Say (cream) cheese! Best bagel joints in the US [PHOTOS]

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Plain, toasted, coated in poppy seeds, schmear-ed with cream cheese or draped in lox — these are our picks for the best bagel joints in the U.S.

Ever since its entry into American culinary culture more than 100 years ago, the bagel has been an object of great fervor among devoted foodies, who are on the perpetual hunt for the perfect hand-rolled, boiled-not-steamed specimen. Whether you prefer your bagel plain, toasted, coated in poppy seeds, schmear-ed with cream cheese or draped in lox, we’re sharing our picks for the best bagel joints in the U.S.

The Bagel Factory
St. Louis, Mo.

More than 20 varieties of bagels are baked here each day, and the beloved recipe hasn’t changed since 1974 when The Bagel Factory was founded. Firm on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside (and selling for less than $1 each), the bagels from this St. Louis joint are a must-try.

The Bagel Factory © iStock/Thinkstock
The Bagel Factory © iStock/Thinkstock

Ess-a-Bagel
New York City

Renowned for their massive bagels, this old-school shop was established in 1976 by an Austrian baking family. Ess-a-Bagel has since been invited into the pantheon of New York favorites, with a variety of different flavors available every day (in addition to a number of cream cheese schmears and other toppings). The pumpernickel is one of their classic options, best enjoyed fresh out of the oven.

Ess-a-Bagel © iStock/Thinkstock
Ess-a-Bagel © iStock/Thinkstock

The Bagel Broker
Los Angeles

Open for more than 25 years, this family-owned shop has since become a Los Angeles-area legend. Here you can try some quirky flavors, such as jalapeño cheddar, but rest assured that their plain bagel with a schmear and lox is as good as any of the bagels you can savor in New York.

The Bagel Broker © Angela N
The Bagel Broker © Angela N

Wholy Bagel
Austin, Texas

This relative newcomer on the bagel scene is a hit among locals, selling out by 1 p.m. on a regular basis. New Jersey native Scott Campanozzi introduced the handmade, tasty treats to this southern city in 2010 after noting the lack of authentic bagel shops in Texas. Try the plain bagel with a sundried tomato cream cheese spread.

Wholy Bagel © Blueberry Files
Wholy Bagel © Blueberry Files

Absolute Bagels
New York City

Looking for that crispy-on-the-outside, soft-and-light-on-the-inside bagel? Then head to Absolute Bagels, one of New York’s most acclaimed shops, famous for its never-ending lines in the mornings (and well into the afternoons on weekends). A tip: Choose your flavor based on what has just come out of the oven, and don’t even think about asking for it toasted.

Absolute Bagels © Simon Law
Absolute Bagels © Simon Law

Bialy’s Bagels 
Cleveland, Ohio

This barebones bagel store is perfect for those who appreciate an authentic specimen right out of the oven. Do you like yours sliced and with lox or cream cheese spread? Then you’ll have to cut it yourself and personally grab the fillings from the cooler, as this no-frills shop is largely grab-and-go. True to its name, the shop’s bialys are also commendable.

Bialy’s Bagels © iStock/Thinkstock
Bialy’s Bagels © iStock/Thinkstock

New York Bagel and Bialy Co
Illinois

Known for serving the “best bagels in the Midwest,” this store goes through hundreds of crusty, dense and chewy bagels everyday. Their best seller, the “mish-mosh,” is coated in an eclectic mix of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway, dried garlic, onion and salt. Hungry denizens can pick one up at any time of day – yup, the shop is open 24/7, perfect for those midnight bagel emergencies.

New York Bagel and Bialy Co © Berry Pousman
New York Bagel and Bialy Co © Berry Pousman

(Main image: © iStock/Thinkstock)

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

whose guides cover all the best hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, sights, shops and spas

Say (cream) cheese! Best bagel joints in the US [PHOTOS] was last modified: October 29th, 2013 by Claire Bullen
Author: Claire Bullen (218 posts)

Globetrotter, chowhound, travel writer for Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to... and contributor to Cheapflights Travel Blogs.