New York is well-known for its bagels and we highly recommend you try one when you are here.
This post leads you to the best bagels in neighborhoods you are most likely to visit.
Take a look at our pay-what-you-like food tours to try many of the classic New York foods!
WHAT IS A NEW YORK BAGEL?
A bagel is a bread product made using yeasted wheat dough, then rolled into shape by hand into the form of a ring the size of the palm of your hand.
After being left to rise for 12 hours, bagels are boiled briefly in water and then baked.
A good bagel will have a slightly chewy, browned exterior with a dense yet soft interior.
Bagels are sometimes baked with a light sprinkling of seasonings such as poppy seed, salt, toasted onion, roasted garlic, sesame seeds or 'everything' meaning all the ingredients mentioned above.
Typically, plain bagels are $0.75 to $1. But rarely do people eat bagels without some sort of topping.
Traditionally, bagels are served as a sandwich topped with cream cheese, butter, lox (smoked salmon), tuna salad, and even peanut butter, and jelly.
A bagel and cream cheese will be about $3.00.
For the ultimate New York bagel experience, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a bagel with cream cheese, covered with lox (smoked salmon), thin-sliced onions, and a few capers.
TIP: Bagel shops often put a HUGE amount of cream cheese on bagels, more than most people can eat.
If you want a smaller amount of cream cheese, simply ask for a schmear (or smear). The store will know what you mean
Learn about the centuries-old history of the bagel, see below.
Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish 146 Chambers St at Hudson St. Open Mon-Fri 6:30 am-7:00 pm; Sat & Sun 6:30 am - 6:00 pm.
Other locations: Grand Central 370 Lexington Ave. and Flatiron 40 E. 23 St.
True to their name, Zucker's is known for its high-quality smoked fish - they have 14 different kinds, including the specialty "pastrami" style lox.
Use our Tribeca Self-Guided Walking Tour or join us on our Lower Manhattan Tour.
TIP: This store is just a few blocks away from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. After your bagel, walk down and see the beautiful fountains at the memorial site.
Leo's Bagels 3 Hanover Square Open Mon-Fri 6 am-6 pm; Sat & Sun 7 am-5 pm
When you are exploring the Wall Street area or getting ready to ride the free Staten Island Ferry, Leo's is a great place to get a bagel done right.
You can get a classic New York bagel covered with a wide variety of cream cheeses, including tofu "cream cheese" for those lactose intolerant or vegan.
Lower East Side
Russ & Daughters 179 Houston St. at Orchard St. Open Mon-Fri 8 am-8 pm; Sat 8 am-7 pm; Sun 8 am-5:30 pm
Since 1914, this family-owned eatery remains NYC's favorite store to get a bagel with cream cheese and slices of lox (like smoked salmon).
On their menu, this it's called the "classic", and though it will set you back about $10, it's big enough to share with someone. This is a quintessential New York experience!
For more on Russ & Daughters check out our Lower East Side Food Tour and Lower East Side self-guided tour.
In addition to the original Houston Street location, there is now a Russ and Daughters Cafe on Orchard Street.
Kossar's Bialys 367 Grand Street at Essex St. Open daily 6 am-8 pm.
It is not just about bialys at the legendary Kossar's. They also serve great bagels. Going on 80 years, they added bagels to their menu in 2013.
This bagel shop is also one of the stops on Free Tours by Foot’s Lower East Side Food Tour. Don't miss it!
Though this post is about bagels, we do recommend that you try a bialy.
Watch the video above to find out more about this classic Jewish bread product.
Black Seed Bagels 170 Elizabeth Street at Spring St. Open Daily 7 am - 4 pm
The bagels here are not 100% New York style, but they ARE amazing. They are a hybrid of Montreal-style bagels and New York-style bagels.
Despite being fussy about our bagels, New Yorkers are on board with Black Seed, so much so that there are other locations all over the city.
You can find Black Seed Bagels in Brooklyn Heights, East Village, and the Financial District inside the Brookfield Center.
Here's the twist: they are boiled in honey-sweetened water and baked in a wood-burning oven. (Fancy, schmancy!)
Bagels on the Square 7 Carmine St at 6th Ave. Open every day 24 hours!
What makes this a great bagel shop is not just the excellent bagels but the long list of cream cheese flavors they have.
Just to name a few: Sun-Dried Tomato, Chive & Garlic, Bacon Horseradish, Raisin Walnut and more.
They also have a wide variety of low-fat cream cheese flavors and tofu “cream cheese”.
You'll see many people on the weekends enjoying huge bagels sitting in the small park just across the street.
Join our free Greenwich Village walking tour and your guide can point out this store.
You can also take a look at our guide to Greenwich Village for suggestions of things to do before or after your bagel.
Murray's Bagels 500 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011 Open Mon-Fri 6:00 am-9:00 pm; Sat/Sun 6:00 am-8:00 pm
Making bagels for 20 years, Murray's is always on Top Ten Bagels lists. It's as simple as that! You cannot go wrong at Murray's.
MIDTOWN & UPTOWN
Ess-a-Bagel 831 3rd Avenue at 51st St. Open Mon-Fri 6 am-9 pm; Sat-Sun 6 am-5 pm
Ess-a-Bagel has been making huge, delicious bagels since 1976. Anything you choose to put on your bagel, you will be more than happy.
They have a wide selection of savory salads such as egg salad, tuna salad and out-of-this-world smoked salmon salad.
One issue is that there is often a line, but it is worth the wait.
Best Bagel & Coffee 225 W. 35th St at 8th Ave. Open Mon-Fri 6am-4pm; Sat 8am-2:30pm; Sun closed.
This tiny Midtown bagel shop is ideally located for visitors staying in the Times Square area.
If you are staying nearby, a perfect place to grab breakfast. If you aren't staying nearby, it's still a great place to get a classic bagel.
