Where are the best bagels?

Professor Ceiling Cat is in bed with a sore throat today, feeling grotty, but that’s okay as I have work to do (a book to review for a journalistic venue), and The Boys are out fishing on the boat—an activity for which I’m useless.

While browsing on the Internet during a break, I did find this video, however: a comparison of Montreal versus New York bagels. Yesterday we went to a place in Apalachicola that advertised “genuine New York water bagels” (real bagels are boiled before they’re baked). I asked to see them before getting one, and one glance revealed that they were the oversized soft pillows that pass for “bagels” in America today. I asked for pie instead.

To a bagel maven, the only genuine bagel is said to be the New York style bagel: small and chewy. Those are rapidly disappearing from even that city, although I’m told that one place (H&H) makes the real thing. But when I visited Montreal about two years ago, my friends Anne-Marie and Claude took me to one of the two famous bagel shops in their city, Fairmount Bagel (see pictures of our visit here).

As I wrote at the time, Montreal bagels are made by an involved artisanal process, which includes being formed by hand:

Montreal bagels are made by hand using unbleached flour. They’re boiled in water with a touch of honey, and then baked in a wood-fired oven. They are then topped with sesame seeds (the classic topping), and come out toothsome and chewy—not the soft, oversized donuts you find in the U.S. They’re the real thing—the kind you used to be able to buy in New York during the Pleistocene.

I haven’t tried all the “authentic” bagels sold in New York City, but I’ve had a fair few, and I’ve had Montreal bagels at just one place—the Fairmount. And I have to say that the Fairmount beat them all. That’s also what I conclude from this brand new video comparing bagels from the two cities.

I don’t remember having H&H Bagels in New York, but, looking at the video, they look way too soft and puffy for me. Plus they have odd flavors of bagels, and we all know that there are only two (possibly three) echt bagels: plain, sesame seed, and possibly onion. Others, including the dreaded Blueberry Bagel, are to be scorned, while cinnamon raisin bagels are not a nosh but a dessert.

Watch and learn—and go to a genuine bagel shop when you’re in Montreal. If you get them warm, as we did, you can’t resist eating one directly from the bag, sans cream cheese, before you slather the schmear on the others. But there’s one guarantee: you won’t get them home before you start eating them.

104 Comments

  1. Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Fairmount rules. (that is a period) Some sun and warmth forecasted for the weekend and I have things to do over there. It will be a stop!

  2. Bill Morrison
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    New Jersey has the best. A friend of mine, a displaced person from Lviv, Ukraine, told me of having watched a bagel baker kneading the dough with his feet. Bagels were not entirely made by hand.

  3. Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    In Los Angeles the best bagels are made at Western Bagel. The main factory which has a small storefront is on Sepulveda Blvd. at Stagg Street in the San Fernando Valley but they have other locations in the greater LA area.

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I live in the LA area and have never heard of Western Bagel. Unfortunately, they don’t have any locations anywhere south of downtown. (I live in Long Beach.) I look forward to trying them someday.

      • Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        Where in LB? I spent a lot of time for a former employer in Seal Beach. In that Radisson right on the PCH there (now the Pacific Inn). Walked to the Abbey and Walt’s Wharf most nights. And the beach. And the roller-blade trails up the rivers.

        • Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          We live near Cal State University’s East entrance at Anaheim and Palo Verde. Walt’s Wharf is one of our favs.

          • Posted April 18, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

            Cool. I was working at Carson and Lakewood – at Boeing. I went through the (infamous) traffic circle every day.

            You are a stone’s throw from where I was staying.

            Lovely area (in my opinion). But how do you afford housing? 🙂

  4. Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Love me a good bagel! Actually, I often choose a bialy which is bagel-adjacent.

    When I was in college at USC, we used to go to Brooklyn Bagels on Beverly, often late at night after some drinking (and when we didn’t want a Tommy’s burger). It was more a factory than a store. The freshly made bagels were stored in supermarket-style shopping carts, one per bagel style. I’m sure they weren’t the best bagels in the world but they were way better than those pillows that you mention or the awful ones at grocery stores and even at some dedicated “bagel” stores nowadays.

