HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Lox & Bagels

I haven't seen any recent threads about the topic - so here's a new one:

Sonsie's Lox & Bagel brunch dish is delicious
Davio's to Go does a pretty solid one, served as a full bagel sandwich

Curious - what unique things make for a great Lox and Bagel? It seems so simple, yet there have been plenty that just leave me nauseous.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Funny it's one thing I NEVER have out, cause it is never as good as homemade.

    Bagels: Bagels Plus in Acton, MA (or Brueggers in a pinch)

    Lox: from Trader Joe's decent stuff decent price

    Tomato, red onion, capers, Philly cream cheese, black pepper, lemon...

    And a LARGE bloody mary


    10 Replies
    1. re: StriperGuy

      Yeah, I can't imagine ever ordering this out. Even though I'm incredibly lazy, I would just make my own bagel and lox dish.

      I wish I could get to Katz's more often.

      1. re: StriperGuy

        I agree with Striper....at home tends to be the best!

        Trader Joe's lox is previously frozen, and although the flavor is usually ok I find alot of variability in the texture, which bothers me when it gets a bit mealy. The Costco lox can be ok too, but also I think theirs is previously frozen too :(

        Bagels: Rosenfelds, Newton
        Lox: Fresh sliced from Barry's Deli, Waban

        Now *that's* a good bagel and lox!!!!

        1. re: Science Chick

          Nothing better than fresh sliced lox... the Russian places
          Berezka, Bazaar, Baza will slice lox and have a good assortment of smoked fish.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              Can't say it's still done there (but suspect it's still true) but when I worked at the Boston harbor hotel, we made our own lox and smoked salmon....and both were great, for what it's worth

              1. re: StriperGuy

                I was briefly tempted by the lox (or as they have it marked, "salted salmon") at the Allston Bazaar this afternoon, but went with a half-pound of smoked instead. What they had at the deli counter clearly had been hand-sliced -- it had the trademark irregularity of a hand and a knife -- and I assume that if you ask nicely and they're not completely swamped like they were today, they would slice you some fresh.

                I keep meaning to explore that deli counter more thoroughly. They've got all kinds of delicious-looking sausages and smoked fish and pates there.

                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                  Try the smoked butterfish, you won't regret it.

                  1. re: qianning

                    Smoked butterfish is great. Growing up, we knew it as smoked Sablefish.

                    Nobu and other places have used Black Cod as a name.

                    You say potato, I say potahto, In any case, it's great. Rich and buttery flavor.

                    1. re: 9lives

                      hmmm, well now i'm extra confused.
                      Today, Sunday, we tried to do a Bazaar and Barry's Deli comparison of norwegian.

                      I'm glad the architecture was so fantastic on Beacon St heading out from Newton Center (what IS the story on that amazing 5 color paint job on the house w/ carriage house?!!) because when we got to waban, we found Barry's closed on Sundays. oh well.
                      So at the Beacon St Bazaar,i looked for qi's butterfish which i wasn't familiar with. I had no idea the Russians ate so many kinds of smoked fish. Holy Cow. Turbot, sea bass, eel, said butterfish, and c______can't remember. and more. I tasted many of them but the butterfish was the one i really liked- soft, 'buttery', not v salty. Very white in color.

                      Problem is- it's NOT Butterfish. It's Escolar. The package label says Butterfish but the Ingredients say Escolar. Escolar is often mislabelled as butterfish and sometimes sablefish, and many other mistaken names. But only Escolar has the potential to give you very dire diarrhea.
                      It is native to the waters around Australia and . I had a very bad experience w/ escolar 8 yrs ago in Cal. and ended up doing a lot of googling about it, but there is a ton more info about it now on the web. Common wisdom says to eat less than 6 ou.,( and my plan for the pkg i bought-is to try 2 ou on a bagel.)

                      Anyway, Sablefish/ Black cod is a completely different fish
                      that you find alot in the Pacific NW, often smoked.

                      Sorry for going on, but i just wanted to warn CHs who might see it at the Russian stores if/when they go there to buy smoked salmon/lox.
                      Escolar is certainly a rich wonderful unusual flavor, but you should read up on it before buying it.
                      Sometimes it's under the name "butterfish," "oilfish," or "waloo/walu." Sushi restaurants occasionally serve it as "super white tuna" or "king tuna



                      Market Labeling Problems:
                      Escolar can be improperly called butterfish and rudderfish. True butterfish (scatophagus species) have not been associated with symptoms. Rudderfish (Centrolophus niger and Tubbia sp.) contain high levels of oil, but not the same type as escolar fish. Local fish called sablefish or black cod (Anoplopoma fimbria) are also sometimes labeled as butterfish – these fish will not cause escolar-like symptoms. Escolar fish have also been mislabeled as Sea Bass. >

            2. re: StriperGuy

              Shallots are a nice substitution for the red onion, and the tomatoes should ideally be ripe summer tomatoes...

