It was a good week when Publix, our local supermarket in Florida had Ray’s New York Bagels on their weekly BOGO (buy one get one free!) list. These bagels are made in New York and shipped all the way south to Florida and other states where you can buy them in the frozen aisles.
And even though Ray’s bagels aren’t fresh, they were still the best- better than the usual ones you can find in the bread section.
So if a frozen New York bagel could be so good, a fresh one had to be incredibly good and I had just that in New York City.
Somehow New York City is known to have the best bagels. But with so many bagel shops how do you find the absolute best?
Maybe the best approach to search for the best bagel in New York City is to try one from a few different stores. The first one we decided on going to was Ess-a-Bagel. While looking for directions through FourSquare, I saw Travel Channel left a tip, “Recommended by Travel Channel host, Anthony Bourdain”.
Well if Anthony Bourdain recommended it, it must be good. So on a Sunday morning at 10 am, we walked into Ess-a Bagel’s original location opened in 1976 on 1st Avenue.
There were just three people ordering at the time and the first thing I noticed as we walked in was the refrigeration display case. Inside were at least 20 options of cream cheese, though at first glance I thought it was ice cream! I only usually see cream cheese like Philadelphia cream cheese in packages and not much of a variety. Meanwhile, Ess-a-Bagel had vegetable, sundried tomato, apple cinnamon, strawberry and even chocolate chip cream cheese among others.
The variety was not the only surprise. When I have a bagel, I don’t put a lot of cream cheese- but that could be because I hadn’t tried the cream cheese from Ess-a-Bagel. There was 90% more cream cheese on the scallion cream cheese and lox on a pumpernickel bagel that I ordered. But it was a delicious combination!
The cream cheese on lox bagel is savory so we shared a little of each of our bagels to try both sweet and savory options. I got to try a sweet raisin walnut cream cheese on a sesame seed bagel and a plain bagel with vegetable tofu cream cheese. All so satisfying and filling!
As we were eating, locals were ordering like they went there all the time just shouting out things like ‘everything with quarter pound lox’. Just a few moments before when we were trying to figure out how to order, there were just three customers. Then all of a sudden 15 more people got in line. And by the time we sat down to eat, people were constantly going in and out of the shop.
Due to the popularity, Ess-a-Bagel has their original location at 359 1st Avenue and another in midtown at 831 3rd Avenue which I could imagine was just as packed.
Here’s a Vine video showing the cream cheese, bagels, and Ess-a-Bagel shop in New York City:
Don’t miss visiting Ess-a-Bagel to try a fresh New York City bagel!