Top Five Best Bagels I’ve Ever Eaten

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We’re celebrating Autostraddle’s Fifth Birthday all month long by publishing a bunch of Top Fives. This is one of them!


I have an undying love of bagels. It’s one of the more prominent elements of my personal brand. I live in Australia, where decent bagels are few and far between, but thankfully I’ve still been lucky enough to have had many bagel experiences that have rocked my world. Here are the top five.

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5. Blueberry Bagel (Sydney)
Almost every cafe in the Sydney CBD sells the exact same two types of bagels: a plain one, and this weird bright purple blueberry bagel-shaped bread item. It doesn’t particularly taste like blueberry or bagel; it mostly tastes like the spoonfuls of raw sugar that its coated in. Nonetheless, I live hard and fast by the rule that even the worst bagel is better than no bagel at all. Although this bagel is a fraud and an abomination, it’s there. It’s available. I can eat it whenever I damn well please. Sometimes that’s enough for a top 5 list.


 

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4. Sesame Bagel with Smoked Salmon, Onion and Cream Cheese (Hong Kong)
I started amping up my experimentation with bagels when I was a fifteen-year-old living in Hong Kong. I’d had the plain safe version plenty of times but this was a summer of daring and self-discovery and I was ready to get wild. That year I ate my way through menus of sandwich-style seeded bagels with salad and meat fillings, dessert style bagels with fruits and sugar and chocolate chips, searching for the bagel combination that would be the best fit for my palette and hopes and dreams. Ultimately, I decided on smoked salmon, onion and cream cheese. It was an aspirational selection; deep down I preferred the taste of a basic turkey bagel but the cured fish somehow felt fancy and cultured. I was neither of those things but for a hot minute I wanted to be.


 

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3. Everything Bagel with Low-Fat Cream Cheese (New York)
By the time I reached my twenties, my taste in bagels had somewhat chilled out. I had began shunning more exotic selections like smoked salmon with capers in exchange for the beautiful simplicity of a plain bagel with cream cheese. I never realised the full extent of the seeded bagel and creamy cheesy condiment options in this world until I visited New York City in 2010 for Rodeo Disco, and Riese and Laneia asked me to grab them a sesame bagel with low-fat cream cheese and an everything bagel with regular cream cheese (respectively) on my morning deli run. I was confused. I repeated their orders back three times and got someone to write it down  ’cause I’d never heard of an everything bagel and didn’t know that more than one kind of cream cheese existed. I ordered the love child of their orders and for the next five days that everything bagel with low-fat cream cheese felt so damn right.


 

bagelparty

Art: Anne Marie Walen

2. Poppyseed Bacon and Egg Bagel (Chicago)
This poppy bacon and egg bagel was pretty fucking tasty. But more importantly than that, it was eaten in solidarity, among friends who truly understood the breadth and depth of my bagel love and threw a BAGEL PARTY in my honour when I dropped by their city last week. I hovered around the kitchen counter and adoringly looked on while loved ones worked hot griddles and stoves and assembled breakfast foods onto my preferred seeded selection from my favorite bagel bakery. I still don’t really know how to talk about it. It’s too soon. But it was pure bliss.


 

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1. Poppyseed Bagel w/ Bacon, Egg and Cheese (Chicago)
I never knew that it would be possible for a bagel to have such a profound impact on my person until I met this particular bacon, egg and cheese poppy bagel from Chicago. It was my first ever breakfast bagel experience and even though it’s long gone, I still love it like a person. I miss it every damn day. I carry around photos of it on my phone because I never want to forget how much it changed my life. I owe it that. This bagel set a precedent for all future bagels and I know down in the deepest cockles of my heart that it’ll never be eclipsed by any other. And there’s no happier or more devastating feeling than that.

What’s the best bagel you’ve ever eaten? Tell me everything.


Header Image by Rory Midhani

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Crystal is Autostraddle's HR Director. She resides in Sydney, Australia, where she wears black clothing almost exclusively and listens to Green Day as enthusiastically as she did at 13.