            3. I can't believe I'm admitting to this, but on special occasions we order the scotch cured nova from zabars and have it shipped. it's like $50 for shipping and $50lb, but there's nothing like it.

              a good whipped cream cheese and you're in business.

              5 Replies
              1. re: bostonfoodz

                If you are as crazy as I am (and I like Zabar's); I get my lox from Barney Greengrass or Russ and Daughters.

                1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                  Mmmm….both so excellent! We go to one or the other every time we are in NYC. Never tried ordering off-site though. Not a bad idea!

                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                    cd, you will not likely hear me telling anyone that " they are crazy to go to that much trouble for food" so i completely understand the passion... But when you web order, i'm guessing it's for a large pack, so do you freeze it or just eat nothing but it for awhile?

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      OC, I go to NYC so I buy it directly from Barney Greengrass. Then I head back to Boston. I bought the lox at Zabar's last fall that was also quite acceptable.

                      And unlike Striper, i am willing to sit down and eat it there.

                    2. re: cambridgedoctpr

                      Just last month I got a gift package from Barney Greengrass (the Uncle Milty) that included Eastern Nova and bagels (among other treats). They have incredible bagels and salmon. I will order from them in the future.

                      On a logistical note, it comes with more bagels and salmon than I could possible eat in a week, so I froze the bagels, and divided the salmon into week-sized portions and froze them. There doesn't seem to be an appreciable loss in flavor or texture. However, the smoked whitefish salad needs to be eaten right away.

                  2. Some variations on the classic lox-and-bagel sandwich that have been pleasing me lately:

                    -- Scoop the bagel, then toast it lightly before making your sandwich. Scooping is, of course, an old trick of those trying to eat less bread, but I also find that it improves the balance of the sandwich in that it allows for more emphasis on the salmon and less on the bread. (It also compensates for less-than-stellar bagels.)

                    -- Substitute a toasted english muffin for a bagel. Just a variation on the theme, but a good one. (Hmm, probably would go well with a portuguese muffin too!)

                    -- Substitute a toasted bialy for a bagel. I understand that frozen bialys can be found in some supermarkets in the area. Although picking them up fresh at Kosar's in NYC is wonderful, I'm usually pretty pleased with a frozen one, too.

                    I get my salmon at Costco, which is very good but is not Russ & Daughters. I have not tried any of the hand-cut places in this area.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Blumie

                      Although it's a bit of a hike from Boston whenever I find myself driving down Rte 84 in Vernon, CT I stop at Rein's Deli and get pound of their hand sliced Nova Lox. It's not cheap but IMHO I think it is excellent. Finding really good bagels is more of challenge but Bruegger's will do in a pinch. I like mine with whipped cream cheese, red onion (sliced thinly) and a slice of tomato and freshly ground black pepper. Sunday morning treat with coffee and the New York Times.

                      1. re: RoyRon

                        Also in the long distance (but semi-practical) category: the best-kept secret about PB Boulangerie in Wellfleet is that they have house made hand-sliced smoked salmon. Prices are totally reasonable, though you should expect to wait a while for it (worth it). Picked up a 1/2 lb when I went by last weekend and I've been enjoying it on bagels all week!

                        1. re: morecheesejer

                          Great tip, I hope they still offer it when I'm there in the summer!

                    2. im a fan of a toasted english muffin with a local cream cheese. If not a toasted sesame bagel with thin onion slices and fresh squeezed lemon. oh man now I'm going to have to do a costco run. I can polish off one of those big sheets in a few days. i can live off lox and cream cheese breakfast lunch and dinner

                      1. I either get the Norwegian smoked salmon from Costco or pick up smoked white fish from one of the Russian markets. I wouldn't be surprised to find it's made by ACME, the smoked fish company in Brooklyn.

                        Pair with Iggy's bagels or Katz's, maybe Rosenfeld's. Until recently, I had a big cache of Balsam Bagels from Rochester, NY. Just the best you can get ... but the freezer died a horrible death.

                        If I get something like this out, I expect a more upscale presentation with capers and creme fraiche.

                        1. I hope to ^ the costco salmon is not Norwegian! down with farmed salmon!! the stuff we get at ours is wild alaskan.

                          cold smoked tuna is amazing too.

