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Which is the best bagel chain?

  • c

Good morning folks!

I'm looking for a decent place to get a bagel. What do people like the best? Ideally, it must be easily accessible to me (preferably within Mont. county or DC). That means NYC and Baltimore are out. Also, it should have long hours, since I work 9-6 (Can you tell I have a beef with the Breadline?) So, really, my question is what's your favorite chain (Einstein's, Chesapeake, ABP, etc.). Costco? Should I just buy Lenders "bagels" at the grocery store and give up on getting anything worth a separate trip? Switch to whole wheat toast with peanut butter?

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  1. Safeway, by a mile. Sesame is my favorite.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      Safeway? Really? I'm skeptical (and a NYer) but I'll have to try one.

      My favorite, although it's Arlington, is Brooklyn Bagel in Courthouse. Also like Bethesda Bagel, and Whatsa Bagel in Cleveland Park.

      Einstein is okay in a pinch.

      1. re: Nancy

        I cannot, by a long shot, call myself a bagel expert, and can only speak to one Safeway, but there must be far and away better bagels out there. I know the original message does not include places in Baltimore, but Joan & Gary's (or Gary & Joan's, I always mix them up) on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville makes what are probably the best bagels around here. Greg's in Belevedere Square is pretty good, too (although they don't make salt bagels).

        Safeway!!?? Come on. Grocery store bakeries have come along, but aren't they more a last resort? I've never been impressed by any bagel I've gotten at the Canton Safeway in Baltimore. Maybe I'm just not getting there at the right time. Or, maybe (probably more likely), I wouldn't really know a good bagel from frozen Lender's. What makes the real McCoy?

        If bagels are like Pizza, you'll only find approximations of varying degrees of quality until you step off the train somewhere above the Mason-Dixon line (or east of the Hudson River, in this case).

        1. re: Harry Romano

          If I'm not mistaken, the original post asked for bagel chains, not individual store(s). I limited my response to the request. I am sure that there are many better bagels than Safeway out there, but I find the other chain bagels to be usually too hard and not at all tasty!
          The good ones at any Safeway I've been to go quickly, though, so it's best to hit them early.

        2. re: Nancy

          I definitely agree with the recommendation for Brooklyn Bagel Deli on Wilson Boulevard in the Courthouse area of Arlington. They also have excellent rugelach and real pickles, and the owner (Moe) is very friendly and helpful. I don't know its weekday hours, and it's not open late, but it opens early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

      2. c

        bethesdabagel- ignoring all that stuff about New York- becuase this is not New York- these are chewy bagels- and there are several locations - my favorite is Bethesda Ave.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cocoagirl.com

          Agree with Bethesda Bagel. It was impossible to get a decent bagel in DC until they opened up. Their whitefish salad was good too. Don't know if they still make it tho.

        2. I think the Georgetown Bagelry on M Street has some solid bagels, and Einstein's is better than any supermarket kind in my opinion.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ep

            plus they have coupons on their website www.manhattanbagel-md.com I think, and sell their bagels at 1/2 price starting 1 hour before closing.

            If you get on Einstein's email list, they sometimes send you coupons.

          2. The bagels at Whole Foods are edible. Not great but edible.

            1. I also agree that Brooklyn Bagel in N Arlington has good stuff. But, try Arrowine in the Lee Heights Shops on Old Lee Highway, also in N Arlington. They carrey H & H Bagels shipped in from NYC. From what I understand, they are half-baked in NYC and finished up onsite. Can't go wrong with them - just bought a bunch this past weekend and wasn't disappointed.


              2 Replies
              1. re: ANCyM

                I did not know that about Arrowine! Thanks - it's good to know you can get top-notch bagels there. It's a great store - very good place to buy wine, knowledgeable staff, I think good prices (disclaimer: I don't drink wine for medical reasons, but my fairly serious wine-drinker friend highly recommended it, and when we went there to buy wine for a dinner party we had a very helpful salesman and got something reasonably priced that everyone at dinner loved).

                The Lee Heights shopping center where Arrowine is located is also where Pastries by Randolph is - very very good cakes and pastries, though on the pricey side (Heidelberg Bakery on Lee Highway in Arlington has better prices).

                1. re: Genevieve

                  The H&H bagels served at Arrowine are the best I've found in WDC, especially when hot from their mini-oven. Arrowine also sells excellent bread and cheese along with their wine selections. Location and other info are available at the URL listed below.

                  Link: http://www.arrowine.com

              2. Bagel City in Rockville makes excellent bagels, bialies, etc. They make them all day long so they are always fresh. Also a good selection of whitefish salad, etc. It is on Rockville Pike just north of Randolph Rd. (in the shopping center just north of Barnes and Nobels)

                1 Reply
                1. re: dinwiddie

                  I'll second Bagel City bagels as well, they were always great. And they used to make the absolute best whitefish salad in the DC area, but its been years since I've had it there so I can't say for sure.

                2. Nothing compares to a H&H Bagel bought piping hot fresh from one of there bakeries...but I've bought decent bagels from the baked goods guy at Eastern Market (not sure where he gets them though. I prefer poppy seed bagels, lightly toasted, with a nice pat of cream cheese.

