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On the Bagel trail in the Big Apple

July 20, 2015

I love bagels – anytime!

I first tasted a bagel many, many years ago in a little place on Sixth Avenue and have been hooked ever since.

One day, on a recent visit to New York, I decided to do a bagel trail in Manhattan to discover the perfect bagel – hand-shaped, left to rise for about twelve hours, boiled briefly in water, pressed, and then baked. And what a day I had! Flagels, everything bagels, the more usual sesame-and-onion bagels, name-it-and-you’ll-get-it fillings and every kind of schmear – all displayed temptingly on counters.

I started at the Village and worked my way up the Big Apple. My first stop was at Murray’s Bagels in East Village. A pretty blue board welcomed me into what can only be described as a bagel institution. Bins, full of different flavours, waiting for the long lines of bagel fans. Here, bagels are made fresh and in the traditional way – hand-rolled and boiled before baking – with a crispy crust and chewy inside. One thing, however; Murray’s does not toast its bagels! Well, toasted or not, the Murray’s bagel was quite perfection.

Murray’s Bagels, 500 Avenue of the Americas

My next stop was Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company in Chelsea. The ambience was more cafe-like than just-a-bagel-place. BBC is a star and it was hard to find a spot even at eleven in the morning.The wait, though, was well worth it. I went for a toasted sesame bagel with salmon and cream cheese and my long-overdue morning cuppa. If you want your bagel toasted with a schmear and a nice cup of coffee, then this is just the place for you. They also serve a great, freshly-squeezed, orange juice.

Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company, 286 Eighth Avenue

Cutting across to the East, I went in search of a little place called David’s Bagels on First Avenue near Stuyvesant Park. At first glance, it seemed a small, nondescript place and I walked past it before retracing my steps, determined to check it out. My choice this time was an onion bagel with garlic and chives cream cheese. And what a pleasant surprise – a large, fresh, and perfectly-baked bagel. I would definitely eat that again!

David’s Bagels 273 First Avenue

Next on my list was Ess-a-Bagel on Third and Fifth. I wandered up Third Avenue, happy at the thought of walking many blocks to burn off my morning indulgence. Every block had a neighbourhood bagel place – Gramercy Bagels, Bagel Express, Pick-a-Bagel, Bagel Cafe; not to mention the many street bagel-stands. I peeked into them but saved up for my next bagel at Ess-a-Bagel.

Standing at the entrance of Ess-a-Bagel, with its fading, brown-painted signage, I felt I was walking into the past! It was a grand little place with an ornate design moulded on the ceiling, hanging glass lights and a corner full of stuff ranging from a smiling Uncle Sam to an Ess-a-Bagel T-shirt. And of course, the corner held bagels of every sort with rows and rows of fillings. It was time for an ‘everything’ bagel with jalapeño cream cheese. I settled down and took my first bite with anticipation.

Hmm… A bit of a disappointment. Dense, and a bit hard to work through. Not wanting to waste my bagel calories, I decided to give up halfway through.

Ess-a-Bagel,359 First Avenue and 831 Third Avenue

I did one last stop for the day – in Hell’s Kitchen. Pick-a-Bagel, on Eighth Avenue, has a good selection with a plethora of toppings and salads. But the lines get really long and the wait can be a bit tiresome. As for their bagels, I have to say they were average, but Pick-a-Bagel can be a regular spot if you are in the neighbourhood.

Pick-a-Bagel, 891, Eighth Avenue

I had munched through bagels at five places with a friend(so my share was only two and a half bagels!) adn was ready to call it a day. Bagels in Brooklyn and Upper East and West have to wait for another day.

My faves

  • Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company
  • David s Bagels (pleasant surprise!)
  • Murrays Bagels
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About Me

I am a banker by profession, traveller by passion.

I have found time to travel to many countries and live in 2 countries (3 if Scotland ever does becomes one!) and 6 cities during my career in finance. I was a diplomat first and started in the Indian Foreign Service with my first posting being Paris – The City of Light. And began my lifelong love of travel and coffee there! An MBA followed and I’ve been in finance since.

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