Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Unless you have eaten a bagel fresh from a New York city shop, then you have no pertaining rights to whether you believe that New York has the best bagels. It’s a debate older than time, but in my mind, and if you ask any New Yorker, there is no question. The real debate is which bagel place to visit, with one every few blocks, and thousands throughout the city, I am here to help be a guide to which places are worth visiting.
Best Bagel and Coffee: Midtown
Let's start with what in my opinion is the best bagel in the city. This bagel shop is making fresh bagels constantly, so at any point in the day, you will be getting a fresh one. This shop has a huge variety of shmears and toppings, but that is something you will find at most places. What I come for is the tuna salad on a sesame bagel. It is the best I've ever had, and shouldn't be missed if you are a tuna fan. This bagel shop can get quite busy so try and go at an off time, or be willing to wait.
Russ & Daughters: East Village
Russ & Daughters is an intrical part of New York. What started as a small stand selling schmaltz herring 107 years ago, opened its first brick and mortar store in 1914, and is still there in the same location to this day. The store is now ran by the 4th generation of the family, and is a distinguished bagel name throughout the country (they even ship anywhere in the continental US). They are most known for the lox spreads, so if you are a fan of lox bagels or lox shmear, this is a must. My personal favorite is the hot smoke cold smoke spread. It’s the perfect combination of salmon and smokiness. Because of its popularity, be prepared to wait in a long line for this bagel, but it is worth every minute. They do have the option to order ahead and their other locations, but their East Village is the best one.
Thompson Square Bagels: East Village
This bagel shop is known for serving up some weird combinations of cream cheeses, bagels, and other fun menu items. They have colorful bagels, and unique flavors like cinnamon bun bagels with peanut butter cream cheese, and so many more varieties and options. This wouldn't be considered a "New York bagel" to some locals, but there is a reason there is always a line out the door, its GOOD!
Black Seed Bagels: Nolita
In my opinion, the SOHO & West Village general areas do not have any good bagel spots, so if you are staying there, you'll have to go a little out of the way to Black Seed Bagel, but that is the best one closest to those two neighborhoods (Russ & Daughters, and Thompson Square Bagels are a little further, but still doable). Of those three spots, this would be my last choice, but still a good option if the lines are too long at the other two. They have a good variety of bagels, and they are always fresh.
I hope now if you are coming to New York and want a good bagel, that this helps you navigate better. Trust me when I say that there won’t be any more debate as to whether New York really does have the best bagels. Also, don’t forget to try some pizza while you're in town...