhood shop where he could make bagels ‘the right way’ by hand, boiled in a kettle and baked.
Today, his shops use Cutler ovens, which are no longer in production, to produce Tompkins Square’s bagels. (Apparently, Cutler Ovens are one of the ‘secret weapons’ that New York bagel bakers use to create their unique product. NYC tap water is debatably another not-so-secret weapon.)
These bagels aren’t just big. They’re huge and dense and crusty. They could easily feed two people and did when we ate there. But the operation, which was founded in 2011, has a true East Village story that includes a special mosaic constructed by Jim Power, murals painted by Chico Art and changing art exhibitions on the walls.
Recently, some notable food writers have had issues with the lack of holes in New York bagels. Not us. While some New York bagels have certainly evolved away from holes, they’ve retained the elements that make the city’s bagels great. Tompkins Square Bagels has followed this trend.
In fact, if you were to visually inspect the East Village chain’s bagels, you would never know that a hole was supposed to be a defining bagel feature. In other words, the bagels at Tompkins Square look more like a rolls than bagels. However, their construction is still cylindrical and the chewy bagels have a well caramelized crust and the requisite dense crumb.
The menu at Tompkins Square has fun sandwiches like the Grieve with chicken cutlet, roasted peppers, mozzarella & onion and the Brooklyn Gino with pepper crusted sirloin, cheddar, onion & roasted peppers. The shop also has an extensive cream cheese selection that includes birthday cake, fig & honey, peanut butter nutella and scallion cream cheese which is what we added to our everything bagel along with lox.
We liked our bagel which, as previously noted, was more than big enough to share. Come to think of it, there’s something Italian-American about Pugliese’s bagels and the shop’s sandwich menu. It shows how far from their Jewish heritage New York bagels have come and, hopefully, how far they’ll go in the future. With or without holes
Don’t just check out the visual art at Tompkins Square Bagels. Also check out the art of bagel making in the open kitchen.
Tompkins Square Bagels has multiple NYC locations. We ate this bagel at the shop located at 165 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009, United States.
8. Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys
Morris Kossar and Isadore Mirsky didn’t invent bialys when they started baking round rolls on Ridge Street in the Lower East Side in 1936. That credit goes to 19th century Jewish bakers in Bialystock, Poland. However, Kossar and Mirksy certainly get kudos for popularizing bialys on the ‘left’ side of the ocean.
What Is A Bialy?
While bialys are round like bagels, they’re their own tasty thing. Bialys aren’t boiled and they don’t have holes. Instead, they’re baked in an oven are often topped with diced onion or garlic.
Some things have changed in the past 80+ years. The Lower East Side shop is now called Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys (sorry Isadore!) and is located on Grand Street on the same block as The Pickle Guys and the original Doughnut Plant shop. Plus, there are now multiple locations including shops at Hudson Yards and on the Upper East Side for those who don’t want to trek downtown.
For many, including us, visiting the original Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys is a fun experience that literally involves crossing Delancey. The Lower East Side has changed a lot over the past few decades and we always enjoy seeing what’s new in the neighborhood. Hello hipster bakeries and coffee shops! But the real special moments occur when we bite into the shop’s bagels and bialys.
Though we’d previously eaten bialys at Kossar’s, our recent visits involved both bagels and bialys. And, while we fully enjoyed eating a bagel topped with lox, it’s the onion bialy topped with lox cream cheese spread that had the wow factor. It’s not that the bagel was bad in any way. Rather, eating a real deal bialy is more unique.
Be sure to order at least one bialy when you visit Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys. Flavors include garlic, onion and sesame. Better yet, try all three flavors to find your favorite.
Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys has multiple NYC locations. We visited the Lower East Side shop located at 367 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002, United States.
9. Baz Bagel & Restaurant
Baz Bagels, owned by Bari Musacchio, stands out in a few ways.
First, Baz is a female-owned bagel operation. Second, the Lower East Side bagel shop sells DIY “bagel kits” with necessary New York bagel ingredients like bagel flour, malt syrup, seed mix and baker’s yeast. Third, and equally important, Baz sells the prettiest rainbow bagels we’ve encountered.
Rainbow bagels are integral to Baz’s operation. The bagel shop sells vividly colored bagels with shades of royal, emerald green and golden yellow twisted through every bagel. It also sells special custom colored bagels to those who pre-order special occasion bagels.
Baz Bagels sells blue and white bagels, celebrating Hanukkah, in December.