                  1. The Shoppers Food Warehouse grocery store in Penn Daw Plaza on Rt. 1 in South Alexandria makes good bagels. Variety is limited. I have a weakness for the pumpernickel ones. The Safeway in Belle View Shopping Center makes bagels, but they are more breadlike and not the dense texture of a real bagel.

                    1. Not a chain, but "Planet Bagel" at least used to be good--it is actually the Parisian bakery in Rockville--wholesale place but they open to retail on weekends and do good bagels---you can watch the whole process and buy'em while they're hot, literally. But only on Saturday and Sunday if even then---I'm not sure they still do it. Does anybody know?? (They are located near Katz's market, up closer to the tracks)

                      1. As a former New Yorker (and, if it matters, Jew) I feel I should comment on the bagel thread. As many have noted, DC is not a great city for bagels. It is hard to beat fresh H&H bagels in NYC, and it is impossible to beat the improbably better bagels from Stuff n' Bagels on Long Beach Road in Oceanside, NY--home of the best bagels in NY (and by syllogism, the world).

                        But that doesn't mean the situation here in DC is horrible. Before I get to my recommendations, let me first say that anyone who says that Einstein Bros. has good bagels does not know what a bagel is.

                        You have to pay attention to (at least) three things when evaluating a bagel: the flavor, the surface texture, and the internal chewiness. The flavor must be sufficiently yeasty--it's not supposed to have the same taste as plain bread. The surface must be a smooth, firm, yet crusty (in that its texture is distinguishable from the interior). The inside of the bagel should be, when fresh, slightly moist and chewy.

                        That said, in my opinion the best bagels made fresh in the DC area are at the Rockville Bagel City. (The one on Massachusetts Ave in NW does not make its own bagels, but has them delivered from the Rockville store). A runner-up would be Georgetown Bagelry (both in Georgetown and the one on River Road)--though this place thinks it is more authentically NY than it really is. Up to a few years ago, Bethesda Bagel (and what I believe is its sister company, Whatsa Bagel) had a decent product, but as of late I have found them quite lacking.

                        That's all for now. If you find yourself in NY and want to head out to Long Island for an amazing bagel experience, make a stop at Stuff n' Bagels. But go early--when I lived in NY they would close around 3pm.


                        12 Replies
                        1. re: PoolBoy

                          I agree with you about Einstein, and I think this applies to all the chains. I know some folks were incredulous about my Safeway post earlier. For me, Safeway -toasted- comes closest to Moishe's on Houston St. (if I'm permitted to mention both in the same sentence), and if we are limiting the post to chain bagels, ones that can be found in all areas of DC!

                          1. re: Steve

                            Admittedly, I have not tried Safeway's bagels. Perhaps I will.

                            But let me say that one test of a good bagel is that for most of the day on which it is made, it tastes really good and is enjoyable to eat, by itself, untoasted.

                            Toasting, in my opinion, is the bagel equalizer. I save it for day-old, frozen, or when I can't avoid them, lousy, bagels.

                            1. re: PoolBoy

                              I agree 100%, toasting is not a good way to judge a bagel - but I buy a dozen and freeze 'em. What am I gonna do? Break my jaw on the other dreck that is out there?
                              What do you think of squagels, the bagels that are at Cosi? Only had them once, but I like them a whole bunch!

                              1. re: Steve

                                Squagels--my ancestors are rolling over in their graves. Why mess with the perfection? I just don't get it. Good bagels don't need a gimmick.

                                I also second the critiques of huge bready monstrosities, toasting, and anything with blueberries, cinnamon or raisins. And don't even get me started about "breakfast bagels" with eggs, cheese and bacon! Is nothing sacred?

                                I still haven't found anything in DC that matches up with the bagels of my youth (Pratzel's in St. Louis)--which I can get shipped to me when I'm in dire need. The bagels they sell at the Parkway deli are decent. The ones at the Fresh Fields on P Street aren't horrendous--they've got an okay flavor--but they're still too bready. The ones at the Safeway near me are too big and deflated and not chewy enough.

                                There was a thread on the general board about making your own bagels. I think I'm going to give it a try one of these days...

                                1. re: butterfly

                                  Hey,there's nothing wrong with toasting a bagel.

                                  The problem is, is that the people here don't know HOW to toast a bagel. They think toasting it means to heat it up slightly in the toaster, with the toaster on the fastest speed (the lightest toasting possible).

                                  I grew up where bagels go to retire, South Florida, so I know a good bagel too.

                            2. re: Steve

                              Well, I'm not a former NYer, but I'm a Providence native who has been eating bagels since they cost 8 cents apiece at the Hope St. Bakery (and were the proper size, not closer to the size of a spare tire). I've had bagels from Eagerman's, Kupel's, and Rosenfeld's (in the Boston area), Ess-a, David's, and H&H (in New York), Flakowitz (So. Florida), Bethesda Bagel, etc. I've gnawed on "bagels" from Bruegger's (the best of the chains), Einstein, Manhattan, Dunkin' Donuts, Panera, etc., bagels in what passes for the Jewish neighborhood in Gainesville, Florida. I know a bit about the subject.

