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Best Bagels

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  • Bob Libkind May 10, 2003 12:59 AM
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Okay, who's got the best bagels in town -- I mean real, boiled water bagels. And no ungapatchka flavors, like cinnamon raisin, blueberry or who knows what. Getting beyond salt, poppy and maybe onion is too non-traditional for me -- even sesame pushes the limits.

Let's do it by geography:

Center City
Northeast
PA suburbs
NJ suburbs

Since I only know from Center City, I'll cast the first vote: Philadelphia Bagel at the Riverside Shopping plaza at Delware (Columbus) & Washington. Closest I've had to the bagel of my youth (Watson, Newark NJ). They've got excellent bialys, too.

Your vote?

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  1. My husband, the bagel maven, drives out (from center city) to Haverford Ave and City Line for his bagels.
    I can't remember the name of the place. They are not open Friday afternoons or Saturdays.

    As a fill in, he thinks Manhattan are not bad, also.

    I like Delancey St., which are too sweet for him. I am seduced by all the seeds, which I love.

    We also clip the $5.00 off coupon in every Wednesday's NY Times for H & H Bagels (the factory) in New York. If we go in for a show or opera, we stop and get a couple of dozen.

    It will be interesting to hear about everyone's favorite sources!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sylvia G
      r
      Renaissance Man

      I'll put a vote in for Redhouse bagels on Olive Street (also known as the Olive Street Café) in Fairmount. Freshly made and very good, if somewhat uneven in quality at times. It's also a nice hangout for the neighborhood with outdoor seating.

    2. Philadelphia Bagel aren't bad. Too soft and chewy, and a tad sweet for my palate. Manhattan... sorry, Sylvia, but... no; really not.

      The only bagels I've really liked in this forsaken burg were the Rollings bagels the market at 18th and Spruce used to get in. Very crusty, no sweetness to speak of, just right, down to the frequent misshapen oddities you'd fish out of the bin. Reminded me of the Brooklin boyhood I used to fantasize about growing up in Lisbon, Portugal. Then one Spring they stopped getting them - "But soon!" - then they stopped pretending, but I never could find out why they disappeared, or where to find a supplier.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Capaneus

        Our favorite, hands down -- Rollins.

        Bagels can be had by going directly to the source (Elkins Park, north of Phila, on 611, right outside the Elkins Park rail stop, not open on Saturdays) or to the Weaver's Way co-op in West Mt Airy (corner of Carpenter and Sedwick, restricted to members, but maybe you can ask about exceptions, I don't know).

        We've tried a variety of others, and just can't find any that compare...not Manhattan, not Metropolitan, not Le Bus (though their walnut maple scones are a nice consolation).

        1. re: joan

          correction on name:
          Rolings Bakery, still in Elkins Park (north of the city)

        2. re: Capaneus

          Actually, we haven't had Manhattan bagels for a long time.
          My husband thinks the name of his bagel place (at Haverford Ave and City Ave) is New York Bagels.
          They are religious there, and close for the sabbath.
          He goes out there every few weeks, and we freeze them.

          But we're always open to trying other bagels. Next stop: Elkins Park!

          1. re: Capaneus

            Montgomery Ave in Elkins Park, go on Sunday Morning for the most selection or Friday for a delicious Challah.

            They are on Montgomery Ave around 4900(I think) down the street from the fire station and across from the train station.

          2. New York Bagels, Haverford ave. at City Line Ave. There is a place near me in Cherry Hill, Kings hwy and Church ave just called Hot Bagels. Is pretty good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: FatBob

              I love a place that simply goes by the name of what it seels, i.e., "Hot Bagels." Gotta try it!

              1. re: Bob Libkind

                Being a Bella Vister confined to walking/bicycle, I don't have a great selection of neighborhood bagelries. Nonetheless, I think Hot Bagels does a really good job. I recently complained on the NYC board about the declining quality of Ess-A-Bagel, which I used to love. Hot Bagels reminds me of the EABs. A good bagel, and the spreads are tasty, too. Also bialys. Worth a visit by all means.

