New York is well-known for its bagels and we recommend you try them on your next visit or stay. There isn’t a New Yorker who doesn’t know what a bagel is, let alone not eaten one. With hundreds of bagel stores throughout the city, how to know which bagels are the best? Our guide below will steer you to the best bagels in the neighborhoods you are most likely to explore on your visit.
Also, if you are on one of our walking tours our guides who are all New York locals, will be happy to tell you which are the best bagel shops nearby. Some of these shops are stops on our Lower East Side Food Tour. If you like our recommendations, have a look at our other posts:
WHAT IS A BAGEL? WHICH SHOULD I TRY?
A bagel is a bread product made using using yeasted wheat dough, then rolled into shape by hand into the form of a ring the size of the palm of your hand. After being left to rise for 12 hours, bagels are boiled briefly in water and then baked. A good bagel will be one that has a slightly chewy, browned exterior with a dense yet soft interior. Bagels are sometimes baked with a light sprinkling of seasoning such as poppy seed, salt, toasted onion, toasted garlic, sesame seeds or ‘everything’ meaning all the ingredients mentioned above.
Rarely is a bagel eaten without some sort of topping. (Note: A bagel with nothing on it should not cost more than $1.50. Typically plain bagels are $0.75 to a dollar. A bagel and cream cheese will be about $3.00). Traditionally, bagels are served as a sandwich topped with with cream cheese, butter, lox (smoked salmon), tuna salad, even peanut butter and jelly. Pretty much anything goes. Just be careful to mix and match your flavors well. For the ultimate New York bagel experience, grab a copy of the New York Times, a cup of coffee and enjoy a bagel with cream cheese, covered with lox (smoked salmon), thin sliced onions and tomato and a few capers.
Tip: Bagel shops often put a HUGE amount of cream cheese on bagels, more than most people can eat. Feel free to ask for a medium amount of cream cheese, better known by New Yorkers as “schmear.”
This map is interactive. To open it in a new tab, click the box in the upper right corner.
Leo’s Bagels 3 Hanover Square Open Mon-Fri 6:00am-6:00am; Sat & Sun 7:00am to 5:00pm
When you are exploring the Wall Street area or getting ready to ride the free Staten Island Ferry, Leo’s is a great place to get a bagel done right. You can get a classic New York bagel covered with a wide variety of cream cheeses, including tofu “cream cheese” for those lactose intolerant or vegan. Reviewers on TripAdvisor rate Leo’s at 4 1/2 stars. One reviewer wrote “Great breakfast location before going to the Statue of Liberty or while visiting the financial district. The bagels taste like heaven.”
Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish 146 Chambers St at Hudson St. Open Mon-Fri 6:30 am–7:00 pm; Sat & Sun 6:30am-6:00pm. Also at Grand Central Station on the corner of 41st St and Lexington Avenue.
Words that appear over and over again in reviews are”fantastic”, “amazing”, “delicious”. And that’s just the bagels! You’ve got dozens of toppings, both sweet and savory to fill your bagel. True to their name, Zucker’s is known for its high quality smoked fish- they have 14 different kinds, including the specialty “pastrami” style lox. You will most likely be nearby Tribeca at some point in your visit because of the sights you’ll want to visit, such as the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Take advantage of getting a great bagel while you are there. To walk off your bagel calories, use our Tribeca Self-Guided Walking Tour or join us on our Lower Manhattan Tour.
Lower East Side
It is not just about bialys at the legendary Kossar’s. They also serve great bagels. Going on 80 years, they added bagels to their menu in 2013. Not only that, they just opened after renovations and have a much bigger menu, including breakfast and lunch style sandwiches. This bagel shop is also one of the stops on Free Tours by Foot’s Lower East Side Food Tour. Don’t miss it!
Since 1914, this family-owned eatery remains the best ”appetizing” store in New York City. While it’s true that their food is indeed appetizing, in Russ & Daughters’ context, “appetizing” is used as a noun. For over 100 years, American Jews have understood that, in the case of food, “appetizing” means the “the foods one eats with bagels.” That would include all sorts of smoked and cured salmon (lox), homemade fish salads, herring, and cream cheeses. This is not the store to get a bagel and butter. If you come here, you’ve gotta get the real deal. The “Classic”: a bagel and cream cheese topped with slices of lox. It will set you back about $10 but it’s big enough to share with someone. This is a quintessential New York experience. For more on Russ & Daughters check out our Lower East Side Food Tour and Lower East Side self-guided tour. In addition to the original Houston Street location, there is now a Russ and Daughters cafe on Orchard Street.
