The Ultimate Guide To The Best Bagels In NYC

It's the best bagel in the world, baby! The crispy, glossy outside, a chewy, doughy inside, and that one-of-a-kind flavor lands the New York bagel in a league of its own. Expertly hand-rolled, kettle-boiled, and baked on a board, it dominates for a reason. It's bagelicious. Fuggedaboutit.

Jewish immigrants brought their mad bagel-making skills to New York in the 19th century. And the donut-shaped roll quickly became deeply ingrained in the city's culinary traditions, stacked especially high, and strung up on display, in neighborhoods with booming Jewish populations. For the record — bested only by Tel Aviv, Israel — New York City boasts the largest Jewish community in the world. So, yeah, bagels for days.

The classic New York City bagel established itself as a humble offering, crafted with brilliant execution, and held in the highest regard. And once you find your absolute favorite, any deviation from your usual place would be pure sacrilege. Toast it, schmear it, or top it — for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — these NYC bagels are ba-goals. Let's nosh.


Ess-a-Bagel has been slinging glorious yeast-leavened holey bread since 1976. Curious about the name? Co-owner Florence Wilpon claimed it's not really that complicated; it's Yiddish for "eat a bagel." It's clearly a brilliant subliminal marketing scheme, even if you don't speak the mother tongue. The 3rd Avenue outpost is a popular spot for locals, as well as tourists eager to hang with the cool kids, thanks to a rock solid menu of traditionally-made favorites.

They may be doing it classic New York style, but this family-run business attributes their signature winning flavor to the love they give every single bagel and schmear. Get your love as anything from plain to everything bagels, maybe a red velvet cream cheese, or the Tuna Turner, a classic tuna salad with cucumber, red onion, lettuce, and tomato, on whatever bagel you like.

But, feel free to go fully old-school with the Signature Favorite, generously topped with Nova Scotia smoked salmon, scallion cream cheese, tomato, lettuce, red onion, and capers. OMG — and also love. Geez. We were about to have some Eggsplaining to do. (Just kidding, that's also one of their sandwiches.)

Bagel Oasis

Hi there. Have you been living in a bagel desert, your days relegated to a subhuman schmear-sperience? Help is available. Bagel Oasis in Queens, New York has been changing lives for the better since 1961. And they've got just the bagel for you, too.

Cooking up the very same old-fashioned, all-natural, crowd-favorite recipes they've been using for decades, Food & Wine even tapped Bagel Oasis as one of their Best Bagels in America in 2021. And, you only have to go to Fresh Meadows to get one of your very own. They even come in mini. (High-pitched squeaky toy sound).

There are no less than 13 egg sandwiches on the menu, plus a bagel pizza. But, if you just want a bite, bagels feature classic flavors with all the cream cheese you could ever want — even if you insist upon schmearing only bacon cheddar, or cake batter cream cheese. The doors are open — and the bagels are made fresh — 24 hours a day.

Absolute Bagels

This is the only line worth waiting in at 7 a.m., before you've even had a sip of coffee, or glanced in the mirror at your, um ... hair. Absolute Bagels, perched on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, understands the assignment and meticulously adheres to New York-style bagel-making standards. And, with no website and not much of a virtual presence, Brooklyn Bagel Blog confirms that the best way to taste the Absolute difference is by sucking it up and standing in that line as long as it takes. The good news: It goes by fast.

So, what's the light at the end of the tunnel? A warm, densely doughy, beautifully crusty bagel. Some Yelpers call it the best in New York City, but one fan kept it honest, writing, "Don't know if it's the best in the city, but it is a DAMN good bagel."

But, this isn't a surprise considering Absolute's heritage. Founder Sam Thongkrieng moved to New York from Bangkok, Thailand, at which point he landed a job at Ess-a-bagel, where he honed his craft. (Ohhhhhhhhh...) Then, with a no-frills shop of his own, he launched his own legacy, featuring everything from a cinnamon raisin bagel with plain cream cheese, to a dairy-free Tofutti line of schmears. And, judging by the sheer amount of everything-bagel-and-lox reviews on Yelp, you might want to save some room for that, too.

H&H Bagels

It might not be the oldest shop on our list, but it just may be the most famous. H&H Bagels appears in a multitude of films and TV shows like "Sex and the City," "The Office," "You've Got Mail," and "How I Met Your Mother." And as Kramer said it on Seinfeld when he returned to work at H&H, "Alright, toss me an apron. Let's bagel!"

In 1972, Helmer Toro and his brother-in-law, Hector Hernandez founded the shop, naming it the best thing Helmer and Hector could think of at the time: H&H. Soon two outposts were cranking out the goods on the Upper East and Upper West Sides. After the flagship outpost closed in 2011, a new shop opened in 2022, on Columbus Ave, just a short walk from the O.G. location. The company also appears to have plans to expand to places like (gasp) Los Angeles. West Coast bagel heads, rejoice.

