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Spending time in New York City and not having at least one NY bagel should definitely be a sin! One of the most quintessential culinary NY experiences most definitely is having a NY bagel with schmear. (They do not mess around when it comes to the amount of cream cheese!) Seriously New York (NY) Bagels are famous for a reason. New York City is the city that doesn’t sleep so do not sleep on your opportunity to experience them. Especially if they’re piping hot and fresh (which they usually are!) Even if there’s a line, it usually moves pretty fast.
The main question many people ask is who has the best bagel in NYC. But, also what makes a NY bagel better than any other bagel. The main ingredient that sets NY bagels apart is the NYC water used to make them. Another distinguishing factor is the fact that they boil them versus baking. All of these factors play into why NY bagels are at a level above any other bagels worldwide. The battle of who is the best comes down to preference. Are you a bagel purist? Or do you like off the wall trendy, fun and inventive flavors or spreads? There are many great places to try out bagels to make an assessment on your own of where you have to eat a NY bagel.
Must visit NY Bagel Shops in NYC
There are so many different bagel shops in New York City. It really depends on your preferences and flavors you like the best as to what you’ll enjoy more. Some are more basic and some have crazy off the wall flavors of cream cheese and bagels alike. Really it could also be what you’re in the mood for too! Every shop we visited I tried a different combination to keep things interesting. While planning what bagel shops to try out, I referred to none other than the Food Network’s best bagel list. (I also kept in mind recommendations from some of my foodie friends via DM on Instagram.)
Many of the bagel shops were very overwhelming with all of the options. It was hard to decide exactly what to try. I definitely regret not trying a pizza bagel or Rueben bagel where available at some of the below spots. But, there’s always next time and many more NY bagels to be eaten as NYC is a favorite place of mine to explore. But lets talk about the specific bagel shops and what we tried and my thoughts.
Ess a Bagel
Ess a Bagel was recommended on the Food Network’s list as well as by some other foodie friends. So, I knew it had to be on the list of must try bagel spots for a NY bagel in NYC.
Location(s): 831 3rd Ave New York, NY
Bagels tried: Sausage egg & cheese breakfast sandwich on whole wheat everything & whole wheat everything with olive spread.
Other options and flavors available: Ess a Bagel has a good option of different but yet more basic bagel varieties. For example plain, everything, sesame, nine grain, whole wheat everything, poppy, pumpernickel, garlic, onion, salt & cinnamon raisin. The spreads available range from standard to adventurous. For example some of the offerings included everything, oreo, raisin walnut, banana nut and sun dried tomato.
Review/Compare: Delicious! I loved that they had olive cream cheese (which is one of my favorites & not always easy to find.) However, if you want really adventurous off the wall flavors, Ess a Bagel probably isn’t the best option in that regard. But, this is a solid place and if I wanted the olive cream cheese this would be my first choice. Also offering delivery & pickup is a consideration as well!
Tompkins Square Is known for having really creative and off the wall cream cheese flavors. The line is usually long no matter when you visit, but it’s well worth the wait! But keep in mind they also will ship all over the USA. (So you could have a piece of NYC wherever you are!)
Location(s): Two locations
1) 165 Avenue A
2) 184 2nd Ave (Between 11th & 12th Street.)
Bagels tried: Bagel Sandwich (that I can’t remember the name of for the life of me!) that had a shredded pork, tomato, cheese and a chipotle spread on an everything bagel and a French toast bagel with pumpkin cream cheese. Both were amazing! My husband always tended to get bagel sandwiches and I got bagels with spread but especially at Tompkins Square after trying his sandwich I was kicking myself for not ordering a bagel sandwich as well. (Even though the french toast bagel with pumpkin cream cheese was so amazing.)
Other options and flavors available: There are many sandwiches available as well as build your own options with many different combinations. It can be quite overwhelming! One of the things I noticed was in comparison to other places there were a lot of sweeter options here including blueberry, chocolate chip & french toast bagels. A few of the different sweet spreads I saw included apple cinnamon, fig & honey, cookie dough and snickers. Even the basic bagel offerings seemed way more comprehensive with a great addition of sourdough being available. There were many tasty savory spreads as well including bacon scallion, lox dill and chipotle avocado to name a few.
Review/Compare: Amazing! Both the sandwich and sweet combination were delicious. I would say just due to the amount of options available and how tasty what we tried was that this was my favorite NY bagel shop. It was so hard to choose what to try. It will be my first bagel stop on a return trip!
If you’re more of a bagel purist, Kossar would definitely be a shop to head to.
Location(s): 367 Grand Street on the Lower East Side.
A convenient location if you are in the Battery park area or checking out Canal Street.
Bagels tried: Bacon egg and cheese on an everything bagel and a pumpernickel with everything spread.
Other options and flavors available: In comparison to other NY bagel shops, this was definitely the most basic with only a few options. However, what we did try was amazing! Just if you want more options and variety I would say go elsewhere.
Review/Compare: Kossar is an NY bagel institution. Not crazy off the wall offerings, just basic but really good! They didn’t have as many choices for schmear/cream cheese so because of that, I wouldn’t pick this as my favorite. But, if I was nearby I wouldn’t hesitate to pop in.
Other NY Bagel shops
There are so many different bagel shops in NYC it seriously would take forever to eat them all (especially after spending a long weekend there!) But definitely be sure to sample a few to compare and figure out what your favorites are. It may be a good idea to consider if you want more of a basic but good experience or all of the options and off the wall flavors. Speaking of off the wall flavors, one bagel shop in NY I didn’t get to but have wanted to visit for a long time is The Bagel Store.
The Bagel Store
Although technically not in Manhattan, in the nearby borough of Brooklyn where The Bagel Store is located. The hours are very limited so keep that in mind when planning to visit. The Bagel Store took the internet by storm several years ago with their fun and colorful “Rainbow bagels”.
Location(s): 69 5th Ave, Brooklyn NY
Other options and flavors available: From crazy colorful glittery rainbow colored bagels to twists on some of your NY bagel favorites, The Bagel Store has all of those available as well as a cross between a croissant and bagel or rather the “Cragel”. During different holidays and seasons, they offer different colors and festive offerings of the colorful Rainbow bagels. The menu is quite extensive having offerings beyond even bagels.
NYC Food tours
A great way to try some great food including NY bagels is by booking a food tour. NYC has amazing food so a food tour is a great way to maximize your time trying out all of the deliciousness! Some of the below bagel and food tours are great options.