Crystal has written 296 articles for us.

78 Comments

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        Ohh, there are so many wonderful things about Montreal! We have poutine, smoked meat, veg* options, locally produced things, Jean-Talon and Atwater markets, pretty girls, pretty people on bicycles…

        But the winter though… Ouf.

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      I love Montreal. Montreal is one of the greatest cities in the world. I have step-family in Montreal who are precious to me. But that thing they call a Montreal bagel… is an abomination. I’ve been to Fairmount, I’ve been to St. Viateur, none of them put a smile on my face or made my tastebuds sing. :(

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        GINA. I thought we could be friends. I can’t even haughtily dismiss your criticism as uninformed/outsider because you even name-dropped Fairmount, the lesser-known mile end bagel! I cannot overstate the extent to which I disagree, but I completely support your feelings about blueberry and chocolate chip bagels, which are disgusting. I’m glad we had this talk.

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      We have those every day for breakfast when we’re in Canada! Sometimes Marni gets friends to bring her Montreal bagels and we toast them right out of the freezer

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        For years, I’ve heard all this propaganda and more from my 99-year old (100 in May!) stepmom, AKA ‘Bubby Alice from Outremont’… “wait till you taste our Montreal bagels, they’re much better than New York bagels, you’ve never tasted anything like these bagels… yadda, yadda” The woman can’t leave it alone. Every time I’m lucky enough to be back in Montreal I get goaded until I give the bagels another try. Every time I have a bite it makes me want to go to the marché at Jean Talon and get something else yummy to replace the disappointment.

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    Imma let you finish but…

    I live very near this place: http://www.shakesbooks.de/

    It is an English language bookshop (which is amazing and has a fantastic selection of books) and also a bagel cafe. YES! A cafe that only sells bagels. And excellent coffee. But mostly bagels.

    My personal favourite is a Czech Rye bagel with horseradish cream cheese on it.

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    Mmmm. #4 is my all-time favorite way to eat a bagel (I didn’t have it in Hong Kong though –That’s too cool; I want to hear more about that adventure). The bagel you had in Chicago looks absolutely fantastic.

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    My girlfriend and I have accidentally turned into bagel snobs. This list gives me feels.

    Best bagel right now: from this place in Maryland, everything with scallion cream cheese, capers, onion, and lox. Except usually the onion is like a whole slice, and that can be a little too much and I have to take some off. But that scallion cream cheese is *unbelievable*.

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    And of course, I mustn’t forget the 24 hour bagel place on Brick Lane in East London. Or the other 24 hour bagel place right next door to it. I assume there was a family feud or something years ago.

    A 4am salt beef, mustard and pickle bagel truly is a thing of beauty.

    I love bagels…

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    Yeah, I’m a NYCer and I love me some bagels, but I have to agree that those Montreal-style bagels are insane. I haven’t had one in ten years and I can still remember every delightful detail of them, from brick oven to sesame crumbs.

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    i feel #3 so much. i have an everything bagel nearly every day and i still marvel at how good they are every time. i’m still in the early stages of bagel love, so i have yet to experiment much, but i’d love to try to recreate #1 in particular.

    my best bagel as of late was, yes, an everything bagel with plain cream cheese. but i had managed to make it out the door on time and i ate this bagel walking to class on michigan avenue, and the sky was bright, and for the first time in months I believed things would be ok.

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    And why Australia doesn’t have everything bagels, I shall never know. *sigh*

    Visiting NY last year and under direct instruction to have a bagel with lox.

    The bagel-man asked ‘what kinda bagel?’ Kind of bagel. Kinds of bagel? I didn’t know the kinds of bagels. So I said ‘everything bagel’, like the woman before me.

    And oh everything bagel. How I heart thee.

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    Salmon and cream cheese is my go-to bagel. Or just cream cheese. But now I want to try one with egg and bacon and cheese.

    When I lived in Oxford my college was round the corner from an amazing ice cream café which was open to midnight and also served bagels and they took way too much of my money.

