are H&H bagels still the best??
and if not, which bagel is best
They never were, though they are fine for most purposes. A bit too much sugar, overly soft interior as a vehicle for lox etc. Depends on what you are using the bagel for.
A lot of people like Ess-a Bagel, which I tried once and didn't love. Other contenders are Absolute Bagels and Murray's Bagels.
i really prefer h&h over ess-a-bagel by far. actually, i don't feel there is any comparison and i just don't understand their appeal. but, then again, i prefer a soft interior.
absolute bagels is also very good. murrays is not bad either. i still can't find an equivalent manhattan bagel to the ones i 've had in the outer boroughs or nj. i love those bubbles on the crust with a soft interior and more porous with a crispy exterior but nothing too heavy.
i also appreciate the fact that h&h has fresh bagels no matter what time you saunter in there. even as late as 1am, you can actually get a fresh bagel (sometimes even hot) . any other place will either be long closed, out of bagels or toss a stale bagel at you for being stupid enough for wanting a bagel outside of the only time you are ever supposed to eat bagels (6am-11am)!!!!!
absolutely the best. And as nativeNYer pointed out, you can go in there almost any time of day and get a fresh one, still hot from the oven. Crispy exterior, soft interior.