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Best Fresh Bagels In Boston?

Hosting a brunch on Thursday (bagels, lox, sable, whitefish, etc.) and have places to get everything except really good fresh bagels. I did a search and can't find any recent bagel threads, so thought I would ask CHs. I'm not looking for imported bagels from Montreal or New York (I don't toast my bagels so extreme freshness is a must). Downtown would be best, but I can travel to the near suburbs. Thanks in advance.

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  1. I will put in a plug for Katz bagels in Chelsea. http://katzbagels.com/ You have to put up with a little "atmosphere," but the bagels are great, especially when fresh.

    What I would really like to know is your source for smoked fish. Please let us know.

    12 Replies
    1. re: weg

      agree on Katz. Very old school and a hoot. Limited selection if that matters to you. RE smoked fish, the Russian delis are my choice these days.

      1. re: gourmaniac

        I would like to know what you order for fish at the Russian shops. I bought some decent smoked chubs(?) at Bazaar a year or so ago, along with some pickled herring. The herring was bony, barely pickled, and immediately caused hair to grow on my chest. I have not been back, in part because I was not sure what to ask for.

        1. re: weg

          I like their cold smoked salmon (called chili salmon). You need to slice yourself, but i think its a good product and great value.

      2. re: weg

        For a big enough event I get my smoked fishes delivered from Russ & Daughters in NY. Expensive, but I think probably the best in the world (If I could only have one smoked fish for the rest of my life the private stock sturgeon would be it). It is expensive since they ship cold overnight. When I just want something around here, I go to the deli my parents always went to, Barry's Village Deli in Waban.

        1. re: ScotchandSirloin

          Would you adopt me and host my late-in-life bar mitzvah?

          1. re: ScotchandSirloin

            A bit off topic, but I've not had Russ&Daughters... how do they compare to Barney Greengrass (which I love!)? To Barry's in Waban (my local place too, but I think I already know that answer)?

            1. re: ScotchandSirloin

              both are terrific places, but i like Barney's better. It would be great to do a taste test.

                1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                  I may be wrong, but I believe Acme supplies the smoked fish sold at both places (and others in NY). There may still be differences in taste, though, based on how R&D and BG store the fish, how long it sits around, etc.

                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                    A taste test is definitely in order! Barry's is great for Boston but can't compare (it's also not much cheaper (Sable is $43/lb today). Comparing Barry's to R&D is like comparing Ruth's Chris (I was going to say Outback, but Barry's is in the upper eschelon, just way below) to Peter Lugar's. Haven't had Barney Greengrass, but Barney Greengrass vs. Russ & Daughters seems to be a Pat's vs. Gino's, Katz's vs. 2nd Ave-type argument, where people will argue forever and forcefully.

                    1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                      I always thought of Barney Greengrass as more a restaurant than an appetizing store, where Russ & Daughters is a classic appetizing store and not at all a restaurant (though you can order sandwiches to go). I like both but Russ & Daughters is simply one of the world's great places. You feel good just walking in, and they have so many varieties of lox.

                      1. re: hckybg

                        BG has a huge counter for purchasing fish and other items. Not a huge store like Zabar's, for sure, but certainly not just a restaurant either. Barry's in Waban is similar in that respect, but doesn't have the wide variety that BG has.

              1. I think Rosenfelds's in Newton have the best bagels in the area, although I don't think I ever tried Katz. I think it might be worth going to Newton or Chelsea, depending on which is easier for you to get to from where you area

                2 Replies
                1. re: Dave MP

                  Definitely agree on Rosenfeld's. And we prefer them over Kupel's.

                  1. re: Dave MP

                    i agree with rosenfelds, and they are excellent untoasted even for a couple days after. i think they taste better and last longer than kupels (which would be my 2nd choice).

                  2. While not as good as Rosenfeld's, Kupels in Brookline are still decent enough and might be closer to you. Personally, I would drive the extra 10 minutes further up Beacon Street to Rosenfelds, but I'm not sure how heavily distance weighs into your decision......or if Katz would be best (I *really* need to get over there and try those......).

                    1. I went to the Katz's website and it looks like they have Vienna Beef Hot Dogs. If I can get great bagels at a place which has the same name as my favorite deli for pastrami and which has the key ingredient for Chicago style hot dogs, the stars have truly alligned.

                      1. if you know from Barry's, you probably have been raised on Rosenfelds. this is about as good as it gets around these parts.