This relatively new bagel shop has been a smash hit with New Yorkers, despite the fact that they are not 100% New York style! They are a hybrid of Montreal-style bagels and New York-style bagels. As with all great bagels they start with a yeast-raised dough and hand-rolled. Here’s the twist: they are boiled in honey-sweetened water and baked in a wood-burning oven. (Fancy, schmancy!) This bi-national recipe works so well that Black Seed is on all the lists of Best Bagels in New York and TripAdvisor guests give it a solid 4 stars. See for yourself in the video below.
Bagels on the Square 7 Carmine St at 6th Ave. Open every day 24 hours!
What makes this a great bagel shop is not just excellent bagels but the insanely long list of cream cheese flavors they have: Sun-Dried Tomato, Chive & Garlic, Olive Pimento, Bacon Horseradish, Strawberry, Blueberry, Raisin Walnut to name a few. They also have a wide variety of low fat cream cheese flavors and tofu “cream cheese”. They also have hundreds of 4 and 5 star reviews. They are a staple in the Greenwich Village area and you’ll see many people on the weekends enjoying huge bagels sitting in the small park just across the street. Join our free Greenwich Village walking tour and your guide can point out this store.
Making bagels for 20 years, Murray’s is always on Top Ten Bagels lists. Murray’s is highly praised by hundreds of New Yorkers on Yelp and out-of-towners on TripAdvisor. Reviewers have written: “The Great Bagel Debate is Over: Murray’s Reigns Supreme“, “Gold Standard Bagels!” and “The bagels are TO DIE FOR.” You cannot go wrong at Murray’s. The location is ideal if you are vising the nearby High Line, which is one of our free tour destinations.
Ess-a-Bagel 831 3rd Avenue at 51st St. Open Mon-Fri 6am-9pm; Sat-Sun 6am-5pm
Over 2093 reviews and a solid 4-star rating on Yelp confirm Ess-a-Bagel is the real thing according to New Yorkers. Add another 842 positive reviews from TripAdvisor and you’ve got 3000 people who love these bagels. One issue is that there is often a line, but it is worth the wait. Ess-a-Bagel has been making huge, delicious bagels since 1976. They have a wide selection of savory salads such as egg salad, tuna salad and their out of this world smoked salmon salad. Anything you choose to put on your bagel, you will be more than happy.
Best Bagel & Coffee 225 W. 35th St at 8th Ave. Open Mon-Fri 6am-4pm; Sat 8am-2:30pm; Sun closed.
This tiny Midtown bagel shop is ideally located for visitors staying in the Times Square area. Though the line can be long, it does move quickly. If you add up all the reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Facebook and more, there’s over 2000 people who give these bagel the highest ratings. If you are staying nearby, a perfect place to grab breakfast. If you aren’t staying nearby, it’s still a great place to get a classic bagel. If you join us for our free Midtown Manhattan Tour, grab a bagel before the tour as the starting point is a few blocks away.
Pick a Bagel 891 8th Ave and W. 53rd St. Open daily 6am to 11:30 pm
Perfect for those staying in the Theater District or Times Square. Since they do much more than great bagels, and are open late, you can grab some good, welll-priced food after a Broadway show. Don’t be put off by the fact that they are a chain of bagel shops. They don’t stray from the classic bagel methodology and the results are bagels that get some serious reviews on TripAdvisor. Four hundred reviews and 4 1/2 stars with the words “amazing”, “fantastic”, “incredible” and “the BEST bagel” appearing over and over again. Other locations are in Battery Park City, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and more. Use this link to google maps to see all the locations.
H&H Midtown Bagels East 1551 Second Avenue at East 80th St. Open 5:30am-9:00pm daily.
One of the most well-known names in the New York bagel scene, H&H is no longer owned by the Puerto Rican brothers who opened the first H&H in 1972. Helmer Toro and his brother-in-law Hector Hernandez (hence “H&H”) built a bagel empire. Between its east side and west side locations, H&H was once the largest bagel manufacturer in New York City producing about 80,000 bagels a day. Quantity however never trumped quality. H&H bagels are truly as good as their reputation. Coffee shops and breakfast joins ‘import’ daily H&H bagels and display signs telling customers “WE SERVE H&H BAGELS!”
Tip: H&H is just a few blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After your visit to see the finest art in the world, why not have one of the finest bagels in the world? Find out about Metropolitan Museum of Art Tours here.