  5. Historian
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I grew up in NYC and remember what real bread and bagels taste like. Here in Chicago good bread is hard to find. Most of it is soggy crap. I have one cardinal rule about buying bagels: NEVER buy the packaged variety. They are inedible!

  6. TJR
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Certainly not in Britain! You’d probably guessed that, though. We just get godawful packaged ones.

    You’re always better off with an authentic British baguette.

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      We have a hard time getting a good crumpet over here in the US. Not to mention good British sausages, pork pies, etc.

      • Posted April 18, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        I worked with some ex-pat Brits at Boeing (Seattle) and they brought in packaged crumpets, which we toasted and slathered with butter and jam.

        I have no idea if they were authentic; but I loved them!

        I forget the brand; but they may have been Sharrock’s.

        • Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

          I’ve had a few that aren’t terrible. The ones from Trader Joe’s aren’t too bad. Still, not like the real thing.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Not true. Beigel Bake in the east end of London is famous for its bagels. It’s a long way to go if you don’t live nearby…but by golly it’s worth it. The best salt-beef bagel I’ve ever had: an obscene wodge of meat with lovely hot mustard and pickle, in a bagel. Nothing else. And there are plenty of other good bagel shops in London too.

      I don’t know what it’s like if you visit the more deprived, remote, backwards areas – wastelands like ‘Bir-ming-ham'(a small city in the north east) or ‘Lei-cester’ – but since the people in such places mainly eat animals which they have just poached from their masters’ estates it’s unlikely to be worth investigating.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 17, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        “wastelands like ‘Bir-ming-ham'(a small city in the north east) the people in such places mainly eat animals which they have just poached from their masters’ estates it’s unlikely to be worth investigating”

        Get your geog right you soft southern Jessie! ‘Brum’ is in the Midlands & only 118 miles north west of Loondon. The rest of your analysis is broadly correct – it takes skillz to find the best Brummie eateries & we are sorely lacking real bagels. There’s a Loondon chain that’s tiptoed into Brum, called BAGEL FACTORY who are touting a NYC-style bagel, but the photos aren’t promising [take a look].

        I’m off out now to catch some canal towpath rats for supper.

        • Posted April 17, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          Just my opinion based on a photo but they don’t look that bad to me. They are not those bloated things one gets at the supermarket.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted April 18, 2018 at 6:19 am | Permalink

          North-east/midlands, there’s not a great deal of difference. Jimmy Nail/Noddy Holder, ditto. We southerners pride ourselves on not knowing what’s happening more than a mile north of Islington. 🙂

  7. Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I don’t know where the best bagels are, but I can tell you it is not in Seattle. The bagels here suck.

    • Paul S
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      The best shark I’ve had was in Seattle, so there’s that.

      • dabertini
        Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        That’s ok. You get lots sun shine.

  8. Ben
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of an old Emo Phillips joke:

    Phillips was having breakfast with his sister and her husband, a German man. He complained, that back in Germany you can’t get good bagels. Phillips replied, And whose fault is that?

    • Martin X
      Posted April 18, 2018 at 2:11 am | Permalink

      Ouch.

  9. David Harrison
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Fairmount absolutely does rule, but if you’re in the Toronto area, there’s a place downtown that makes pretty good Montreal-style bagels. It’s St. Urbain bagel at the St. Lawrence Market on Front Street East. It’s about a five to ten minute walk from Union Station.

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      That’s amazing – I would have thought Torontonians would want to preserve their “bagel identity”.

    • Quadrivial
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      St. Urbain are very good, but I would still give the nod to authentic Montreal bagels.

    • Vaal
      Posted April 18, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Yup. I live pretty close to the Market and regularly pick up the St. Urbain bagels there.

      Those bagels, with cream Cheese from Alex’s Farm a few steps away, topped by the gravadlax or vodka smoked salmon from Dominick’s (steps from St. Urbain) are a heavenly combination. The best smoked salmon bagels I’ve had anywhere.

  10. David Harrison
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Fairmount absolutely does rule, but if you’re in the Toronto area, there’s a place downtown that makes pretty good Montreal-style bagels. It’s St. Urbain bagel at the St. Lawrence Market on Front Street East. It’s about a five to ten minute walk from Union Station.