                        now if Katz's has hot dogs too, it would totally be worth the trip.

                        my personal take on the subject, "the fresher, the better", i am a huge fan of absolute bagels on the upper west side, but given the choice between bagels schlepped from 107th street and ones still warm from rosenfelds, well, newton wins.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: hyde

                          I think rosenfelds are good while they are still warm - but even the short 15 drive back to my house turn them into little round bricks.

                          1. re: LStaff

                            That's one sign of an excellent bagel: the best ones stale quickly. (Just like hard rolls and baguettes.) The idea of bagels that keep well is one that fights with excellence.

                            One thing the NY Times bagel mavens discovered when they did a big bagel tasting last year or the year before was that the half life of excellent bagels is short, and there is a big difference between just-out-of-the-oven and taking them to the office and eating them an hour or two later.

                            1. re: Karl S

                              Eh, I have had awesome bagels in NY/NJ area that lasted longer than the trip home with them. Not looking for them to last hours, just long enough to get home and eat them.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                putting them in a plastic bag first, and then transferring to a paper bag once they are cool makes a huge difference!

                                1. re: jamieeats

                                  Katz of Katz' Bagels suggests the opposite: he says to allow them to cool in the paper bag and then transfer to plastic.

                                  1. re: weg

                                    I would agree with paper then plastic. Letting them cool in plastic turns *any* bread product into fluffy wonderbread!

                                    1. re: Science Chick


                                      The compromise is the old fashioned bakery waxed paper bag that is not closed perfectly.

                                    2. re: weg

                                      YES you are right, sorry i was not thinking clearly when i posted that yesterday!

                                2. re: LStaff

                                  I completely agree. There is no better bagel in the area than a warm Rosenfelds bagel. But once it cools down, it hardens very quickly and rapidly and somewhat remarkably transforms into just another average bagel.

                                  1. re: Gordough

                                    I get Rosenfeld's most often, and adore Katz as well...

                                    HINT: An oven or toaster oven can restore your 'no longer warm' bagel to it's previous warmth. :)

                                    1. re: okra

                                      Its not about warmth, its about texture. They seem to get hard on the outside (instead of crispy) and the insides dry out and turn bready.

                                      IMO, you might as well buy a box of Ray's if you have to toast a bagel back to life.

                                      1. re: LStaff

                                        "and turn bready."

                                        No... Not gonna... too easy.... :)

                              2. Personally, I prefer a fresh out of the oven bagel from Finagle over Rosenfeld's.

                                1. Iggy's bagels are very much loved in my household and I always use them when I serve brunch

                                  1. Rosenfeld's in Newton and Katz's in Chelsea. The only ways to go. They are hands down the best Boston has to offer.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: CocoDan

                                      Strongly agreed. Katz is somewhat better, though. I consider everyone else to be in a very distant second tier, Kupels included.

                                      1. re: CocoDan

                                        I would expand this and rank my preferences thusly:

                                        1. Rosenfeld's in Newton
                                        2. Katz's in Chelsea
                                        3. Bagel Rising in Allston (the original question asked for "downtown," so these might be the best option in that sense)
                                        4. Kupel's in Brookline
                                        5 Iggy's Bagels (storebought)

                                        (Also, a friend of mine recently raved about Ohlin's Bakery in Belmont, but I don't have personal experience)

                                        1. re: TroyOLeary

                                          I'd vote for Bruegger's (sp?) in Porter Sq. over Katz's or Rosenfeld's. Kupel's has gone downhill though they still make a bialy, I think. Overall, Iggy's is the best pure bread product of the bunch, with some disputing its "bagelness". Whatever you want to call it, it is the best of the bunch.

                                          1. re: sadflour

                                            the Mariposa in Central Square bakes its own bagels. They are small but appropriately chewy. I think they're way better than Finagle's, Bruegger's, and Kupel's in Brookline.
                                            They don't make a lot of them, so you'd have to probably pre-order.

                                            1. re: femmevox

                                              I was hoping no one would mention them, because they are already always running out! They're really delicious.

                                              1. re: dulce de leche

                                                Your worst nightmare has come true. Inspired by these two comments, there was a flood of outsiders at 7:45 a.m. this morning at Mariposa. OK, not a flood, just a trickle (me). The bagels are very interesting, but they're more in the soft pretzel family in texture and yeastiness than bagel. Still very tasty, though,

                                                1. re: FoodDabbler

                                                  *Shaking fist at sky*
                                                  Glad you liked them, and I wondered what someone knowledgeable would call their style, since I don't know enough about the differences to describe them well. So thanks!

