Boston Bagel and Lox (er smoked Salmon)
I'm an NYC boy who grew up 3 blocks from H & H and Zabars. To be honest, "Ess a Bagel" in NYC downtown is my winner for NYC bagel.
For Boston... if you start out at Kupel's for bagels then head towards Brighton on Harvard Street and stop on Comm. Ave., "Berezka" the Russian place has excellent smoked salmon, lox, whitefish, sturgeon, sable, etc! All sorts of gourmet foods.
That combo is up there with the H & H / Zabar's combo in my book.
One additional note, quite a few of my Russian friends prefer the Russian Grocery on Beacon Street and Washington, forgot the name. If you make it up there don't miss the Greek/Parisian Bakery on the corner nearby. Really excellent cakes and pastries.
I am making my pilgimage to Zabar's next week. It is one of the things I miss the most. There ain't nothing like it.
I still have dreams of Ess a Bagel. Not the uptown branch, but the one in the 20's on 2nd. You simply can't compare any of the NYC stores that specialize in bagels and smoked fish with anything in Boston. It's truly another world.
As is the case with corned beef and pastrami, it is, unfortunately, impossible to get first-rate smoked salmon in our beloved Boston. Smoked whitefish,salmon and lox - I still prefer salty belly lox - has been an important part of my diet for over sixty years and, sad to say, it is only a periodic run to NYC and Russ and Daughters on Houston street that keeps this love alive. They typically have six or seven different varieties of smoked salmon - Gaspe, nova, Norwegian (the smokiest), Pacific .... Plus kippered salmon and great sturgeon. Additionally, the owner, Mark Federman and his counterman are great kibbitzers.We drive down with an ice chest and come back loaded for a happy week or two.
As to bagels, we head to Kupels in Brookline. Alan Kupelnick, who runs the place, is a very sweet guy and I've been his customer since he opened many years ago but his bagels are puffier than my Platonic ideal. In NYC, you can still find hand -made bagels and for me, the difference is incredible. Any suggestions from NYC bagel mavens for great hand-made bagels will be appreciated as I plan a lox run in the next week or two. In a related vein, Kosars, on Grand, has fabulous bialies.
Lastly, please hold the hysterics about the Boston vs. NYC thing. I grew up in Chicago and have no regional axe to grind but am simply a long-time lover of great deli and appertizer food.