High fives on their BEC (bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich), the Nova Scotia salmon and cream cheese bagel, the ridiculously chewy texture of their bagels, and a variety of cream cheese flavors like bacon walnut raisin and apple butter. Not in the city? Ship their bagel sandwich kits straight to your door via their website.

Russ & Daughters Brooklyn

If you enjoy your bagel and schmear topped with a Michelin star, Russ & Daughters is your jam. First conceived by Jewish immigrant Joel Russ in 1914, the Russ & Daughters mothership took off in 1933 when Russ added his three girls as the "& Daughters," becoming the first business in the country to feature the "Daughters" part.

But, it's at their Brooklyn location where you get a chance to peek inside the bagel hole ... or whatever you want to call it...and watch them actually make the bagels. They celebrate the cherished New York Jewish culinary tradition of "appetizing" (it's a noun), which loosely translates to the stuff you eat with your bagels. It was the type of store that Russ first opened, once he found enough success with his former cart-based street business, selling herring on the streets of the Lower East Side.

So, what's the most appetizing "appetizing"? Prepare your stretchy pants. Russ & Daughters has committed to crafting the classic New York comfort food of your dreams. The schmear? Extra tangy. The salmon? Norwegian, Scottish, Irish, and Nova. The caviar? Holy bialys there's caviar! While we love each of our bagel sandos equally, we might be partial to the Fancy Delancey sandwich; smoked tuna, horseradish dill cream cheese, and wasabi flying fish roe. Fancy indeed.

Bagel Pub

Here's where all your bagel sandwich salad and schmear dreams come true, under the bright lights of the sparkling deli case. Bagel Pub, which features locations in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, lures in the fans with promises of old-fashioned bagels and standard favorites, served up in a shop with a decidedly old-school vibe.

But, get out of town with the selection of cream cheese. Chilled platters are piled high to overflowing with creative flavors you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else. Does it make the long line of plugged-in millennials during mealtimes worth the hassle? You be the judge. Take a shot at flavors like jalapeño cilantro, bacon scallion, chipotle lox, pumpkin, guacamole, and Za'atar. Do we even need a bagel? Is it so wrong to just spoon this stuff straight into our gullets?

Ok, ok, twist our rubber arm on the carbs. Considering the thumbs-up reviews that feature the phrase "Best Bagel Sandwiches in Brooklyn," we pay our respects to the ABC sandwich (eggs, avocado, bacon, and cheddar), as well as the Jumpstart sando (jalapeño, turkey bacon, and egg whites), and order ourselves The L.E.O. with lox, eggs, and onions. We happily bite into a chewy, beautifully dense bagel that can hold its own, no matter what you throw at it, any day of the week.

Tompkins Square Bagels

With three locations in the East Village and Union Square — with their flagship outpost located on Avenue A, right by their namesake park — Tompkins Square Bagels might take the top prize with locals. Just check them out on a weekend morning, and you'll see the lines to prove it. Having first opened in 2011, the Tompkins Square mission appears to be one that fosters a tight-knit community. And, of course, some dang fine bagels.

Owner and operator Christopher Pugliese has been making bagels since he was 15. And, he's responsible for the old-fashioned TSB taste, as well as cranking up the fun for everyone. Let your thoughts light upon chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter and Nutella, birthday cake, espresso, and cucumber dill cream cheese flavors. Bagel-up with chocolate chip, pumpernickel, pumpkin, and garlic options — along with other classics. And, go big or go home with the Triple Crown breakfast sandwich, stacked with Canadian bacon, apple smoked bacon, egg, cheese, spiced honey maple glaze, and scallion cream cheese.

Not a lucky local? You can ship yourself a Tompkins Square experience, with a French toast bagel kit packed with cinnamon and maple syrup flavor, or a loaded brunch box for a flawless party spread of bagels and lox.

Baz Bagel and Restaurant

This might be the best bagel in Miami — in Manhattan. They even come in tie-dye, people. Bari Musacchio launched Baz Bagel and Restaurant on Grand Street in 2014, celebrating her family's Jewish and Italian heritage, and their roots in the Lower East Side and Little Italy. And, as it has been the method de rigueur since back in the day, this is a hand-rolled and divinely kettle-boiled bagel situation.

With a sunny aesthetic inspired by her visits to Florida, where bagel-eating locals eschew the trendy grab-n-go setup for a sit-down nosh, Baz Bagel happily welcomes guests to feast their eyes as well as their appetites. But, with a curated menu of Hot 100 hits, holy moly, where do we start?

