New Yorkers love to bagel-brag. We’ve all heard them yammer on about how the city’s soft tap water is integral to achieving a perfect texture — chewy but not too tough, blah, blah, blah. But last I heard, they managed just fine without NYC water in the shtetl. Truth is, a good bagel really only relies on the process — the shaping, the proofing, the boiling, and baking fresh batches daily.
A first-class bagel can be made anywhere, you might just have to look a little harder for one outside New York. To help you out, here’s our guide to America’s best bagels hiding out in unexpected places.
Fargo, North Dakota
BernBaum’s took a risk by challenging Midwestern palettes with their Nordic-Jewish fusion concept, but it’s paid off. So much so, they’re moving out of their quirky, ’50s-inspired cafe to a bigger space. Go for the fresh-baked bagels, stay for the bagel chips. They also boast many vegan-friendly options.
Asheville, North Carolina
Button & Co. may be a newbie on the bagel scene — they only opened in 2018 — but they’ve bagged themselves a loyal following, with lines often out the front door. These are new wave bagels, with a focus on sustainable, local ingredients with a unique Appalachian twist. Highlights include the fig & sorghum bagel, and wild sumac-rubbed black cod sable.
Atlanta voted BB’s New York-style bagels the best in the city — no others, they say, come close. As you’d expect, BB’s bagels are hand-rolled and kettle-boiled, and come in all the traditional flavors, with some fun additions like cheddar and French toast. If you’re of the belief that bigger is better, BB’s ginormous bagels are for you, and a serious bang for your buck.
Odelay’s Bagels are widely considered to be as good as any you’ll find in New York. This small family business isn’t afraid to throw in some of their own creations alongside the classics — like garlic-sriracha cream cheese and their unique black pepper and parmesan bagel.
If you like your bagels with a side of cool, head to this minimalist spot, expertly run by native New Yorkers. Proper Bagel describes their menu as “old school flavors with a new school edge,” offering unconventional cream cheese options that we’re not at all mad at — like lavender-honey and peanut butter cup.
The New Jersey expats behind Wholy Bagel aren’t messing around. Their New York-style bagels are the real deal — proved overnight, kettle boiled, not too tough, and baked every morning at the crack of dawn. They’re not opposed to a little local flare, however — like the “Texas Loaded” cream cheese, packed with bacon, scallions, and cheddar.
Bagel traditionalists may be outraged by Scratch’s unorthodox take on the bagel, made with a sourdough starter that’s adorably named “Lulu.” But locals have embraced this twist and can’t get enough of these carefully crafted bagels. Chances of catching a freshly-baked batch are high, and flavors are classic with a local spin — like the Maine sea salt bagel, perfect in its simplicity.