    • dabertini
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Yes David!! There is also a St. Urbain bagel in Thornhill, which is at the north end of the city. And you are right. Their bagels are the real deal. I love their flat bagels with sesame seeds or poppy seeds toasted with peanut butter and jam. Valhalla on Earth!!

  11. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    A few people here denigrating British bagels, but there are some fantastic bagels in London.

    I went to the famous Beigel Bake in Brick Lane for the first time last month and had their salt-beef bagel.
    It’s very brisk, no-frills, even though loads of celebrities go there, and you walk out with something the size of an armadillo clutched in your hands.
    Very basic and simple, just mustard, bagel, pickle slices and three or four enormous slices of hammy salt-beef. They’re famously rude, just staffed by surly Soup-Nazi-lites, but no-one seems to care because the food is so good. Just writing about it is setting me off.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Just tell me why I can’t get fish and chips here like I could get almost anywhere in England.

      • Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Even in England the fish and chips have gone downhill since my childhood. I went to someplace in London (I forget the name) that advertised itself as the best fish and chips in England (or perhaps it was London) but it was mediocre at best. I’m guessing there still are good fish and chips to be had somewhere in England but I didn’t find any on my last trip.

        • dabertini
          Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          I heard the best fish n chips are in Scotland, but I’m not a Brit.

          • Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I’ve heard that too. Have to go soon!

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          People are always tempted to ‘improve’ fish and chips, by serving it on a slate, and separating the batter and fish, or turning the chips into artisanal potato-wafers, or any number of arrogant ideas in that vein. Other countries take pride in the simplicity of their traditional meals, and focus on that, but we have an inferiority complex, and are fixated on making everything more posh and pretentious.

          • Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            I know exactly what you mean. While it is possible for some new formulation to succeed, most attempts are abject failures. I prefer the simple, authentic, traditional versions.

        • Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

          I’ve had success with Fish and Chips at the Sea Shell in Marylebone (there’s a pub next door where you can have your meal with a real ale), but the best I’ve had in Britain has been in St. Ives, served with mushy peas.

          • Craw
            Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

            Best F&C I ever had was a small shop just off the harbour in Dover.

            • Craw
              Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

              Castle Takeaway, Castle Street

          • Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            Thanks! I am obviously going to have to keep track of all this good info for my next visits to England, New York, and Montreal. Bagels for breakfast and fish and chips for lunch or dinner!

      • alexander
        Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps they don’t smell of the printing ink on the newspaper wrapping in which they are sold in England.

        • Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think they have done the newspaper wrapping in years for health reasons. I could be wrong as I don’t live there anymore.

          • alexander
            Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

            They did during the 1990s.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          I liked the good old days, when they served your chips in a cone made of asbestos, and garnished it with iron filings. People now complain about everything.

          • Craw
            Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

            You tell young people that and they don’t believe you.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        Where’s “here” Randall?

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted April 17, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          Sorry I was out of touch for a time. I don’t think the “here” was the problem, maybe the when. I was in England from Feb. 1969 until May 1972. Mostly around a place called Lakenheath, very nice fish shop there but all over from Norwich to London. From New Market to Cambridge.

      • Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        A few places we loved in the UK (2015):

        North Sea restaurant near King’s Cross. My son’s first encounter with English F&C and he is a changed person.

        The Lord Nelson pub in Brightwell Baldwin, Ox.

        The White Cliffs Hotel, near Dover, St. Margaret’s at Cliffe

        We got excellent F&C at these places.

        Also the Admiral Codrington, Chelsea

        Now, maybe it’s because I am not English that I though the F&C was great. But it was. I’ve eaten fish all around the world.

        We ate very, very well in England in 2015.

        • alexander
          Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps someone remembers the fish and chips restaurant on the main drag through Islington in London. It had some weird drawings of a bunch of hair standing on four feet on the wall. You couldn’t figure what was the front and back. And then suddenly this heap of hair was standing next to us, begging for little bits, its nose sticking out of all that hair on one end.

      • Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Randall: Surprisingly, Red Robin’s “Arctic Cod and Chips” is quite good, in my opinion. They also make an excellent coleslaw, which I sub for the chips (as much as I love fried potatoes, they just can’t be part of my diet anymore.)

