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Aug 15, 2007 09:21 AM

Best Chicago-style bagels?

I'm looking for Chicago style -- not NY style in Chicago -- bagels, like Arnie's. Anyone know of a place you can still get these doughy monsters?

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  1. What is a Chicago style bagel? I've never even heard of that or Arnie's. I'm intrigued.

    9 Replies
    1. re: SuzMiCo

      I've never heard of "Chicago style bagels" either. "Doughy"?

      I've never heard of Arnie's, either, but a quick Google shows that there is a place called Arnie's Bagels on the northwest side at 4030 N Nashville Ave. Is that the proper reference? If so, the obvious question is, can you get what you're looking for there?

      The bagels at Tel Aviv Bakery on Devon Avenue are *slightly* lighter (less dense) and not as chewy as those at Kaufmann's on Dempster in Skokie. Does that help? (Tel Aviv Bakery also has excellent sugar kichel, poppyseed danish, etc.)

      1. re: nsxtasy

        I know exactly what Foodette is talking about. A Chicago style bagel is a "boiled" bagel that is about 1/3 the size of a New York bagel and has a harder crust and incredibly dense crumb. IMO the best example is found at New York Bagel & Bialy (kind of ironic) on Touhy in Lincolnwood just off I-94. NY B&B bakes sensational egg, sesame, pumpernickel, poppyseed and the increasingly hard to find "salt" bagel. The fluffy, whipped creamcheese in a vairety of flavors can not be beat.

        New York Bagel & Bialy
        4714 W Touhy Ave
        (between Keating Ave & Kilpatrick Ave)
        Lincolnwood, IL 60712
        (847) 677-9388

        1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

          Actually, I was thinking of Arnie's on North Avenue, apparently now called NY Bagels, or something like that.

          They're huge, very doughy and bready, soft, not chewy, and completely encrusted with whatever flavoring you get. Not exactly my cup of tea, but some people swear by them.

          1. re: foodette

            "They're huge, very doughy and bready, soft, not chewy" this sounds like a NY style bagel to me... I have not been to Arnie's, but from your description they seem quite similar to what you get at any bagel chain.

            A real Chicago bagel is dense, chewy and reasonably sized. So I'm not sure what you're looking for...a bagel like Arnie's or a Chicago bagel?

            1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

              Hmm, maybe Arnie's just did their own style. They used to be about twice the size of a NY bagel with just a hint of a hole. I also don't think they were boiled first.

              In any case, thanks for the New York Bialy and Bagel!

              1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

                NY bagels are chewy, not soft, with a hard crust. Size (at least in bagels) is not a factor. Soft, bready bagels might be "Iowa style" but know that they are not true bagels.

                And if they're not boiled first, they're round bread with a hole in the middle, not bagels.

                Allegedly what makes NY bagels unique is the NY tap water that they are boiled in.

              2. re: foodette

                > They're huge, very doughy and bready, soft, not chewy,
                > and completely encrusted with whatever flavoring you get.

                That sounds like the bagels at Jewel or Dominick's...

              3. re: Vinny Barbaresco

                Real bagels, NY, Chicago, or otherwise, should be boiled (or else it's just a bread roll).

                1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

                  New York Bagel & Bialy is the quintessential New York bagel -- it's boiled and the right size. Although, over time, bagels every where have become gargantuan in size, a traditioinal NY style bagel is about the size of NYB&B's.

            2. Great thread for an afternoon journey.

              So a Chicago bagel can be (a) huge (may be twice the size of a NY bagel, WOW that's big), (b) the same size or (c) smaller than a NY bagel; can have either a (a) hard crust or (b) soft crust; should be (a) doughy and bready but not chewy or (b) dense and chewy; can handle fluffy cream cheese. For the record all bagels are boiled.

              So back to the original question, what's a chicago bagel.

              1. I grew up in the most Jewish parts of the city my whole life, from Rogers Park back in the 60's then in Skokie during the 70's. And I've never seen anything marketed as "Chicago style" bagels anywhere. Now that doesn't mean it isn't possible, I've just never seen it.