Absolute Bagel 2788 Broadway at 108th St. Open Daily 6am-9pm. *CASH ONLY
Ok. When a bagel gets a 4 1/2 star rating on Yelp by almost 1000 New Yorkers, that is a mandate that you absolutely must visit this bagel store. They make every list of top bagels in city. A Thai family runs this bagel shop – kind of fascinating in and of itself. Absolute Bagels proves that one’s ethnic heritage has nothing to do with making the perfect bagel. This shop consistently makes the Top Ten bagel lists. Bagels are constantly streaming out of the oven to cater to the excited customers waiting on line. If your timing is right, you might get lucky and arrive just as a fresh batch comes out. Warning: If you wear glasses, they may get fogged up at this steamy, yummy shop!
The Bagel Store 754 Metropolitan Ave at Graham Ave. Open Mon to Fri 6am-6pm; Sat & Sun 7am-6pm
You’ve probably been curious about the neighborhood Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Known for its hip, artsy scene and colorful characters, The Bagel Store has brought even more color to the ‘hood. While known for their hand-rolled, huge bagels, their claim to fame is their Rainbow Bagel. It is exactly what you image it to be: all the tastiness of a great bagel combined with the beauty of a rainbow. Go farther along the spectrum by topping their bagel with one of their numerous cream cheese flavors like Birthday Cake, Blueberry, Maple Walnut, Nutella, Pumpkin Pie, and savory Chipotle, Scallion, Olive Pimento and Bacon/Cheddar. Maybe this isn’t your classic breakfast bagel place but it sure sounds like fun. Take your colorful bagel to go and check out some awesome graffiti and street art. Use our guide Williamsburg Street Art Tour to discover the best art out there.
Bagel Hole 400 7th Avenue and 13th St. Open Mon to Fri 7am-6pm; Sat 7am-5pm, Sun 7am-4pm
Year after year, this non-pretentious bagel shop is on the top ten lists of best bagels in NYC. That’s because they boil their bagels (as great bagels should be) while newer shops steam before baking sacrificing the fluffy element a bagel should have. Their bagels are not gigantic, they are normal size! Chewy inside, slightly crispy exterior, just what a bagel should be. Their reputation has spread far and wide so much so that real estate listings or the lovely neighborhood even mention that Bagel Hole is just streets away from the property for sale!
If you haven’t considered visiting Park Slope, there is so much more than just incredible bagels. This historic and charming neighborhood just near Propect Park is worth a visit. Check out our Park Slope and Prospect Park Self-guided tour to help you find your way!
La Bagel Delight 104 Front Street at Adams St. Open Mon to Fri 6am-6pm; Sat 7am-5pm, Sun 7am-4pm
Admittedly, these are not ‘off-the-charts’ bagels. They are, however, very good bagels, loved by the locals of the womnderful neighborhood of DUMBO. This is the area just off of the Brooklyn Bridge which you are sure to be walking across during your visit. Chewy, fluffy and human-sized, you can get a great bagel with classic cream cheese flavors, breakfast bagels and a huge variety of custom made sandwiches for both meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The bagels are indeed delightful.
HISTORY OF THE NEW YORK BAGEL
As far back as the 1600’s Eastern European Jewish communities were eating bagels. But 400 years ago, this round baked food with a hole in the middle was not called a bagel. History shows the linguistic roots of the name. In Yiddish (a language combining German, Hebrew and English) the word beygel was used. This word itself was derived from the Middle High German word bouc and Old High German word boug, both of which mean bracelet or ring. Yet another German word, bügel, is the name for a round bread loaf.
The New York bagel story began in the late 1800s. Among the millions of Eastern European Jews who emigrated to America were Polish people who brought their traditional foods with them. Savory foods like knish, bialy and the round bread with a hole in the middle, now called a bagels, became familiar foods to all New Yorkers regardless of ethnicity.
Here in NYC, bagels quickly became a popular and affordable food staple. Why have plain toast for breakfast when you could have a hearty bagel to start your day? The first bagels came in four basic flavors: plain, sesame, poppy and salt. As the years passed, the winds of change brought egg, cinnamon raisin, ‘everything’, onion, and garlic. Today, more and more modern flavors abound. There’s sun dried tomato, blueberry, chocolate, pizza, jalapeño, to name a few. No doubt, the bagel makers from the days of old would be puzzled by the new breed of bagel. You can almost hear them saying, “A rainbow bagel?!? C’mon, give me a break!”
No matter what you choose, whatever combination, color, flavor of bagel and topping, you cant go wrong if you go to any of the shops above. Enjoy!
Written by Courtney Shapiro – New York City bagel lover