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    Get an onion bagel the size of your face in Astoria (my former roommate knows the name of the place, I do not), slather in butter, garlic, sriracha, (Penzey’s Mural of Flavor anyone?) and broil that motherfucker with sharp cheddar. When I get back to the US making a vegan version of that unholy monster is first on my list.

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      Should add that the best I can do (that I know of) in Edinburgh is an onion and chive bagel (from Sainsbury’s) with vegan onion and chive cream cheese and just weeee bit of sriracha because I might have a problem.

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    The place I went to undergrad had a little vegetarian cafe called the Four Winds and all of their sandwiches were on bagels. Cream cheese with spinach, tomato, cucumber, and onion; guacamole with the same; a chickpea-based tuna substitute made fresh known as chickpea of the sea; cream cheese with tomatoes, melted cheese, and spices, and so much more. A lot of basic combinations, but also some really innovative stuff, and ALL DELICIOUS.

    I miss it so much :(

  11. Thumb up 5

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    This whole thread is giving me celiac nostalgia pangs, but in a good way. I am feeling food compersion for everyone’s enjoyment of these amazing bagels. (We used to get bagels every Sunday after church. As a wee babe, I preferred sesame with strawberry cream cheese, and as an adult, I grew into the spice and excitement of everything bagels.)

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    Everything with scallion cream cheese from House of Bagels in Dix Hills, New York. The Long Island accents are thick, and the generous helping of cream cheese they pile on is even thicker. It doesn’t. Get. Any. Better.

    BAGELFEELS.

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    I eat bagels every morning because they are a cosmic gift to humanity and they remind me of my home in upstate NY. Recently I have been unable to eat them because of a dental issue that I finally took care of yesterday. Soon I will again eat the bagels I crave.

    My favorite bagel I’ve ever had is probably honey wheat with honey and almond cream cheese, lox, capers, and onions. I say maybe because there are so many options.

    I’ll be in NYC in a few weeks and may quest after some pumpernickel bagels while I’m there. I have a special place in my heart for a warm pumpernickel bagel. Does anyone have suggestions beyond those already listed here?

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    I have to admit I’m confused by New York bagels not being #1 at all times. (Let’s be real, if it’s not from NY, it’s not really worthy of the name “bagel.”) But regardless, my hometown in Westchester County has the best bagels EVER. I hate basically everything about my hometown, except its proximity to the city and its bagels. I’m living in Boston now, and while the bagels here are decent for not being made with NYC water, I miss my crappy town’s bagels. Seriously. They’re that good.

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    My best bagel memories are of the sesame bagels with chive cream cheese from Dunkin’ Donuts that I would get (dinner for under $1.99!) on the one-mile walk between work and night class. Sadly Dunkin’ Donuts no longer offers chive cream cheese.

    Crystal, next time you’re in Chicago if you haven’t already tried the Chicago Bagel Authority (on Armitage near the El) it will blow your mind. The bagels are steamed, which is rare to find in Chicago.

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    #1 Kossar’s Bialey’s (they also make bagels) on the Lower East Side of NYC. Heaven. Seriously, heaven without Kossor’s is hell. #2 The Bagel Hole in Brooklyn. A pumpernickel to die for… malty, almost seems chocolatey it’s so good. #3 Murray’s Bagels. A little doughy but when you get them fresh they’re amazing. I want to put in a special mention for House of Bagels out in the Richmond District of San Francisco. They make a damn good bagel totally counter to any bad rep that city has in the bagel department.

    Btw, Blueberry Bagels… NO. No freakin’ way, a curse and an abomination. As are chocolate chip bagels, japapeno bagels and anything from the Einstein Brothers chain… bleh, blah *washing mouth out with an egg cream.*

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    i am too scared to try the bullshit they call west coast bagels but my heart aches for bagelsmith in brooklyn, where nearly everything is perfect and they have tofu olive cream cheese which sounds gross but speaks to my soul.

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    I never thought I would cheat on sesame bagels but the everything bagel come from nowhere and I fell in love.