        I am not a chain store patron by any means; but their F&C is good. (Terrible atmosphere of course! TVs!)

        Most places I’ve tried on the Oregon coast do excellent cod & chips. Bandon, OR, in particular nailed it, at least the places we tried. And The Wayfarer in Cannon Beach, OR (get reservations). The Wayfarer has the best crab cakes I’ve ever eaten.

        I live in Minnesota, and if I want good F&C, it’s usually Red Robin(!) or I make it myself from flash-frozen cod. (Beer batter recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.) Walleye is also excellent. 🙂

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted April 17, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          Are you speaking of Red Robin, the franchise place? Kind of known as a gourmet burger place? We have one nearby but have never been. If they do F&C, I will try it.

          The best Walleye I ever had was out of a lake in Canada and made shore lunch. But that is another story.

          • Posted April 17, 2018 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

            When we had a family get-together at a restaurant, we sometimes went to Red Robin at my late mother’s suggestion since she liked the fish and chips there. Sorry, Mom, but it was only so-so. Not bad for a chain restaurant but nothing to write home about. Although born and raised in England, she was not really an overly picky foodie like me.

            • Posted April 18, 2018 at 7:20 am | Permalink

              Hi Paul,

              What is deficient in the F&Cs there?

              I find them quite good. Smaller pieces than in England (where we tended to get one huge fillet, oh yeah!); but otherwise, I find both the fish and the batter to be very nice.

              Batter is crisp but not hard, not too thick, tasty. The fish tastes very fresh and nice (it’s Pacific Cod, I think).

              My son goes for the malt vinegar, even, which they provide.

              Maybe it’s just our local outlet; but we’re about as far as one can get for the ocean in the USA, here in Minnesota.

              • Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

                It’s a certain taste in the batter, the crunch, but mostly the moistness and freshness of the fish. Red Robin’s fish is probably frozen and comes from some mass-market warehouse, not directly from the fish market. It is on the higher end of what I would call “industrial fish”.

                I also remember from my childhood that a typical fish and chip shop had about 7 kinds of fish! There was cod which I believe was the most popular. But there was also haddock, skate (my father’s favorite but the bones are just too fiddly), halibut, sole, and I forget the rest.

                The stuff at Red Robin is certainly edible, as I said, but the real thing is in a whole different league. We even ate leftover, cold fish and it still tasted good.

              • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

                Paul, thanks for your reply. I certainly agree that it isn’t the same as the F&C we got in the UK (nothing else is! The UK has the best F&C I’ve had!)

                But, very acceptable to me.

                The F&C we got in Bandon OR is in my memory as the best US F&C I’ve had. Which is kind of interesting, since Bandon is a tourist trap.

                The Bandon (and The Wayfarer) had a whole range of rish available too. My personal preference is for cod. For F&C. I like halibut (really fresh halibut, right off the boat), grilled as the best fish eating I know of. Well, except for lox! 🙂

              • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

                I love lox also but not battered or with chips. Just kidding.

          • Posted April 18, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink

            Yes. Do try it. Our local outlet makes very nice F&Cs.

            Yes, walleye fresh from the stringer/live box to the pan is best!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 17, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        In England today the best fish & chip shops are, on the whole, run by Greek-Cypriot families. They understand the importance of chipping the potatoes oneself, soaking the raw chips in water for an hour, pre-frying & final frying in HOT ANIMAL fat that hasn’t been used already for frying chicken, fish etc.

        The various families span the country in chains of linked businesses. A similar specialist niche to Italian-owned post-WWII ice cream businesses in Scotland.

  12. Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    There was a factory front near the Intrepid in newyaak. Forget what the name and street were. Fresh. Salt. Bagels.

  13. Liz
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    The Montreal bagels look really good. I wasn’t sure from the video if that one place in NYC boils them in water. Most of the places I know of hand roll and boil because you can see them doing that when you walk in. Here are five places off of the top of my head.

    Bagelicious, Ridgewood, NJ

    Buono Bagels, Ramsey, NJ http://www.buonobagels.com/

    Goldberg’s Famous Bagels, Wyckoff, NJ
    http://www.gfbwyckoff.com/

    Midland Bagel Emporium, Midland Park, NJ

    Bagel Nosh, Waldwick, NJ

    Some don’t have websites and might seem like just a hole in the wall. That’s where the best bagels are.