                                            2. re: sadflour

                                              I think Bruegger's makes an adequate bagel - but they seem to shrink in size and expand in price everytime I go (about twice a year).

                                              1. re: LStaff

                                                In addition, they have cheapened their cream cheese. I was living in Troy, NY, when the first Bruegger's opened there, so I have some frame of reference. They used to actually put quite a bit of lox into the lox spread. Now it is just barely flavored.

                                                More recently, given the scarcity of decent bagels around this area (and in Cambridge in particular) I've taken to baking my own. Then I get them fresh right out of my own oven.

                                        2. Newman's Bakery on Humphrey street in Swampscott has fantastic bagels and they now do breakfast sandwiches. The lox spread is also very good.

                                          1. Consider getting the hand cut lox from The Butcherie in Brookline. It is the best I have had in this area by far.

                                            1. OK Kids, here we go.

                                              Shelf life - Important when you're buying bagels as a destination shop. Breugger's has a shelf life of about one hour. Eat them immediately or slice and freeze them. They (and Dunkin's) won't stand up to a Bagel Biter. That's an easy criterion. Finagle's (and those other two) are the Wonder Bread of the bagel world. But there's no accounting for taste, as my very Jewish mother-in-law actually serves Stop& Shop's (Ugh!).

                                              Kupel's gets my vote for best bagel. Our relatives are still talking about the minis with lox hand-cut-to-order we served at our wedding 30 years ago. The sourdough cissels are similar to rolls I ate in Salzburg as an exchange student. The destination shop factor is strong. Combine your trip to Kupel's with stops to C-Mart for Chinese groceries and a trip to their food court. Of course there all the other shops on Harvard St. as well as the Coolidge Corner Theater. Movie & a Bagel? You bet.

                                              Var så god! Mom

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Mom the Foodie

                                                Proving once again that bagel taste is very specific, I dislike Kupel's bagels which i find are pillow soft and white bread inside, though I do appreciate that they make the rare caraway bagel and still make a salt bagel. Rosenfeld's makes the only bagel I like, outside of Marvin's in Great Barrington. Even NY hardly has any acceptable bagels anymore and that's because good, small, crusty bagels have no shelf life.

                                                1. We ordered from Katz's. Great recommendation. We ordered for 7:30 am for a 10:30 am brunch. Not ideal timing but necessary. They survived well for 3 hours, particularly the inside was still nice and soft. Really thought these were great classic bagels. Seems like more places are moving toward really large tough bagels, which is definitely not my preference. Solid bagels that we will be going back for (actually very easy to get to right over the Tobin). One note, you have to special order everything bagels (by the dozen), we did, and I thought they were great, but quite salty. Tasted like a salt bagel with everything else on top. Very good if you are into that, but worth knowing ex ante.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                                    Thanks for reporting back! And good to know about the salt on the everything bagels!

                                                    1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                                      thanks for reporting back - as a Rosenfeld's fan I'll have to try Katz's when I'm in the neighborhood and I'll try Cafe Fresh which also hasn't been on my radar. should you ever be in the Berkshires, try Marvin's Bagels on Route 7. The best I've had since I was a kid in Brooklyn.

                                                      1. re: teezeetoo

                                                        what would be the closest to a Montreal bagel around here?

                                                        1. re: barleywino

                                                          The only thing close is to buy actual Montreal bagels, shipped in from St. Viateur, at the Walnut St. Market in Newtonville. They arrive "fresh" every other Thursday, (though they're already 3 days old, which isn't perfect), and they usually have them frozen at all times. I take them home and toast them up, and they're still quite yummy.

                                                          1. re: barleywino

                                                            I've never had a Montreal bagel, alas, but I understand they are smaller, slightly sweeter, and very good though also designed to be eaten pretty much right out of the oven. i would guess if they are frozen right after baking they would toast up well but I don't imagine you could get a fresh version in the Boston area.

                                                            1. re: teezeetoo

                                                              There is a very good place in Burlington, Vermont, called Myer's Bagel Bakery, but that's as close as I've seen them freshly baked. They are excellent, though.

                                                      2. I haven't tried Katz's, but I still think the best I've had around here are at Cafe Fresh, in Needham, Dedham, or Walpole. Way better than Kupels or Rosenfelds, IMHO.