                          I am buying or making a cold smoke adaptor for my smoker this year for sure.

                          1. A needed thread, meeps! it doesn't surprise me at all to hear about Sonsie's being so good; i think bill poirier is a very talented chef ( and i would bet he makes his own lox.)

                            You might have fun with Tim's take on the plate- at Ribelle's new brunch (Sat AND Sunday). The poppy and sesame seed bagel that they make themselves - is amazing, and they serve it w/ assorted fish creations, marinated himeji mushrooms , fresh assorted herbs and some special l'pippinannie creamy cheese I'd not had before. oooh weeee :-}


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              like so many seemingly simple things, a good lox and bagel requires a minimum of three excellent ingredients. we smoke our own salmon and, when we don't have that, we like Duck Trap or Scottish smoked salmon (get that at the Butcherie). Our freezer stocks bagels from Great Barrington Bagel company, or we use Rosenfelds, though Brueggers is a decent fall back. We prefer Rosenfeld's scallion cream cheese but will use philly if all else fails. After the 3 main ingredients, a good red onion comes next and my husband likes a tomato but only when its from the garden and never in winter when its just red cardboard.

                            2. For bagels I like Newmans in Swampscott.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: phatchris

                                I could live off off of the that bakery. The tuna sandwiches are fantastic as well as the lox.

                              2. Here's my time-consuming approach, when I can't get to NYC:
                                First stop, Brooklyn Water Bagels, in Framingham. I'll admit, I was skeptical--the place is a franchise, owned in part by Larry King. But the bagels are great, easily the best around IMHO (and I've tried everywhere except Katz's), and better than any I've had in the last 5 years in NYC.
                                Then, it's off to Providence, where the tiny, old-fashioned Davis Deli on Hope Street sells really good, hand-sliced nova for "cheap", under $25/lb. When the old man is there slicing, he does a great job.
                                Final stop, Whole Foods in Newton for their scallion cream cheese, full fat goodness, lots of scallions and/or chives, all good.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: winedude

                                  thanks for the tip on BWB in Framingham. I pass by there on my way to work and will check them out!! Any reason you don't get your cream cheese from them?

                                  1. re: Science Chick

                                    Actually, their cream cheese is really good as well, and I do buy it from them much of the time, should have mentioned that. A slight nod to the Whole Foods one, but BWB's will definitely work.

                                    My only complaint about BWB is that their bagels are relatively expensive, $10.98 a dozen (13). That's $3 a dozen more than some other places, but still worth it.

                                  2. For anyone unclear as to the difference between lox and smoked salmon, you might want to read this:

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: boredough

                                        thanks - was about to go on a rant :-)

                                      2. Make sure you spring for the nova lox at trader joes...usually it's good quality. The cheap stuff there is no good.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: AaronInBoston

                                          Again, ALL of their salmons are previously frozen. Really don't compare to other fresh ones cited above

                                          1. re: Science Chick

                                            Yes, TJ's is "good for cheap lox,", not "cheap for good lox," there's a difference. TJ's is a good place to buy lox for a big party, and it's as good as lox that you can pay way more for at, say, Shaws, but it's not close to fresh, hand-cut lox.

                                              1. re: winedude

                                                very well put. Along the same idea, Costco salmon is a reasonable buy for a big party, and decent.

                                                1. re: winedude

                                                  Of course it is also REALLY easy to make superb gravlax on your own.

                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                    and not so hard to make fabulous bagels at home either. However, I am not crazy about gravlax with bagels. You would think it wouldn't matter, but my NYC upbringing comes through when it comes to deli-food.

                                                    1. re: smtucker

                                                      What borough, Washington Heights boy myself.

                                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                                        Forest Hills, Queens before moving to the burbs when baby no 3 [my parent's, not mine] came along.

                                            1. Besides the "decent for its price" lox from Trader Joe's, is there anywhere else in Boston/Camberville to find decent lox or smoked salmon?

                                              17 Replies
                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                There have been several suggestions thus far, Otter. Barry's in Waban, the Russian stores in Newton and Brookline. All still hand slice. Maybe you wanted something more centrally located?

                                                1. re: Science Chick

                                                  Sorry if my post was too vague. If I'm out in Brookline or Newton, I'll definitely check out the Russian delis, but I'm hoping to find something more central, such as Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, Medford, Charlestown, etc.

                                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                    Funny what we consider "central" based on our home starting point! Arlington/Medford more central than Brookline/Newton? Depends on home base! ;)

                                                    1. re: Science Chick

                                                      Right, exactly. I should have said "central to me", but I also mean "central to downtown Boston".