    Bagel Nosh in Waldwick makes a lox wedge that is amazing. It is on an everything flagel (a bagel without all of the dough) with scallion cream cheese, onions, tomato, lox, and hot cherry peppers. They cut it into thirds or quarters.

    I’ve lived in West Hartford, CT, Buffalo, NY, and Springfield, Worcester, and Somerville, MA. These places do not have good bagels. There are either frozen bagels or maybe a Bruegger’s Bagels store. I don’t consider those good bagels.

  14. Dean Reimer
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    As soon as I saw it was a bagel maker vs an “operations manager” I knew it was no contest.

  15. Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I can say where not to find a good bagel: the state of New Mexico. Green chilies yes. I miss good bagels.

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Believe me, that’s my next stop and I’m not looking for bagels there.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      Kevin, not sure where in New Mexico you are. There is a place in Rio Rancho that has bagels that do not totally suck. It is the Bagel Deli and Bakery. Lots of things wrong with their bagel, but they are tolerable.

  16. Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    As a Montrealer by origin, who has enjoyed bagels from my original city for his entire life, woohoo!

    I for one love them with swiss cheese and that Bulgarian pepper spread, for example. Or (when I still bought cold cuts), ham. (!)

    Tomato and mayonnaise and cucumber too.

    Or “Cracker Barrel” sharp spreadable orange cheese.

    And yes, “Philadelphia” cream cheese. 🙂

  17. Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never had a “proper” bagel I guess.

    I eat a packaged one every morning: David’s Deli brand. Plain. They have some tooth to them and they taste good. I give them a good toasting before I spread cheese on them and gobble them down (only one per day).

    They may not be a peak dining experience; but I like them. (And I’ve found purported peak dining experiences overrated at times.)

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, after reading the post and comments, I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper bagel either. I’m looking forward to it, but not really trying. Is an internet purchase feasible?

      I guess that last question is for all the readers on this thread. Surely you can get a good bagel even if it’s frozen…? Dunno.

      • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        A Montreal bagel at least loses something even in a few hours, never mind being frozen.

        There’s a “chewiness” which goes away.

        (That’s why I find the “Montreal style” places here in Ottawa not quite right – and then they offer to toast them, which is weird.)

  18. kevin7alexander
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    My daughter went to school in Montreal. It was a twelve hour drive to get the bagels so sometimes I would stop by to see her.

  19. Roger
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I just realized I never made bagels before and I have no excuse. They look kinda easy to make. (Famous last words lol.)

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      No, they aren’t hard to make. I’ve made them.

      • Roger
        Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

        Gonna try it soon!

      • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Supposedly there’s a trick to the right sort of oven, but that might be a superstition.

  20. Mack
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Fairmount is great – for sure. H&H in NYC was the best West Side bagel but I hear they aren’t the same as they used to be. However, you can have them overnighted anywhere:

    https://www.goldbely.com/handh-bagels/two-dozen-bagels

    New York Bagel & Bialy Co. in Skokie isn’t bad – you’ll find them all over Chicago. Chicago, of course also has Hipster Bagels: http://bagelchefchi.com

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Thanks…I just asked this question (e-commerce availability) up-thread.

  21. Laura
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    H&H used to be the best. But they closed in 2009. The H&H that exists now is under completely different ownership, and I haven’t tried their bagels. My favorites are Absolute Bagels, near Columbia, and Ess-a-Bagel. But as I now live in the left coast, I mostly go without. Brooklyn Bagel Bakery was decent, but they closed. I’ve found I can make pretty good bagels at home; it just takes a couple of days. I’ll have to try Western Bagel!

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Brooklyn Bagel Bakery still has a website and it sounds like they plan to bring the retail outlet back. It’s too far for me though. Here in Long Beach the best I’ve found is East Coast Bagel Company but they aren’t as good now as they once were.

  22. Martin Levin
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Montreal-style bagels rule; all chewy deliciousness. And you can get them in Toronto. I went to H&H in New York, having heard raves, but just found them doughy, over-stuffed, and over-priced.