                              Forget all the chains and go to Bagel Buddies in Fair Lakes. The owner, Ed Schiffman, is an ex-NYer who treats his shop like it's one of his kids (the rest of whom all work there, along with his wife).

                              The bagels are perfectly sized and nicely chewy. They are the real deal. They blow the chains away.

                            3. re: PoolBoy

                              Nice posting.

                              I've traveled to Oceanside, NY numerous time w/ a friend whose family still lives out there. Every Sunday morning began w/ a huge breakfast of Stuff n' Bagels treats - bagels the size of truck tires, flagels, and biyalis. Oh, and the cream cheese too.

                              I sent a link of your post to him and his reply was that if he didn't know better, he thought he'd written the piece himself.

                              On a side note, I'm a big fan of Ralph's ices and the gelato/ice cream parlor at Rockville Center - the names escapes me.


                              1. re: ANCyM

                                Funny--small world.

                                Regarding the gelato place, are you thinking of International Cafe?

                                1. re: PoolBoy

                                  Yes, the IDC in Rockville Centre - brilliant place! Also, the Blue Moon is a treat - have you been there?


                                  1. re: ANCyM

                                    No, I haven't been to Blue Moon. And I haven't been to the International (Delight?) Cafe in ages. I just don't find myself on Long Island that often nowadays. When I visit New York, though, I try to run out there to pick up some bagels from Stuff.

                                    1. re: PoolBoy

                                      If you do get back to Strong Island, I'd suggest a stop at the Blue Moon - you'll be glad you did. Great panini (sp?).

                                      Yes, I used to go up to the city three or four times a year - eat my fill of bagels, tongue sandwich, Sabbrett's w/ red onions, and knishes from Yonah Schimmels - and then take the train back home laden with lots of the above. Once I brought home some whitefish salad - it kept!


                                2. re: ANCyM

                                  I beleive that it is Sam's International Cafe. Next to the Mariachi? Sure is the best place for gelato in Rockville.

                              2. The worst bagels are at Au Bon Pain. I can't believe they are allowed to even call what they sell as bagels.

                                Just because a sourdough Asiago Cheese danish is called a bagel, does not make it one.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Das

                                  The worst bagel I ever had in my life was at a Bess Eaton Donuts. Well, what should I expect there, anyway?

                                  It was a soft round roll with an indentation in the top. NOT a bagel.

                                2. On River Rd. in a strip mall w/Fresh Fields across from American Plant Food Ctr. and Talbotts liquor. By far the only decnt bagels I've had and you can sometimes get the hot...YUM

                                  1. Speaking as an ex New Yorker, I think that the bagels at "Bagels and..." are very close to those to be found in New York. They have two stores in the Annapolis, Maryland area. While admittedly, this is not a chain of stores, nor is it close for most people, their quality makes it worth a trip.

                                      1. I agree 100% w the guy who said Safeway. I just recently found this out & now I go there all the time! I don't lime any other grocery store bagels, but theirs are amazing!!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Bagelloveru

                                          I can't beleive this vampire thread has seen the light of day.

                                          Circa 2014, Breugger's is the best if we are limiting our discussion to chains. I still buy Safeway beagls to freeze and toast, but they long changed the way they make them and now they are just round bread.

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            I really like the bagels at Goldberg's New York Bagels.

                                            They're as good as any I've had in NYC.

                                            1. re: follick

                                              This always surprises me. I've tried both Goldbergs and both times I was shocked at what they call bagels. Huge, fluffy, doughy bread-like things. No chewiness, no crustiness, no flavor. Seriously a shonda. To each his own.

                                        2. ...they're actually WAY better than the bagels at the bagel shops I've been to around here. Shocking, right?!

                                          1. i love Einstein's but don't consider them bagels. They are more of a roll shaped like a bagel.

                                            1. Since this ancient thread has been bumped. I'll chime in again.

                                              If we are still talking chains, I'd say that the least worst are Wegmans (which I don't think was even in the DC area when the OP first posted), Whole Foods, and yes, Dunkin Donuts. Wegmans even has decent bialys.

                                              The others I can think of -- Panera, ABP, Einstein, Harris Teeter, Giant, Manhattan, Costco -- all suck with a capital S. All just rolls with holes.

                                              I think there are a few Brueggers left around here. If there's one near you, that would be my chain choice.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Bob W

                                                Of the chains, I prefer Manhatten Bagel, but there aren't any left in the Maryland suburbs. I think there may be one in Vienna, but that is the only one I know of.

                                                1. re: Bob W

                                                  Port of Piraeus has contracted to only one location, on 'I' street, NW but they use H+H bagels, just no lox.

                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    Thanks, I work right near PofP (and will continue to do so after we move next month) but never thought of them for bagels. Can't be any worse than what else we have around here.

                                                    1. re: Bob W

                                                      caveat - they get the bagel dough from NYC and cook according to guidelines on site.

                                                      but ya know its still better than a lot and some cream cheese and taramasalata ain't bad in a lox-deprived moment.