The menu features an array of traditional classics, done right. But keep an eye out for some playful spins. We're super fans of the Mystic Pizza Bagel, The Mel-turkey Reuben with thousand island dressing and muenster cheese, Tina Turkey with Swiss, avocado, lettuce, and tomato, as well as the rotating selection of limited edition, swirly, colorful tie-dye bagels. Still, we're gonna go for the people's #1 favorite: The Baz. It's a simple open-faced Nova salmon, scallion cream cheese, onion, and tomato bagel sandwich, with a dill pickle spear on the side. And, it's everything you could ever want a New York bagel to be.

Bo's Bagels

When you live in a neighborhood with nary a decent New York bagel shop within walking distance, sometimes you gotta make the bagels happen yourself. And that's exactly what Harlem locals Andrew Martinez and Ashley Dikos did when they launched Bo's Bagels in 2017. (Washington Heights, look out; they're coming your way in Fall 2023.)

After he honed his bagel-making skills at home, Andrew quickly realized his bagels just hit different. He named his shop after his kids Brody and Olivia, and Bo's offerings have been delighting locals ever since they threw open their doors. With a warm and casual vibe, reminiscent of a sort of rustic farmhouse subway stop (hi, we're not interior decorators), and showcasing artwork by neighborhood artists, Bo's may have come to the game more recently, but they certainly came to play.

Two words: Bagel Dog. Life-changing, just do it. Four words: Nacho Camacho bagel sandwich. It's a 3CBO (3-Cheese-BO) bagel, topped with homemade chili jalapeño cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, and clearly, some kind of secret culinary wizardry because we can't stop eating it. But, then there's also the BO's El Barrio, featuring a plain (yet buttery and grilled) bagel, topped with pork roll, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, lettuce, and mustard. But why make it harder than it is? We'll just be getting one of each.

Murray's Bagels

Holla if you're hand-rolled! Murray's Bagels has been rolling 'em like a boss since 1996, in Greenwich Village. But, what you taste when you eat at this shop, is the generations-deep tradition of decadent Jewish soul food. Owner and operator Adam Pomerantz opened the shop after leaving a job on Wall Street, in favor of the humble bagel and lox. He also named the restaurant after his dad, Murray.

The menu is as traditional as it gets, with an attention to detail and a mission to preserve a sacred culinary heritage. Hand-rolled, kettle-boiled, and baked to perfection, you'll find everything bagels, organic sesame bagels, and some very bouncy cinnamon raisin bagels, with straight Nutella appearing on the schmear menu. As one Yelper noted, "Murray's has the best actual, physical bagels — fluffy, doughy, warm, crispy (without having to be toasted) but soft where it counts. Phenomenal." Still, it's the bagel sandwiches that are having all the fun.

Order up a series of omelets on a bagel sammy, including the Western, pastrami, corned beef, Hebrew National salami, or the LEO (lox, eggs, and onion). You could also go for a bagel sando with a little more altitude, like The Bubeleh, stacked high with eggs, salmon, and a crispy potato latke for our texture-loving friends. Of course, you don't want to forget The Bertha for that classic bagel tuna melt with cheddar and bacon. But, that's assuming you've already sampled The Whole Megillah sandwich; scallion cream cheese, cucumbers, smoked salmon, tomato, onion, capers, and a generous helping of everything bagel seasoning. Let's face it, nobody wants half a megillah.

Shelsky's Brooklyn Bagels

The bagel situation is hot to trot at Shelsky's Brooklyn Bagels. Launched in 2011 by culinary geniuses and New York natives, Peter Shelsky and Lewis Spada, this place is all about serving up the Jewish appetizing experience with a modern twist. Très chic. They're so serious about delivering an amazing bagel, they once shut down for the day because the dough wasn't up to par. (That's how much they love you. And bagels.)

Brave the lines for a bagel topped with Sichuan Chili Crisp Cream Cheese, Seriously Great Tuna salad, baked salmon salad, pickled herring salad, or their housemade pastrami on a pretzel bagel with mustard. As one fan commented on Instagram, "If you come to Brooklyn you have to stop at Shelsky's bagels. You will have a taste that you will never forget, slightly crunchy, brown caramel color, and delicious." Well, it's brown unless you get the tangy coleslaw, which features a happy pinkish-purple hue from the red cabbage in it.

As far as breakfast sandwiches go, we're perfectly content to keep it classic with Taylor brand ham, eggs and cheddar cheese. But if we're feeling like an adventure, we like to sample as many parts of the pig as we can, at one time. In theory. The Pennsylvania scrapple sandwich, featuring — yep — scrapple (a Pennsylvania Dutch dish of pork scraps in the shape of a loaf, which are sliced and fried), eggs, cheddar cheese and Vermont maple syrup, is just what the weekend hangover breakfast doctor ordered.

