The eight best bagels in New York City, according to the city's Bagel Ambassador

15 Apr 2024

Sam Silverman, known as the "Bagel Ambassador" of New York City, shares his top bagel destinations in the city, ranging from beloved hole-in-the-wall spots like Absolute Bagels to award-winning establishments like Popup Bagels.

Bagels, with their myriad of savory and sweet flavors, toppings, and fillings, are an iconic food of New York City. Whether it's a classic "everything" bagel with plain cream cheese or a more inventive French toast bagel with peanut butter, New Yorkers often turn to their favorite bagel joint for a quick and satisfying meal.

In our conversation with Silverman, he not only highlights the best places to find bagels in the city but also delves into the history of this beloved food. Despite being synonymous with New York, bagels have a darker past originating in 17th-century Poland, where anti-Semitic laws prohibited the Jewish community from baking bread. To circumvent this restriction, Jews began boiling their dough before baking it, thus creating the characteristic crunchy exterior and chewy interior of bagels.

This method, born out of necessity, ultimately became the defining feature of bagels. When Eastern European immigrants settled in New York and Montreal in the 1900s, they brought this unique recipe with them, solidifying bagels as a staple in both cities for generations to come.

Silverman, who has been passionate about bagels since childhood, earned the nickname "bageltarian" from his family due to his habit of enjoying a bagel with almost every meal. This deep-seated love for bagels has led him to establish New York's first BagelFest in 2019 and to offer a variety of bagel-related activities, including baking classes and walking tours around the city.

Here are New York City's Bagel Ambassador's go-to bagel destinations in the Big Apple.

1. Best for groups: Utopia Bagels

Utopia Bagels, located in Whitestone, Queens, holds the top spot on Silverman's list of bagel destinations. With over four decades of experience, Utopia Bagels boasts an impressive bagel-making operation, hand-rolling over 100,000 bagels per week. Silverman praises the shop's extensive staff of over 50 members and its large oven, which has been in use since the shop's inception and is renowned for producing the perfect crisp on a New York-style bagel.

Over the past ten years, Utopia Bagels has expanded its space by acquiring neighboring businesses to accommodate its growing popularity. Plans are in motion to open a second location in Manhattan by the summer of 2024, with Sam Silverman vouching for the hype surrounding the establishment.

According to Silverman, his personal favorite bagel in the city is a freshly baked one from Utopia Bagels' oven, which he considers unmatched.
For more information, visit their website at or reach them at 1909 Utopia Parkway, Whitestone, NY 11357, or by phone at (718) 352-2586. You can also follow them on Instagram at @utopiabagels.

2. Best for on-the-go: Popup Bagels

Popup Bagels is the newest addition to the list of top bagel destinations, yet it has swiftly gained prominence in the bagel scene. Originally conceived as a pandemic project in owner Adam Goldberg's backyard in Connecticut, Popup Bagels has rapidly ascended the ranks. They've achieved the impressive feat of winning the Best Bagel Award at the Brooklyn BagelFest twice and have since expanded, opening a shop in Greenwich Village. Additionally, two more locations are slated to open in 2024.

"Popup Bagels has a distinctive approach that sets them apart from most other bagel shops in the city," Silverman explains. "They focus solely on small-batch, fresh-out-the-oven bagels, eschewing the typical bagel sandwich offerings. Instead, customers can enjoy the bagels by tearing off a piece and dipping it in a schmear of cream cheese." Additionally, Popup Bagels' creations are noted for being lighter and crispier compared to the denser and larger classic New York bagel.

"While they may be a newer, trendy establishment, Popup Bagels is poised for long-term success," Silverman asserts. The shop operates in a grab-and-go format without seating, yet it makes a significant impact despite its small footprint. "They recently secured $8 million in funding for national expansion, including investments from several celebrities," Silverman adds.

For more information, visit their website at or visit them at 177 Thompson St, NYC 10012. You can also contact them by phone at (646) 649-2160 and follow them on Instagram at @popupbagels.

3. Best for bagel sandwiches: Ess-a-bagel

Ess-a-Bagel, a New York City staple for over 40 years, is renowned as a pioneer among bagel shops in the city. According to Silverman, they were the first to introduce the jumbo fluffy bagels that have become synonymous with New York-style bagels and are perfect for crafting delicious bagel sandwiches.

"They're an institution," Silverman emphasizes. "For anyone visiting the city and seeking an authentic New York bagel experience, Ess-a-Bagel is likely their top choice."

With four locations across the city, including three in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, Ess-a-Bagel offers convenient access for visitors and locals alike. However, the challenge lies in the long lines that form outside their shops throughout the day. Fortunately, Silverman shares a tip to navigate this challenge.

"They actually offer a separate line specifically for customers ordering bagels and cream cheese only," Silverman reveals. "While this means no bagel sandwiches, it allows you to bypass the main line entirely, and you'll be treated to freshly baked bagels straight out of the oven. It's definitely worth it."

For more information, you can visit their website at They have four locations: 831 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10022; 108 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001; 324 1st Ave., New York, NY 10009; and 55 Water St 1st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. You can also contact them by phone at (212) 980-1010 and follow them on Instagram at @essabagel.

4. Best for crunchy bagel skin: Absolute Bagels

"Absolute Bagels is an iconic establishment in the Upper West Side," Silverman affirms. "Locals who grew up in the area swear by their bagels, claiming they're the best in the city." The key to their success lies in their practice of baking hot, fresh bagels throughout the day and their mastery of achieving a thin, crunchy exterior.