  23. Posted April 17, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Her in the SF Bay Area, the best bagels IMHO are made by House of Bagels, a small chain. I grew up in New York City, and while my memory inthsi regard is not reliable, I seem to recall that New York bagels were quite similar to HoB. These are boiled, of course, and chewy and not too large. So they meet at least some of the Coyne Criteria.

  24. Posted April 17, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious – how come Boston isn’t mentioned? – my first exposure to bagels was being taken by Tom Kunz (bat biologist) to a small bagel bakery in Boston- and watching them being boiled in a large copper vat. They were delicious – with the obligatory lox, cream cheeze and dill. I’ve tried making bagels since – but it really is an art – and I haven’t got it yet.

  25. James Walker
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Of course it’s Montreal!

  26. centrificalfusion
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Phony bagels have been a pet peeve of mine for decades. I know a good bagel by sight. H&H is not an authentic bagel. An authentic bagel has a somewhat pebbled exterior and blisters (too smooth and glossy they are probably fake). Authentic bagels are a rare find. When I lived in Miami Beach I had to travel to North Miami Beach (oddly) for an old-school bagel shop. Like some Italian cheeses carrying the Denominazione di Origine Protetta (protected status), genuine bagels should likewise have an authenticity designation. Too much hazarai.

    Google image ‘bagel’ and then ‘real bagel’ and you will see the difference.

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      There are lots of Quebecers who go to Florida a lot of the winter, so finding a good Montreal bagel in Florida (somewhere) should be possible.

  27. Posted April 17, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Saddened to hear Jerry declare that there are only 3 authentic bagel flavors. In my childhood in Philadelphia I ate 4 flavors, the other one is poppyseed.

    One of the afflictions of contmporary American bagel-like rolls in addition to the lack of boiling is size increase. In the USA bigger is always assumed to be better. With bagels this results in the ring swelling until the hole in the middle is squeezed shut. You end up with a roll that doesn’t even have a hole, and does not taste bagel-like.

    Here in Seattle the best bagels I have tasted are from Bagel Oasis, but there are a couple of other good places. Eltana Bagels, on Capitol Hill has Montreal-style bagels but I have not tasted them yet.

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      I’ll grant you poppy seeds since you’re a lantzman. And I agree about the infernal inflation of the bagel.

      • Brian
        Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

        Dear Dr. Coyne,
        I am so glad that you corrected the disgraceful mistake of excluding Poppy.
        Brian

      • Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

        Half a landsman, anyway …

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      What are the bagels like in Philadelphia? I tried the Giant Eagle brand in Pittsburgh, and that was bad.

  28. Mike Smith
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    We recently had some excellent bagels from The Bagel Shop in Panama City. If I were in Appalachicola, I’d make the drive to get some more.

  29. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Off the topic for a moment but it was on the news this evening. The Prime Minister of NZ will be having a baby soon and also will be taking 6 weeks maternity leave. How about that…

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      Jacinda Ardern! I remember when she announced her pregnancy but didn’t know she was about to give birth. Sadly, the polydactylous First Cat, Paddles, died right before she got pregnant, and I doubt there will be a First Cat now that there will be a baby.

      Jacinda is one of my NZ Heroes.

  30. John Conoboy
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    The question posed has only one answer. There are no real, good bagel left, and thus the idea that there are some that are better than others is a measure of which are least bad.

    I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. We had several Jewish bakeries, all of which had excellent bagel. There were water bagel (plain), egg bagel, sesame, onion, and salt and that was it. There were none of the abominations that my friend Marlene calls Goyishe bagel, like cinnamon raisin, blueberry, or everything. Bagel were dense and chewy. There were no air holes inside and the outside was uniform and crisp. When I visited New York, I found the same bagel, but now I cannot find them anywhere. Even Davis Bakery in Cleveland, which is the last Jewish bakery in town, and is owned by my family’s neighbors no longer make real bagel.

    Now don’t get me started about Jewish rye bread.

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Have you tried Zingerman’s rye bread (they actually label it Pumpernickel? They are located in Ann Arbor, MI, so out of the demographic I suppose. It’s crazy expensive, but I’ve had their ‘rye’ with Reuben and pastrami ‘wiches and found it quite superior to other ryes. Chewy crust, soft yet toothsome interior, plenty of caraway flavor and an enticing deep brown rind and interior. I have nothing to base it on for comparison, but it is memorable, so that’s all I got.