If you join us for our free Midtown Manhattan Tour, grab a bagel before the tour as the starting point is a few blocks away.
Pick a Bagel 891 8th Ave and W. 53rd St. Open daily 6 am to 11:30 pm
Perfect for those staying in the Theater District of Times Square.
Since they do much more than great bagels and are open late, you can grab some good, well-priced food after a Broadway show.
Other locations are in Battery Park City, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and more.
Use this link to google maps to see all the locations.
Upper East Side
H&H Midtown Bagels East 1551 Second Avenue at East 80th St. Open 5:30 am - 9:00 pm daily.
One of the most well-known names in the New York bagel scene, H&H is no longer owned by the Puerto Rican brothers who opened the first H&H in 1972.
Helmer Toro and his brother-in-law Hector Hernandez (hence "H&H") built a bagel empire.
Between its east side and west side locations, H&H was once the largest bagel manufacturer in New York City producing about 80,000 bagels a day.
Quantity however never trumped quality. H&H bagels are truly as good as their reputation.
Coffee shops and breakfast joins 'import' daily H&H bagels and display signs telling customers "WE SERVE H&H BAGELS!"
Tip: H&H is just a few blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After your visit to see the finest art in the world, why not have one of the finest bagels in the world?
Find out about the Metropolitan Museum of Art Tours here.
Upper West Side
Absolute Bagel 2788 Broadway at 108th St. Open Daily 6 am-9 pm. *CASH ONLY
A Thai family runs this bagel shop - kind of fascinating in and of itself. Absolute Bagels proves that one's ethnic heritage has nothing to do with making the perfect bagel.
Bagels are constantly streaming out of the oven to cater to the excited customers waiting in line. If your timing is right, you might get lucky and arrive just as a fresh batch comes out.
Warning: If you wear glasses, they may get fogged up at this steamy, yummy shop!
The Bagel Store, 754 Metropolitan Ave at Graham Ave. Open Mon to Fri 6 am-6pm; Sat & Sun 7am-6pm
You’ve probably been curious about the neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, known for its hip, artsy scene and colorful characters.
The Bagel Store has brought even more color to the ‘hood. While known for their hand-rolled, huge bagels, their claim to fame is their Rainbow Bagel.
It is exactly what you imagine it to be: all the tastiness of a great bagel combined with the beauty of a rainbow.
They also have some really interesting cream cheese flavors like Birthday Cake, Nutella, Pumpkin Pie, Olive Pimento, and Bacon/Cheddar.
Maybe this isn’t your classic breakfast bagel place but it sure sounds like fun. Take your colorful bagel to go and check out some awesome graffiti and street art.
Use our guide Williamsburg Street Art Tour to discover the best art out there.
Bagel Hole 400 7th Avenue and 13th St. Open Mon to Fri 7 am- 6 pm; Sat 7 am-5 pm, Sun 7 am-4 pm
Year after year, this non-pretentious bagel shop is on the top ten lists of best bagels in NYC.
That’s because they boil their bagels (as great bagels should be) while newer shops steam before baking, sacrificing the fluffy element a bagel should have.
Their bagels are not gigantic, they are normal size! Chewy inside, a slightly crispy exterior, just what a bagel should be.
If you haven’t considered visiting Park Slope, there is so much more than just incredible bagels. This historic and charming neighborhood just near Prospect Park is worth a visit.
Check out our Park Slope and Prospect Park Self-guided tour to help you find your way!
La Bagel Delight 104 Front Street at Adams St. Open Mon to Fri 6 am-6 pm; Sat 7 am - 5 pm, Sun 7 am-4 pm
Admittedly, these are not ‘off-the-charts’ bagels. They are, however, very good bagels, loved by the locals of the wonderful neighborhood of DUMBO.
This is the area just off of the Brooklyn Bridge that you are sure to be walking across during your visit.
Chewy, fluffy and human-sized, you can get a great bagel with classic cream cheese flavors.
They also have a huge variety of custom-made sandwiches for both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
DUMBO is a neighborhood that is best visited with a guide to see the best sights.
We offer pay-what-you-wish walking tours of the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO. Join us before or after your bagel!
And if you are curious how DUMBO got its name (no, it's not named after Disney's loveable elephant), read our post on What does the acronym DUMBO stand for?"
HISTORY OF THE NEW YORK BAGEL
As far back as the 1600's Eastern European Jewish communities were eating bagels.
But 400 years ago, this round, baked food with a hole in the middle was not called a bagel.
History shows the linguistic roots of the name. In Yiddish (a language combining German, Hebrew, and English) the word beygel was used.
This word itself was derived from the Middle High German word bouc and Old High German word boug, both of which mean bracelet or ring.
Yet another German word, bügel, is the name for a round bread loaf.
The New York bagel story began in the late 1800s.
Among the millions of Eastern European Jews who emigrated to America were Polish people who brought their traditional foods with them.
Savory foods like knish, bialy and the round bread with a hole in the middle, now called a bagel, became familiar foods to all New Yorkers regardless of ethnicity.
Here in NYC, bagels quickly became a popular and affordable food staple. Why have plain toast for breakfast when you could have a hearty bagel to start your day?
The first bagels came in four basic flavors: plain, sesame, poppy and salt. As the years passed, the winds of change brought an egg, cinnamon raisin, 'everything', onion, and garlic.
Today, more and more modern flavors abound. There's sun-dried tomato, blueberry, chocolate, pizza, and jalapeño, to name a few.
No doubt, the bagel makers of the old would be puzzled by the new breed of bagel. You can almost hear them saying, "A rainbow bagel?!? C'mon, give me a break!
No matter what you choose, whatever combination, color, flavor, and topping, you can't go wrong if you go to any of the bagel shops above. Enjoy!