                                                    2. re: Boston_Otter

                                                      Yesterday I discovered that Formaggio in Cambridge has hand-cut smoked salmon for $35/lb. They also have hand-cut cream cheese, around $6/lb. Certainly not cheap, but both a treat.

                                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                                          Obviously they cut it by hand. "HI-YAHHH!"

                                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                                            When they cut a hunk off of a big long block

                                                            1. re: Science Chick

                                                              That big block is just Philly. $6 a pound...

                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                exactly…..it's a serious scam! Just bulk/deli size. Nothing special about it. Now homemade cream cheese….THAT would be an interesting find! I don't think it is that hard to make. I'm surprised some artisanal bagel person hasn't gone that route yet...

                                                                1. re: Science Chick

                                                                  I'm pretty sure Iggy's makes their own. It's very light and tangy, almost sour cream-like. I like it but my husband prefers Philly-style.

                                                                  1. re: bear

                                                                    I have no idea if Kupel's makes its own but I'm fond of their green olive cream cheese (pricey certainly compared to Philadelphia). I've done "add-ins" to Philadelphia like finely chopped chives, olives, or horseradish (in food processor, add a little 1/2 and 1/2) and they perk it up.

                                                                    1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                      I make my own with Greek style yogurt. It's a little tangy but I like it that way.
                                                                      All I use is a quart of yogurt, some salt and cheesecloth.
                                                                      Press it for two days in the fridge and there you go. You'll need to blot off the moisture with a paper towel during the two days but its easy.
                                                                      It's not real Philly style, but this is what I grew up with and am used to.

                                                                        1. re: Science Chick

                                                                          No....same as Labneh cheese though, especially if you sprinkle some fresh chopped mint leaves and drizzle some olive oil over it.

                                                                        2. re: Infomaniac

                                                                          I can't help myself; i think that is just the COOLest thing )

                                                    3. I've yet to have really good bagels & lox at a restaurant, but I often have it at home. Both are specialized skills, and hard to do without a lot of volume. To me, that pretty much means a deli, ideally one that makes its own bagels. We just don't seem to have the volume and density for such a place around here. But we do have good bagels to bring home:

                                                      Bagels: My favorite is Rosenfeld's in Newton. They are only open Wednesday-Sunday. A fresh Rosenfeld's bagel is bagel nirvana (if bagels were Buddhist), but only within minutes of its birth. Within hours it begins to get hard, and by the next day they are almost inedible. They do not freeze well, although I have never tried dipping them into a dewar of liquid nitrogen within minutes of baking. Katz in Chelsea also makes great bagels. The Walnut Market on Lincoln St in Newton Highlands carries frozen Montreal bagels, imported from Montreal. They are quite different, but freeze really well. I usually keep some in my freezer, and otherwise jump out to Rosenfeld's.

                                                      Cream Cheese: Rosenfeld's also makes excellent cream cheese. Philadelphia and Temptee from the supermarket are not bad representations of a hard and soft style, respectively. Sometimes I'll doctor one of them up with fresh chives.

                                                      Lox: I have not found anywhere in the Boston area that makes great lox. The packaged lox at Rosenfeld's is terrible. Trader Joe's lox reminds me of the stuff we had at the Harvard dining halls on Sunday mornings ten years ago. It's edible, but I don't enjoy it very much. When a bagel is served with cream cheese & chives, onions, tomato, cheese. capers, and lox some sins in one component can be forgiven. If I have to have packaged lox, I prefer packaged gravlax, where the salmon is more for texture and the flavor comes more from the dill and other added spices.

                                                      But lox should be freshly cut and with skill; consider the difference between freshly made sushi and packaged supermarket sushi. The only place around here that I ever found great lox was at Zathmary’s in Brookline, an otherwise unremarkable small grocery store that closed abruptly seven or eight years ago, reportedly screwing their vendors out of payment for their last orders. Barry's Deli in Waban would be my local suggestion now, but I find their salty, belly lox much better than their hand-cut nova. The Whole Foods in Brookline has pretty decent nova, but it is usually cut poorly. I would love to hear about a better local source for handcut smoked salmon.

                                                      Lox Further Afield: I think the best lox in the world is found at Russ & Daughters in New York City. When I visit New York I often go there and if I can stop by shortly before I leave, I bring a pound or two back to Boston. They will also ship. Their bagels are mediocre at best, however. More often, when I drive back from New York City, I stop at Rein's Deli in Vernon CT (right off I-84) and buy lox, whitefish salad and bialys there. Rein's is only 90 miles away from Boston. Barney Greengrass in New York City also has excellent lox. The only place I've ever found that combines truly world-class lox and bagels under one roof is Bagel Hut in Great Neck, NY.