            2. r
              Robin Mendoza Green

              I'll have to go with NY Bagel at Haverford Ave and City Line. We're from NYC and these are the closest to what we grew up with!.

              1. r
                Robin Mendoza Green

                I'll have to go with NY Bagel at Haverford Ave and City Line. We're from NYC and these are the closest to what we grew up with!.

                1. I am still hunting for a decent bagel. We did not think that the bagels from Roling's in Elkins Park were anything special. The place is impossible to find, and in my opinion, it's certainly not worth the hassle of trying. We are now getting bagels from Wegman's in Warrington. Although they are excellent, they don't necessarily taste like the bagels of my youth. Isn't there a bagel shop or deli in Northeast Philly that someone can recommend?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Karen K

                    Living in NE Philly, I am a fan of Nate's Hot Bagels at 1619 Grant Ave., in the Grant Shopping Center off of Bustleton Ave. This place is nothing fancy- no place to sit and I think the minimum order is 6 bagels. They don't do sandwiches and only sell cream cheese in 1/2 pound containers, no single serve. Hope this helps.

                  2. There's a great bagel shop on Jackson Street in Media. They're closed on Sundays, but are the only ones I can find to rival what I grew up with in NY.

                    1. I'm still looking for good bagels in southern Chester County. There was a small gourmet market on Rt. 52 just outside West Chester that used to import bagels from H&H, but they closed a few months ago. I'd think a great bagel place in the 'burbs would do really well.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Have you had Country Bagel in West Chester? They are by far the best bagels I have had outside of NY. There are four locations. The best one to go to (where they make the bagels) is in a shopping center (I believe it is called the Parkway Shopping Center but not sure) where High Street and 202 meet. There is a McDonald's at the front of the shopping center and the bagel shop is towards the far section of the center as you enter.

                        1. re: Blanks

                          I have had them, and they're good, but they're NOT NY bagels. We've also got a bagel place on RT. 1 in the Genuardi's shopping center, close to where I live, that makes bagels right there, and they're okay, but again, they lack that "Je ne sais quois" that makes NY bagels unique. Some say it's the NYC water -- who knows. But there's something about those NY bagels that just can't be replicated.

                      2. In King of Prussia, there is actually a good off the beaten path place- Bagelicious.

                        1. Where is Bagelicious? I used to live in West Chester and got my bagels at Country Bagel (see reply above). However, I now live a few minutes from KoP and have been trying to find a good bagelry nearby. All that I know nearby is the Bagel Factory and Manhatten Bagel. I would not recommend either place to anyone.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Blanks

                            It's in a little shopping center on Beidler. there is a pub, Fiddlers Green, in the shopping center. It's close to Petrucci's Ice cream on Henderson. It's the best I've found around the area.

                            1. re: pamd

                              Thanks for the tip! I will check it out this weekend.

                              1. re: pamd

                                Thanks for the tip pamd! I finally made it to bagelicious. Turns out it is only four miles from my house. The bagels are much better than the Bagel Factory or Manhatten Bagel. They are on par with Country Bagel which makes me very happy! Thanks again!

                                1. re: Blanks

                                  glad you enjoyed! I actually moved recently, so don't live as close anymore- and the closest place near me now just doesn't compare.
                                  I have enjoyed the muffins there as well.

                            2. To make sure, our standards are based on the same characteristics ... a crusty warm outside with a chewy inside with substance (not airy) ... with the various bagel places out here in the western suburbs, I thought the bagels at Bagel Factory came closer to the real thing than what I have had at Einsteins, Manhattan Bagel, and some of the other places.

                              Never been to Bagelicious, though it is in my neighborhood. Are their bagels like what you'd get at New York bagels in Overbrook? Those bagels tasted like a different species from the bagels at the aforementioned franchises. Even their bialy was a treat. It had bite to it, both in texture and taste.
                              (They had some version of a cinnamon raisin bagel which allowed me to turn off my censor for keeping bagels pure because it was delicious.)
                              When I used to live in NE Philly, I enjoyed getting hot bagels at a place called "Brooklyn Bagels."