These rainbow bagels aren’t novelty bagels despite their psychedelic colors. They’re classic New York bagels baked using traditional bagel methods and have the kind of chew and crust that screams New York.
Baz Bagel’s cream cheese options are great too. The shop has unique spreads with wasabi and tobiko as well as beet and horseradish that pop with both color and flavor.
You can order customized tie-dye bagels, tie dye t-shirts and rainbow bagel baking kits from Baz Bagel’s user friendly website.
Baz Bagel & Restaurant is located at 181 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013, United States.
10. Bagel Corner
Since bagels are round, we’re guessing that Bagel Corner is named after its location and not its shape. The traditional bagel store is located at the corner of West 235th Street and Netherland Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. And guess what? It’s right near another bagel store called Riverdale Bagels and a famous deli called Liebman’s Kosher Deli.
The big, dense bagels at Bagel Corner are especially solid when they’re hot out of the oven. The same goes for the bagels at Riverdale Bagels and the rye bread at Liebman’s. However, they’re not worth a special trip unless your mother (or, in Daryl’s case, mother-in-law) happens to live in Riverdale. If that’s the case, we recommend the everything bagels. Whether or not you add a schmear is up to you.
Bagel Corner is located at 581 W 235th Street, Bronx, NY 10463, United States.
Liebman’s Kosher Deli is located at 552 W 235th Street, Bronx, NY 10463, United States.
Riverdale Bagels is located at 5650 Riverdale Avenue, Bronx, NY 10471, United States.
11. Bo’s Bagels
Harlem intrigues us with its rich African American history, striking architecture and eclectic restaurants. You may already be familiar with Lolo’s Seafood Shack (owned by our friends Ray Mohan and Skai Young) and Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. They’re just two of Harlem’s notable restaurants.
However, Harlem isn’t a neighborhood that made us think about delicious bagels – at least not until we checked out Bo’s Bagels on West 116th Street.
Andrew Martinez and Ashley Dikos were bagel pioneers when they opened their Harlem bagel shop in 2017. Today, they sell two sizes of bagels and a range of spreads as well as gluten free biscuits, chili and their own coffee blend.
You may have noticed that neither owner is named Bo. Apparently the owners got the name inspiration from Martinez’s kids as well as from their dog Bowser.
Bring cash. This bagel shop charged a 4% credit card fee at the time of our visit.
BO’s Bagels is located at 235 W 116th Street, New York, NY 10026, United States.
You may or may not choose to eat at Pick-A-Bagel considering other superior bagel options in NYC. But doing so was a must for us since it allowed Mindi to take a trip down memory lane (i.e. 2nd Avenue). The Upper East Side bagel shop, open since 1988, was part of a five year Saturday morning ritual that included two gym classes and a stop at the library.
Since she always ordered a salt bagel with low-fat tuna fish salad and a slice of tomato back in the day, we ordered the same thing during our most recent visit. While the ginormous bagel sandwich was merely solid, the memories it evoked were priceless. Yes, New York bagels can evoke memories. They’re that special.
Pick-A-Bagel sells white cookies which are like black & white cookies but without the chocolate fondant and vice versa without the vanilla fondant. Order one and thank us later.
Pick-A-Bagel has multiple locations. We ate this bagel at the Upper East Side shop located at 1475 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10075, United States.
Other Excellent Bagel Places In NYC
Some of the best NYC bagels aren’t sold at bagel shops.
We recommend continuing your NYC bagel exploration at the following institutions:
13. Russ & Daughters Cafe
Russ & Daughters became a go-to location for sliced lox when it opened in 1914; however it took a hundred years before there was a place to sit and eat that lox with bagels and other noshes. First cousins Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper opened Russ & Daughters Cafe in 2014 and haven’t looked back since. Today, the cafe is considered by many, including us, to be one of the best NYC restaurants.
While you could technically eat at Russ & Daughters Cafe without eating a bagel, that would just be wrong. All of the popular cafe’s fish boards come with an optional bagel which pretty much solves the issue before it becomes a problem.
Order a Super Heebster Bagel Toast starter. It’s bascially a toasted bagel slice that’s topped with a generous amount of whitefish and salmon salad and garnished with wasabi-infused roe and horseradish dill. It’s also delicious.
Russ & Daughters Cafe is located at 127 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002, United States.
14. Barney Greengrass
Bagels aren’t Barney Greengrass’ bread and butter, so to speak. The Upper West Side ‘sturgeon king’ has been serving Jewish comfort foods like smoked and pickled fish, potato latkes, blintzes and babka since 1908. Bagels are one of those foods.