                I do know there are definitely two known styles of bagels; NY & Montreal. But those two are very different from each other. Montreal bakes their bagels in wood fired ovens so its more like a bread, while NY is more the typical boiled (or steamed) variety most places here in Chicago all make, which holds true to the more traditional Jewish Eastern European way of making them, so therefore Chicago's are more like NY's.

                That being said, the best bagels in town bar none are found at Kaufman's Bagel Bakery located in Skokie on Dempster. Nothing else is even close! I drive 30 miles from Gurnee almost monthly to stock up on these things.

                As a sidenote, the bakery is also known for its outstanding breads, cookies and cakes too. And Kaufman's Deli (in the second half of the store) has absolutely the best corned beef, lox and smoked turkey anywhere. Dont miss grabbing from the freezer a container of the home made Kreplach too!

                Kaufman's Bagel & Delicatessen
                4905 Dempster St, Skokie, IL 60077

                16 Replies
                1. re: abf005

                  Hey! You didn't mention the pastrami! They have HOT pastrami at Kaufman's. Oh, and their corned beef comes in three grades (regular, extra lean, and I forget the name of the third type, but it's even leaner still), pastrami also available in extra lean. Smoked fish (try the kippered salmon!), knishes, and lots more goodies, too.

                  Oh yeah, the bagels are great! But I really think of them as "New York style" bagels, because they're very similar to the ones you find all over the New York area.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Yeah! Too many to list, soooo many good things there!!

                  2. re: abf005

                    According to Wikipedia, Montreal bagels are boiled in water infused with honey. They don't contain salt, but are always cooked in a wood-fired oven.

                    1. re: rubinow

                      This June I went to Montreal and tried the famous St. Viateur bagel, I dont recall it being being sweet with honey at all. But the wood fired oven was in full view and the batch that was put in my bag has just been pulled out! The taste? The entire dozen ranged from very slightly burned/to darkly toasted on the bottoms which imparted a smoky taste, they were more like a roll and not chewy, but delicious nonetheless. Here is a link to St. Viateur: if your curious.

                      FWIW: I still stand by Kaufman's as being the best Bagels on the planet, having tried both NY & Montreal's best.

                      1. re: abf005

                        ABF, you claim to know the best bagels on the planet, but have you tried Bagel Oasis, a stop on the service road off the LIE in Littleneck/Douglaston. I urge anyone to make a special trip. My family has been going out of the way on Sunday mornings for the last 40 years. They FedEx for the truly desperate, which has been necessary in Seattle.

                        In Chicago, I get by on Einsteins, too sweet and fluffy but good enough to keep me from turning into a werewolf once a month. I might have to try Kaufman's, though, after reading this post.

                        1. re: ShortOrderHack

                          I don't claim to know the best bagels on the planet. However, I'm very familiar with the bagels in NYC and vicinity. IMHO the bagels at Kaufman's are very good, and very similar to those found in bagel shops all over New York. What differentiates New York from Chicago is not so much the style, but the many places that sell them; out there, it seems like just about every town, and every neighborhood in the city, has at least one if not a multitude of bagel shops selling high quality bagels. They're good out there, and they're good at Kaufman's - especially when they are fresh out of the oven (or kettle or however they make them).

                          Einstein's - feh. Poor imitation.

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            I won't quibble with your opinion of Einstein's...they're just the best I can find within easy walking distance. I am mildly ashamed for eating a substandard bagel. But I've had far worse. So sue me ;-)

                            I admit I have no idea what "Chicago style" bagels are, and there seem to be conflicting ideas on this post. I share the same impression as foodette - Chicago bagels generally don't seem to be as dense and chewy as many NYC bagels.

                            1. re: ShortOrderHack

                              Hey, no worries, no serious criticism implied - I've eaten Einstein's bagels when they're convenient, too. Just because it's not the ne plus ultra of bagels, doesn't mean they can't be used to make a tasty snack or sandwich when you're in their neighborhood.