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: FelafelBoy

                                Is Brooklyn Bagels still around? If so, where is it?

                                1. re: Karen K

                                  Karen K - I don't know if Brooklyn Bagels is still around. I haven't been back to NE Philly in several years. Years ago, that place seemed like the best place to get hot bagels, the real thing, boiled, in that area. I would classify the well known franchised stores that make bagels a convenience for people seeking bagels, rather than representative of the real thing. Brooklyn Bagels, years ago, had at least one article about the way in which they made the bagels, to inform readers of how authentic bagels should be made, and that the taste of that difference is the measure of the better quality.
                                  (I don't know the ingredients in Giant supermarket's pumpernickel bagel, and I'm better off not knowing, but you heat those things up, and they're pretty tasty. Genuardis used to have very dense and rich bagels. Then the chain got bought up by a larger company, and the bakery switched to a "California-style" bagel, beautiful to look at, but very airy, and best suited for sandwiches. I mention this, because with the exception of a few supermarkets that make, or re-process, bagel ingredients, so as to present "in-house" bagels, a shopper is still best off buying bagels at bagel specialty stores that do little else but make bagels.)

                                  To me, a store can make a variety of bagels, call it a sesame, poppy seed, egg, onion bagel, etc., but they are all often just minor variations on a plain bagel with a small additional ingredient. But when you take a pumpernickel bagel, THEN you get to taste a difference in the manner in which it has been constructed. When I bite into a heated Giant supermarket pumpernickel bagel (not a marble bagel - please!), its rich flavor comes out. So, when I go to bagel shops, the pumpernickel bagel is the one variety I use to judge the merit of the place I am in. Also, making a plain bagel delicious is an art, and that variety, too, can be a judge of how good a place is!

                                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                                    Brooklyn bagels closed a couple of years ago. Abe's, which was right next door and sold wonderful lox and other smoked fish, is also closed. Very sad. Brooklyn Bagels was great.

                                2. re: FelafelBoy

                                  All I can offer is that I like Bagelicious, but I do not like Einsteins, Manhatten, etc- any of those chains really, I will just eat them if I'm really hungry & nothing else around. I tried the Bagel Factory in Wayne the other day- Bagelicious SO much better IMO. Try them & see if they're to your liking- report back too!

                                  1. re: pamd

                                    pamd - your recommendation is infectious. Hopefully, I will pick up a bagel on my trips to that area. Are the bagels hot, or at least warm, or are they bagged?

                                3. if you all are still looking for philly recs... kaplan's at 3rd and poplar in northern liberties makes a mean bagel.
                                  super-crusty outside with a dense chewy middle. i'm a fan of the everything bagel and the egg bagel. my bagel craving is satisfied.

                                  i drop in every saturday morning for a dozen to get me through the week. if you happen to be walking by this intersection at 2 or 3 in the morning, which i sometimes do after a late night at the pubs, stop and breathe in. ahhhhh. smell the baking. yum.

                                  1. For Delco the best bagel around by far is at Custom Bagels (Olive Street in downtown Media). They're open six days a week (no Sundays) until early afternoon. Bagels the way they should be - dense, heavy, flavorful.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: zach272

                                      That's the one I was talking about- thank you! Wonderful bagels. Yum!!!

                                    2. does anyone know where to get a "real" bagel in the Lancaster area? the bagel shops were good, not great... but they have been closing left and right in the last year... and what about "go withs" in the same area? kippered salmon, good whitefish?
                                      (mouth watering...)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mamakto3

                                        I lived in Lancaster two years ago, so this place may now be closed. I don't recall the name, but it is off 30, near That Fish Place, That Pet Place by the tile store and across from Kreiders in a pseudo strip mall. Not fabu, but the best for Lancaster. As for salmon and whitefish, I always bought it in Philly and brought it home or went to the Wegmans in Downingtown, as I commuted from Philly. Good luck.

                                      2. Bagel Junction in Newtown