                                                      Other Bagel Toppings: Rein's Deli has quite good lox, but really excellent whitefish salad, another famous bagel topping. Fortunately, you don't even need to go 90 miles to get excellent whitefish salad; the Walnut Market in Newton has world-class whitefish salad. Thinly sliced red onion, tomatoes and cheese can be very nice atop a bagel as well. For sliced cheese on a bagel by itself I love many of the great brebis cheeses at Formaggio Kitchen. Some globules of salmon caviar make a wonderful addition to a bagel as well.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: lipoff

                                                        should you chance to be in the Berkshires, lipoff, make a stop at Great Barrington Bagel company where the bagels are as good as Great Neck's and the handcut lox is delicious (as are the homemade rugelach).

                                                        1. Just had a yummy in-house baked salt bagel with house-cured salmon and fried capers at Cutty's. Bagels are only on Fridays and Saturdays. Got there about 9:05. Line to the door. Only raisin bagels left by the time I left at 9:40!

                                                          Man, is Cutty's good at marketing and scarcity! But that's probably for another discussion.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: quirkydeb

                                                            deb, all this salmon talk is getting me curious about all these salmon.... Is the gravlax salty at Cutty's? and, just checking, they only sell it on a sandwch, right? they don't sell it separately?thx.

                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                              Hi O.C.

                                                              I found myself in Waban last week and decided I would try Barry's Deli after reading a lot about the place. I stopped in for lunch and ended up ordering a bowl of their matzo ball soup (delicious) and a half corned beef on rye which was just okay IMHO. The corned beef was very lean and nicely sliced but it was served cold. I like a corned beef sandwich warm and I personally like the beef to be a bit fatty too. Other than those minor complaints it was a nice lunch.

                                                              However, upon getting ready to leave I noticed that they sell hand sliced Nova Lox. The menu board said they also offered Salty Nova Lox. I bought a half pound of the plain hand sliced Nova and it was fantastic. I also bought a small container of their house made cream cheese with chives but had to settle for Bruegger's bagels because they were sold out at Barry's. The Nova Lox I had was only mildly salty but with the chive cream cheese and a slice of fresh tomato it made a great breakfast on 3 mornings. I will definitely go back for more of their Nova Lox

                                                              1. re: RoyRon

                                                                I agree that they carry very fine lox and I especially like the belly. They are a bit amateurish on the slicing skills, but I cut them slack on that.

                                                              2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                Sorry for the delay in response, OC (it's been a busy week!). Because of your question, I took one for the team and went again last Saturday, so I could give a more thorough response. Tough work. I have to admit, the first time (last Friday), I just wolfed it down, enjoying my sandwich, but not really analyzing it. So...

                                                                Cutty's calls it house-cured lox, but it doesn't taste salty at all (actually I would call it mild or even slightly sweet). Nicely sliced. I got mine toasted, but my husband didn't, and I really don't think they need to be toasted after all. A poppyseed bagel when tasted plain had a little bit of a sour tang. I preferred it with toppings. My bagel was salt (always), and I got the lox, fried capers, but no pickled onions. My husband got it with pickled onions too. Good, but a little overwhelming. They taste like the onions that come in Jewish pickled herring in wine sauce from when I was a kid (do they still make it?). Next time I'll go for an untoasted salt bagel, lox, & capers. Yum!

                                                                1. re: quirkydeb

                                                                  I stopped by Cutty's for the bagels as well. There is a 6 limit per customer for the bagels. I got 6 and got side orders of lox at 3.95 for 1.5 ozs, also small tubs of cream cheese for $3.95 plain, $4.95 for veggie or rosemary and honey. The latter was delicious but not with the lox. The plain and veggie were also very good but all 3 were very thick. I also got small containers of the fried capers. I got it broken down because we weren't going to eat it for a few hours. The bagels are the best I've had around Boston. I usually get Rosenfelds or Katz's but have found a new fav. The lox was also very good with a delicate feel to it, but the bagels were the star of the show.

                                                            2. Just a quick follow-up --- I picked up some lovely hand-cut lox (cut in front of me with a knife sharpened on a whetstone, $28/lb) and really tasty smoked whitefish salad at Tom's International Deli in Worcester this weekend. Eating the salad now on an Iggy's bagel. Great stuff, though I haven't had it from Russ & Daughters or other 'famous' places to compare quality.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                Tom's is a great place. I didn't realize that they had hand-cut lox though!