                              I agree with your statement about Chicago bagels in general; places like Kaufman's are the exception around here.

                          2. re: ShortOrderHack

                            <sheepish grin> Maybe saying on "the entire planet" is a bit of an overstatement. BUT it IS the benchmark that I use to judge all others by. And so far no one else has raised that bar *yet*.

                            Einstein Bros is from Boulder Co., a Colorado college town with little to no Jewish population to have imparted the craft and has no real baking history behind it either, so what would you really expect? But I will say they're not bad for what they are, and quite honestly other than Brueggers: (a chain that mysteriously disappeared from the Chicago area but is very much alive) Einstein would be my choice for 2nd best national chain bagel. If your anywhere near a Brueggers I highly recommend them.

                            The chain I loathe is Big Apple Bagels (BAB), HQ'd out of Deerfield, IL. Those over proofed and fluffy non-steamed things are an abomination. Ironically BAB is neither NY based or even in teNYC, go figure.

                            I looked up Littleneck/Douglaston and didn't realize your were referenceing NY!! On my next vist out east I'll be sure to visit Bagel Oasis.

                            Yes absolutly Kaufman's should be a visit for you to make at least once, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, on a side note, I know they ship worldwide as they claim to ship to Asia for big events.

                            1. re: abf005

                              Way out in the Western suburbs, Einstein Bros. is actually a great option. One of my favorites, in fact. The other suburban chain that does a good job is The Great American Bagel. My favorite, however, is more NY-style from a small, independent shop called H.P. Schmaltz Delicatessen at Naperville and Ogden roads.

                              1. re: assoctw

                                H.P. Schmaltz and Co., with strip-mall locations in Naperville and Downers Grove, does indeed have pretty good Jewish deli foods. However, I think they get their bagels and other baked goods from elsewhere, as the store I visited didn't do any baking there. (It wouldn't surprise me if it turned out they get them from Kaufman's or from NY Bagel and Bialy, both of which bake theirs on the premises.)


                              2. re: abf005

                                And then there're those weird toppings they put on bagels: asiago cheese, sugar and cinnamon, apple glaze (just because they have a hole in the middle doesn't make them donuts!).

                                Stick to the savory basics for my bagesl, please: onion, sesame seed, poppy seed. period.

                                1. re: chicgail

                                  Well, all this talk led me to take Chowtot to Kaufman's today. They have pretty good bagels...possibly, indeed, the best I have had so far in Chicago. The only things impeding bagel nirvana, IMHO, were they were not quite dense enough and had too thin crust, which toasting improved.

                                  Slightly off topic - Kaufman's is the first good Jewish deli I have been to in the Chicago area. (I'm a 3yr Lincoln Park/E. Lakeview resident, and don't get out of the city much) Pickles from the barrel, housemade pickled herring in cream sauce, great nova, pastrami, and brisket...I couldn't believe Chowtot ate all these things we brought home.

                                  1. re: ShortOrderHack

                                    Hooray for Chowtot. Sounds like you're leaving a legacy. Way to go!

                                    1. re: ShortOrderHack

                                      Glad you got to make it out to Kaufman's! Better yet, I'm glad you enjoyed everything you bought as well.

                                      1. re: ShortOrderHack

                                        I know abit off topic but another great place for corned beef, pastrami, hot dogs and the assorted deli meats is Romanian Kosher Sausage at Touhy and Clark - IMHO the best in chicago -

                                        Romanian Kosher Sausage Co
                                        7200 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60626

                          3. Bagel Country has bagels similar to Arnies - they are in Skokie - excellent bagels - like Tel Aviv they are kosher so they will not be open on Saturdays or jewish holidays

                            Bagel Country
                            9306 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL 60077

                            1. Chicago Bagel Authority, on Armitage and Sheffield. They steam their bagels, which can be a change from most bagel places. Perhaps the less-used technique plus their name will satiate your 'chicago-style' hunger. : )