    Also, I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Jersey bagels yet – my cointern brought some in on her last day and omg my eyes were opened.

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    The best bagel I ever had was probably influenced by the memory that goes with it. I was in seattle several years ago visiting realatives and I spent a ton of time exploring the city. Well my trip was coming to an end and on the last day before I came back to Alaska I met my favorite Aunt and Uncle for breakfast. They took me to some big hotel downtown and I had an amazing onion bagel with cream cheese and the softest, best lox I’ve ever had. After breakfast I hugged them both and said goodbye and that was the last time I saw my Uncle cause he died of cancer a couple years ago.

    Also, Hey Crystal! It’s great to see a piece from you on here! I’ve missed you. Hope life in Aussie-land is going well. (^_^)

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    Near where I work there’s a shop called Naval Bagels and they make a sandwich called the Annapolitan, which is egg with crabmeat in it, cheddar cheese, and Old Bay on whatever bagel you want. I got jalapeño. I dream of a reunion with this sandwich.

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    I just moved to rural-ass “my-friend-lives-two-fields-over” southeastern Minnesota for the love of my life and while she is amazing and wonderful, there are things I miss desperately about Seattle. Like salmon cream cheese bagels, and coffee any time I want it, and other gays.

    Odds are like 9/10 a girl in flannel out here is just cold or a lumberjack and has a boyfriend. It’s all so cold and confusing and bagel-free and cold. :(

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    Once, I had a BLT on an everything bagel. No mayo, but there was avocado involved. There was a lot to work with – my mouth almost couldn’t handle it. But it was so delicious! Perhaps the best bagel situation I’ve ever had. So, I prevailed. And now, here I am.

    I provide this answer when asked in job interviews to describe a time I overcame a challenge. I’m really proud of it.

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    Oh, bagels….

    I’m currently living in South Asia doing research, but when I’m in the US I live in Charlottesville, Virginia, home of a little local chain called Bodo’s Bagels. Their bagels are super fresh and cheap and delicious and conveniently located 2 minutes from my department building. I have extremely specific Bodo’s cravings on a regular basis. Here are the bagels I miss most:

    - salt bagel with melted butter and honey
    - salt bagel with avocado and tomato
    - whole-wheat bagel with a fried egg, cheddar, mustard, mayo, lettuce, and tomato
    - sesame bagel with a NoBull burger patty (local lentil-based veg burger, SO GOOD) with cheddar, mustard, mayo, lettuce, and tomato
    - whole wheat bagel with hummus, provolone, and sprouts
    - plain or whole-wheat bagel with honey walnut cream cheese

    Oh man… feeling all the bagel-feelz now!

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    Best bagel I’ve ever had was purchased in a tiny town in middle-of-nowhere cloud forest Panama, at a cafe run by a Japanese family. Seriously.

    (The fact that I had spent the previous month in the rainforest subsisting solely on rice, beans, peanut butter, and the random fruit the occasional local would hand me, probably had something to do with my bagel excitement.)

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    After reading this article last night, I went to !y fave coffee shop for lunch today and had grilled veggies and hummus on a sesame bagel. I was sad it didn’t taste like what I dreamed of.

    Somebody please send over a crate of bagels to Cambodia, I’ll even eat New Jersey bagels.

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    I’m glad that poppy seed, bacon, egg and cheese bagel found you, Crystal. Everybody needs to experience their bagel soul mate. My friends mom once gave me a whole bag of everything bagels for my birthday, and no one’s ever topped that.

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    I live in California where a truly delicious bagel isn’t a daily occurrence. It took until a trip to New York to teach me what a true bagel was. I was nine at the time and being a Jew with two New York born parents I had an affinity to bagel deliciousness. Anyhow my dad and I went to some random bakery in Manhattan that sold expired milk but had the.best.bagel. I have EVER eaten. I tried it plain with nothing but cream cheese but as the week went on I became more adventurous trying jams, meats, and lox (of course a breakfast staple when we were in NY). I will never forget that week… bagels.

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