Tompkins Square Bagels
165 Avenue A
New York, NY
Sure, the rainbow bagel is cool and all, but Tompkins Square Bagels pretty much invented the novelty bagel sandwich. And unlike the rainbow bagel, their flavors are actually delicious.
How about a sesame bagel with wasabi cream cheese and smoked salmon, or a classic everything topped with bacon-scallion spread that’s made with real bacon? Or, for something sweet, a French toast bagel layered with their famous rainbow-sprinkle-filled birthday cake cream cheese, or a chocolate chip bagel with espresso cream cheese?
The bagels are hand-rolled, kettle-boiled, and baked to a lovely crisp—like true bagels should be. You can’t go wrong when you step in here.
New York, NY
On the Upper West Side lives a little bagel spot that neighborhood diners like to keep on the DL. Absolute Bagels makes slightly-smaller rounds of dough that have that snappy crisp on the outside and are nicely chewy on the inside.
This is the ideal place for you if egg bagels are your thing. Perfectly shiny and slightly sweet with a golden yolk-y color, these will change the way you think about egg bagels forever (meaning you probably won’t be satisfied by any other shop’s version ever again).
Do note, however, that this is not the place to get a dozen to go. Absolute Bagels’ bagels are best eaten hot and fresh—and preferably on a Sunday morning walk down Riverside Park.
831 3rd Ave
New York, NY
Having been open for an incredible 40 years, and as one of the last real kosher bagel spots in the city, Ess-a-Bagel knows what an NYC bagel is supposed to be.
These bagels are the definition of doughy– in a great way. Huge, dense, and thick-skinned, they’re practically made to be topped with whitefish salad or oreo cream cheese (not together, obviously).
Ess-a-Bagel’s bagels are not the cheapest in the city, with fish-filled sandwiches pricing upwards of $13, but the splurge is worth it.
Various locations in Queens (and Manhattan, but not Brooklyn)
Every neighborhood has a bagel spot that its residents have deemed “the best bagels in New York,” but Brooklyn Bagels in Astoria actually deserves its street cred.
While they bake up bagels that are a little softer than those at many other NYC spots, these bagels have just the right amount of chew. They often feature specialty flavored spreads like Nutella and cannoli cream, and always load on just a bit too much when you get some on a bagel. Brooklyn Bagel serves what might be the iconic NYC bagel of today: big, chewy, and flavorful.
If you don’t live near one, these shops might not be destinations you’d specifically travel to on a Sunday morning, but Brooklyn Bagels gets the “Actually The Best Neighborhood Bagel Joint” award.
400 7th Ave
There’s a reason they’ve been in business since the 80s: Bagel Hole makes the perfect bagel.
The bagels at this beloved Park Slope institution are a little more petite than the ones you might find at your corner shop, but that’s the size they’re supposed to be. Slightly smaller, deliciously chewy, and with a slight crusty crunch when you first bite into them, Bagel Hole bagels might be the best in the city.
And if you need any more convincing, Russ and Daughters once used them to build their bagel sandwiches before they started baking their own. That fact alone should probably put the competition to rest.