However, it’s difficult to imagine a meal at Barney Greengrass that doesn’t include bagels. Those bagels are one of the reasons why the iconic deli was recognized by the James Beard Foundation in 2006 and named one of the New York Times‘ 100 best NYC restaurants in 2023.
The late Anthony Bourdain often paired a plain toasted bagel with a nova lox & egg scramble when he dined at Barney Greengrass – which is what he ate (plus a sturgeon platter) when he filmed his first season of his first show, A Cook’s Tour. While we never bumped into Bourdain at his favorite UWS deli, we did spot actress Amy Adams eating breakfast with her family there once. And, yes, bagels were on their table.
Order a bialy at Barney Greengrass if you’ve don’t have time to try a bialy at Kossar’s (see above).
Barney Greengrass is located at 541 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10024, United States.
15. Zabar’s Cafe
Zabar’s has been part of the Upper West Side fabric since Louis and Lillian Zabar opened their self-named appetizing store at 80th and Broadway in 1934. Originally just 22-feet wide, Zabar’s is now ten times bigger, commands its city block and sells much more than fish. And, as Seinfeld fans know well, two of its most beloved products are chocolate and cinnamon babka.
While it’s entirely possible to buy all the fixings to make bagel and lox sandwiches at home, Zabar’s has an easier option for travelers and people on the go – the Zabar’s Cafe. Not surprisingly, this cafe gets its ingredients from the Zabar’s store and those ingredients are good.
We ordered a Zabar’s classic nova bagel sandwich – a toasted everything bagel with nova salmon, onions, capers, tomato and cream cheese. The monster of a sandwich, big enough to share, wasn’t cheap. It cost us $14.95 and, with a capers jammed in the hole, was worth every penny.
You can and should use the restroom at the Zabar’s store since the Zabar’s cafe doesn’t have one.
Zabar’s is located at 2245 Broadway, New York, NY 10024, United States.
16. Orwashers Bakery
It only makes sense that Orwashers Bakery bakes and sells bagels. After all, the centenarian Upper East Side bakery specializes in a range of Jewish baked goods that includes rye bread, rugelach and babka. But bagels weren’t always on the Orwashers menu.
Keith Cohen started baking bagels after his 2008 purchase of the iconic Orwashers Bakery business. He and his bakers don’t follow the NYC bagel playbook at the artisan bakery. Instead, while they roll and bake their bagels, they don’t boil them. They also double dip their popular everything bagels in a seed mix before baking them.
The resulting round bagels have well-defined holes and not too much density. And the everything bagels have lots of seeds both inside and out. Lots and lots of seeds.
Pick up a cookie, a filled donut or a babka when you buy bagels at Orwashers. The bakery’s sweet treats are outstanding.
Orwashers Bakery has multiple NYC locations. We visited the bakery located at 308 E 78th Street, New York, NY 10075, United States.
Bonus – Murray’s Sturgeon Shop
Walking into Murray’s Sturgeon Shop is like stepping back in time. Open since 1946, this Upper West Side ship has plenty of smoked fish but no seating. Staff members cut the fish to order and wrap it in wax paper.
Sure, the shop sells things like deli meat, soups and salads and even bagels in addition to smoked fish. But smoked fish is why you need to pop your head into Murray’s Sturgeon Shop. Who knows? You may even leave with some fish.
Buy some pickled herring if that’s your jam.
Murray’s Sturgeon Shop is located at 2429 Broadway, New York, NY 10024, United States.
Additional NYC Bagel Places
New York is a big city. Keep the following additional bagel places in mind as you travel around different neighborhoods. Maybe one will be your new favorite:
New York Bagel FAQs
New York bagels get a water bath in boiling water before they’re baked. This extra steps creates bagels with crispy outsides and chewy interiors. They’re also big. Very big.
Move over plain and sesame! The everything bagel is the most popular bagel in NYC.
Top NYC bagel shops include Ess-A-Bagel, Absolute Bagels, Utopia Bagels and Murray’s Bagels.
The Westin in Times Square made bagel history when it introduced a $1,000 bagel with gold flakes.
Generally, a high quality bagel will stay fresh for about 6 hours or up to one day depending upon humidity. You can always freeze them to enjoy later. We reheat our frozen bagels in a 350°F/175°C convection oven, wrapped in aluminum foil, for 30-35 minutes.
Eat New York Bagels At Home
Order bagels from Goldbelly if you’re craving NYC bagels and related noshes.
Hungry For More In NYC?
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
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Original Publication Date: April 23, 2023