Terrace Bagels

If there's anything more beautiful than a big, warm, chewy cinnamon raisin bagel overflowing with an illegal amount of strawberry cream cheese and making its way toward our hungry faces, we don't care about it right now. But what we do care about is Terrace Bagels in Park Slope, Brooklyn (and Freehold, New Jersey — but it started in BKLYN), because Terrace and bagels go way back. Way back to 1991. Cue Jesus Jones' "Right Here Right Now."

A long time ago, in the early years of the 19th century, the bagel fun police — better known as the Bagel Bakers Local 338 union — required every bagel to weigh in at a measly 3 ounces. At the time, bagels were all hand-rolled, and heavily patrolled. Thankfully, the union was totally demolished by the rise of bagel rolling machines in the '60s. But these days, many bakeries have returned to the hand-rolled technique, at double the size. Word to the wise, Terrace Bagels makes some of the biggest bagels in town, according to fans. All the better to stuff your schmear in, my dear.

One Yelp reviewer was certainly feeling it when he wrote, "I just ate a pumpernickel everything bagel from this place and I believe it is the best bagel in the known world." So, yeah, we'll have one of those, and maybe a Jersey Boy bagel sandwich with egg, cheese, and pork roll. And throw in a Bronx Bomber loaded with hot roast beef, pepper jack, sweet peppers, lettuce, tomato, and mustard, k? Thanks.

Utopia Bagels

Guys, guys. FYI, you got the name all wrong. A utopia is technically an imagined state of perfection. But Utopia Bagels is a real place of perfection. It's just like a grammar thing, no biggie. We can take bagels for life as payment ... Wait — it's located on the Utopia Parkway in Whitestone? Cool cool cool. Never mind.

Queens-based complex carbohydrate institution, Utopia Bagels, once landed the #1 "Absolute Best Bagel In New York," from Grub Street. And Utopia isn't messing around when it comes to their craft. The bagels are even baked in an oven that's been around since 1947, where the delicious ghosts of bagels past infuse the fresh-baked bagels with their poppyseed spirits, whispering, "Utopiaaaaaaa..." as they fizzle into oblivion inside a 600-degree oven. Probably.

There is a monster of a menu available here, but we've got some ideas if you're too hungry to think. Maybe start with the party style pizza bagel wheel, involving a legitimately gigantic bagel half — roughly the size of the hubcap of an Escalade — covered in tomatoes and mozzarella. Too much too soon? We're also down for the Adonis sandwich on a grilled bagel, with a chicken cutlet, muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and hot sauce.

Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

With several locations in Manhattan and Queens, Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company has been around since 2002. And at this point, you might be wondering why it has Brooklyn in the name if it has no shops there. Well, as co-founder Panos Voyiatzis explained to B&H, "[It's] a way to pay homage to the early Jewish settlers that brought over with them what became the 'New York City' bagel — some people believe it all began in Brooklyn."

We gladly honor our bagel ancestors with everything from plain to rainbow bagels at Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company. And, with schmears like honey bacon Sriracha, cannoli, and pimento olive, we almost forgot about the rest of the menu. Are they even doing decent bagel sandwiches? Yes. And we'll take one of everything.

We definitely wouldn't say no to a Bkbagel Classic, with smoked Nova salmon, tomato, onion, capers, and scallion cream cheese. And the Green'wich gets pretty cozy with turkey, gouda, avocado, and mayo. But here, there's no reason to pass up a classic plain bagel with cream cheese, wrapped up in crinkly baker's paper and tucked into a bag for later. And, by later we mean as soon as we walk out the door.

Zucker's Bagels & Smoked Fish

Meet the bagel and lox that landed the top spot on USA Today's 10 Best list of New York's Best Bagel & Lox. And, if you're looking for a bagel that does your soul good, as well as doing the community some good at the same time, Zucker's Bagels & Smoked Fish is your spot.

The Manhattan-based outpost helps support The Bowery Mission, by donating roughly 500 bagel breakfasts for hungry and homeless populations in New York, every day. They also keep it local and sustainable in regard to everything from their ingredients, to their packaging, to their local delivery bicycles.

Ok, but our stomachs are growling. And those toasty bagels are fresh out of the oven. We love a slightly malty marble rye, or a whole wheat everything bagel with truffle schmear. But, we can't just glance at the bagel sandwiches and walk away. No, we must taste them. If you have a long day on the farm (or the sofa) ahead of you, The Delancey offers up two eggs, pastrami or corned beef, latke, sautéed onions, and Swiss cheese on a bagel of your choice. Or, the seemingly innocuous Natural bagel sando features smoked turkey, brie, lettuce, tomato, and dijon dill sauce. We're also still trying to figure out if it's appropriate to order a bagel sandwich stuffed with Zucker's homemade raspberry rugelach. To be continued...