Finding the best of the NYC bagel bunch
H and H is a haven for bagel purists. (RJ Mickelson/amNY)
Like the Eastern Europeans who brought them here, bagels have a New York immigrant story.
Bagels recipes traveled across the Atlantic, settled down in the Lower East Side where they flourished, and then spread out across the country.
But the hand-rolled delicacies made in New York City and available for about a dollar each are arguably still the best.
Here are six bagels spots that fully deserve the cult following they’ve attracted.
224 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, 718-768-3943
This is the place to pick up a bagel on your way to nearby Prospect Park. The bagels are hand-rolled every morning and served fresh out of the oven. The menu offers lots of cream cheese and sandwich varieties, as well as fresh salads and snacks. Their thick bagels taste a little salty, with a chewy inside and a slightly crunchy, light brown crust. Terrace lacks a dining area, so be prepared to eat on the move.
2788 Broadway, btwn 107th and 108th sts., 212-932-2052
It may have a small seating area and humble decor, but the warmth of Absolute Bagels’ large oven welcomes customers. The display case offers cream cheese options, such as bacon cheddar, salmon and green olive, all lined up gelato-shop style. Absolute boasts many varieties of tofutti cream cheeses for non-dairy eaters. The bagels are fresh, with a crunchy crust and gooey center that will please both hard- and soft-bagel lovers.
2239 Broadway at 80th St., 212-595-8284
639 W. 46th St. at 12th Ave., 212-765-7200
This Manhattan mainstay has been attracting devoted followers to their original Upper West Side location since the early 1970s. The owners are bagel purists — they don’t cut, toast or schmear your bagel. They do offer cream cheese for purchase that you can spread yourself. These large bagels have a very crispy crust and a distinctly sweet taste. They are a little more expensive than average — $1.40 for a single, plain bagel. H&H also offers overnight delivery and ships worldwide.
2446 Broadway, btwn 90th & 91st St., 212-712-0171
Tal is not just a bagel spot, but also a full-service deli. They serve a range of bagels including sourdough, a favorite of San Francisco transplants. In addition to cream cheese, Tal has a good variety of fillings, including a tasty curried chicken salad. The bagel is big and fluffy, perfect for soft-bagel lovers, with a center so doughy it almost melts in your mouth.
500 Sixth Ave., btwn. 12th & 13th sts., 212-462-2830
242 Eighth Ave., btwn. 22nd & 23rd sts., 646-638-1336
The exposed brick and servers’ baker uniforms make this feel like an old-time New York bagel shop. With a crispier bagel, Murray’s delivers a distinct bite before you get to the center. Murray’s many flavors are unique in their malty and yeasty flavor. The shop also offers a full assortment of freshly made espresso beverages. Be advised: Murray’s doesn’t toast bagels in order to save time because of large lines.
367 Grand St. at Essex St., 212-473-4810
Kossar’s is the oldest bialy bakery in the U.S. Unlike bagels, bialys aren’t boiled before baking and have a small impression in the middle instead of a hole. Kossar’s bialy, with its onion and garlic flavor, has a texture that’s closer to the classic style of New York bagel — very crunchy and a little harder to chew. And rest assured, the bagels at Kossar’s are delicious, too. There’s no seating, so grab your bialy or bagel and go!