Despite being a hole-in-the-wall spot, Absolute Bagels is often plagued by long lines that extend down the block, with no shortcut to bypass them. However, Silverman maintains that it's worth the wait, as he firmly believes it's the top bagel shop in the Upper West Side.
"I'm not sure how they do it," he admits, "but they consistently achieve that perfectly crisp exterior on their bagels, which sets them apart as one of the city's finest."

Located at 2788 Broadway in New York, NY 10025, Absolute Bagels is renowned for its excellence in the Upper West Side. You can reach them by phone at (212) 932-2052. Additionally, you can find them on Facebook under the name Absolute-Bagels.

5. Best for French toast bagels: Tompkins Square Bagels

Tompkins Square Bagels originated near Tompkins Square Park in the East Village and has since expanded to three locations, extending to Union Square. The original shop has been crafting bagels for over a decade and is renowned for its warm and inviting atmosphere. Owner Christopher Pugliese, who previously worked in fine dining, prioritizes creating a welcoming ambiance and providing excellent service, believing that his role is to ensure every customer leaves happy.

In addition to their delicious bagels, Tompkins Square Bagels pays great attention to detail. The open kitchen allows customers to witness their bagels being made in real-time, while the cream cheese display is described as "absolutely gorgeous" by Silverman. Although Silverman typically prefers savory bagels, he admits to having a soft spot for one of their sweet offerings.

According to Silverman, the French toast Bagel at Tompkins Square Bagels is unparalleled in the city, ranking among the best sweet bagels available. When recommending the shop to others, Silverman suggests trying both a savory bagel and the French toast bagel for dessert, ensuring a delightful experience.

For more information, visit their website at You can find them at the following addresses and phone numbers: 165 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009 [(646) 351-6520]; 184 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003 [(917) 472-7639]; and 23 East 17th St, New York, NY 10003. You can also follow them on Instagram at @tompkinssquarebagels.

6. Best for Instagram-worthy bagels: Liberty Bagels

Liberty Bagels is renowned for its iconic rainbow bagel, a sweet treat adorned with vibrant swirls of food coloring that has become a favorite subject for Instagram posts. Osiel Escobar, the bagel roller at Liberty Bagels, boasts the longest tenure in crafting rainbow bagels in the city and incorporates a secret ingredient that remains undiscovered by Silverman.

In addition to their famed rainbow bagels, Liberty Bagels also offers themed creations for special occasions, such as pink and white bagels for Valentine's Day and red-white-and-blue bagels for the Fourth of July.

While their sweet offerings draw attention, Liberty Bagels also excels in crafting savory bagels, earning them the title of best New York bagel at the second Brooklyn BagelFest. Silverman recommends following a similar approach as with Tompkins Square Bagels: indulging in both a savory bagel and a rainbow bagel for dessert. According to Silverman, sixty percent of his bagel tour participants prefer the birthday cake cream cheese spread with the rainbow bagel, though it also pairs well with peanut butter, Nutella, or fruit cream cheese.

For more information, visit their website at Liberty Bagels has several locations across New York City, including 16 E 58th St, New York, NY 10022 [(212) 355-0900]; 708 9th Ave #1, New York, NY 10019 [(212) 246-2004]; 260 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001 [(212) 279-1124]; and 32 Broadway, New York, NY 10004 [(212) 381-1290]. You can also follow them on Instagram at @libertybagelsny.

7. Best for cream cheese flavours: Bagel Pub

According to Silverman, Bagel Pub boasts the best cream cheese selection in New York City, featuring creative flavors like guacamole, za'atar, honey bacon sriracha, and cucumber dill. Silverman compares the display of cream cheese to that of a gelateria, highlighting the shop's fantastic bagels alongside its diverse spreads.

Bagel Pub's standout offering is the pumpernickel everything bagel. Unlike typical hole-in-the-wall establishments, Bagel Pub's six locations have a trendy vibe. The chain has collaborated with local artists to reimagine famous paintings with bagels as their central theme, such as the whimsical "Bagelisa" inspired by the Mona Lisa. This artistic touch enhances the overall experience for customers, making the setting as enjoyable as their favorite bagel sandwiches.

For more information, visit their website at Bagel Pub has several locations across New York City, including 287 9th Street Brooklyn NY 11215 [(718) 499-4402]; 13 36th street Brooklyn NY 11232 [(929) 276-3266]; 57 7th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217 [(929) 295-0433]; 350 7th Avenue New York, NY 10001 [(212) 901-4170]; 775 Franklin Avenue Brooklyn NY 11238 [(718) 774-2243]; and 418 6th Avenue New York, NY 10011 [Opening Spring]. You can also follow them on Instagram at @bagelpub.

8. Best for old-school New York bagels: Bagel Hole

Bagel Hole, situated in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, stands as a local institution with a legacy spanning over three decades. Renowned for their specialty in old-school style New York Bagels, Bagel Hole offers a unique experience characterized by smaller, crispier bagels that are just as flavorful as their larger counterparts. This old-school charm permeates not only their bagels but also their overall ambiance.

Describing the eatery as a hole-in-the-wall establishment, Silverman acknowledges its lack of ambiance, noting a caricature of traditional New York service that feels authentic. For instance, the shop prohibits photography inside, embodying a genuine portrayal of no-frills service. Bagel Hole also adheres to traditional bagel-making practices, notably being one of the last shops in the city to acquire a toaster. This reluctance stems from the belief that fresh bagels should never be toasted, a sentiment upheld by many traditional bagel shops. Bagel Hole held out the longest before eventually acquiring a toaster.

You can find Bagel Hole at 400 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215, and reach them by phone at (718) 788-4014. For more updates, you can follow them on Facebook at bagelholeofparkslope.

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