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      When I lived in NYC in the early Seventies, I would schlep up to Orwasher’s bakery for their fantastic pumpernickel rye. Oy, was that good with cream cheese! I don’t even know if that place is still there.

  31. Josh Lincoln
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Here in Vermont it is Meyers Bagels on Pine Street in Burlington. They do it Montreal style. I buy a couple of dozen and freeze them. I get everything bagels which my father frowned upon when he was alive. He was a purist (plain) and would make me put my bagel in a separate bag.
    A few days before he died I was with him at the “rehab” facility in Manhattan where he was served a bagel in sealed plastic for breakfast. I can’t remember exactly how many times he repeated incredulously “They call that a bagel?”

  32. Hempenstein
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    About midway thru my seven yrs of exile in Jersey, a bagel shop opened up at the end of the block, and that brightened the remaining time. This was in Highland Park, just across the river from New Brunswick. IIRC, he was a recently-retired businessman and may have had bagel-making in his family background. He was only open weekends, but his bagels seemed like the real thing. Chewy and dense – I always went for either onion. Or cinnamon raisin.

    Oh, and the name of one of my fellow grad students there was Jerry Bagel. Srsly! You can find him online – he’s a dermatologist now.

  33. Posted April 18, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I am genuinely interested in two things here:

    1. Can some knowledgeable reader describe what a “correct” bagel is like? Flavor, texture, crust, flesh, etc.?

    2. What makes this so great as compared to other forms of bread?

    Watching the video of them preparing those “bagel sandwiches” with lox (one of my favorite foods, full stop), cream cheese, capers (yum!), just about got me drooling. That looked so good that I would be willing to suspend my rule of eating lox always in pristine isolation – I don;t want anything to intrude between me and that flavor and texture.

    I love many types of bread. In particular:
    Naan
    The “roti” made and sold on the street in Malaysia
    A good, crusty French Bâtard (I’m not big on baguettes, which seem too insubstantial to me, most of the time)
    Columbia Bread (Seattle)
    My local fine grocer Kowalski’s produces a wonderful small Bâtard, which they call (IIRC) a “baker’s baguette”

    Anyway, I’ve always heard people enthuse over bagels. I’d like to hear what people say about the above questions.

    Thanks!

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      I would say the density of the dough is one thing. The bad bagels are more like regular bread but the real bagels are more substantial. Second is the crust. It has to have a bit of a crunch. I suspect that has mostly to do with the freshness of the bagel. Ones from the supermarket are too long out of the oven to have much crunch. They are just regular bread in donut shape.

      • Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        Interesting. No packaged bread could have that crunch.

        I would say that the bagels I have had were pretty much unremarkable bread in that donut shape.

        One thing I like about my bagels is that they come with portion control built in: I eat QTY=1. Most of the other bread I eat (a very rare treat for me now unfortunately) is irregularly shaped. Which means I have to exercise portion control decisions. I try to “engineer in” portion control.

        When I toast my morning bagel, it does get crispy on the outside. 🙂

        • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

          Yes, I know exactly what you mean about portion control. Reminds me of another thing about real bagels. They taste so good you might want another, though perhaps not if you put lots of cream cheese on the first one.

          I do usually toast even the real bagels though they taste great untoasted. Toasting usually attracts derogatory comments from purists. Toasting is the only way to make those supermarket ones edible in my opinion.

      • Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        And thanks!

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      It is the chewiness that does it for me, and what doesn’t last more than a few hours. Oddly (or perhaps not) I also grew up eating a lot of challah and there’s a similarity somehow.

      I lived in a very eclectic neighbourhood and surrounds growing up in Montreal, which was great. (Korean grocery there too, for years, as well as lots of Eastern European – and Italian stuff. Chinese if you looked for it, etc.)

  34. Gail
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Sesame, shesame. The only seed for a bagel is the poppy seed.

    I miss New York, (whatever happened to Thomas’ Date Nut Bread) but I’ve lived out West long enough so I’m used to soft bagels now.


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