The Locals' Guide To New York City's Most Underrated Bagel Spots

Nothing says "USA" quite like the bagel. Yes, burgers are an invention that, if used correctly, could very well solve many of the world's geopolitical problems. Hot dogs span the collective American consciousness from coast to coast, conjuring summers spent by pools or parks with barbecue smoke lingering in the air.

But the bagel? Its versatility is unequaled. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Savory or sweet. Easily made into open-faced sandwiches or tiny tasty microwaveable pizzas. Need we even mention the incredible combination of lox and cream cheese with salty capers?

And what better city to find the best of the best bagels than New York City? Originally an affordable treat created by and for Jewish immigrants, the bagel couldn't be kept under wraps for long. Today — much like the pizza scene — you can find great bagels almost anywhere in NYC. However, some are simply just a cut above. 

Luckily, you can find an excellent bagel shop in just about any borough to satisfy your circular cravings. Manhattan is huge, so forgive us if a few favorites are left out. But based on the online buzz, we think you'll be pretty impressed with these shops we've decided to put the spotlight on.

Bring a big appetite for bagels in Manhattan

First off, we have the quintessential New York bagel shop, Ess-a-Bagel. Established in 1976 by an Austrian baking family, they quickly earned their place on the block with their incredible bagel creations. Today they're still dominating the bagel scene with their huge variety of bagels and sandwich combinations. You'll find all your traditional bagels (plain, poppy, everything bagel) along with other flavors like garlic, onion, and cinnamon raisin. The sheer number of schmear choices will also reel you with options like sundried tomato, avocado garlic, rainbow cookie, and apple cinnamon.

Many locals claim that Absolute Bagels may very well be the best bagel shop in the city. Located on the Upper West Side, this shop was established by Sam Thongkrieng. After moving to New York City from Thailand, Sam worked at Ess-a-Bagel for many years before opening his own shop. Today, you'll find a line out the door waiting to grab one of their doughy delights. What's the best bagel to get for your first time, though? An untoasted everything bagel with scallion cream cheese. But make sure to bring cash as this is a cash-only establishment.

Find the royal family of bagels in Queens

If you've just arrived in the city from La Guardia or the JFK Airport and need your bagel fix immediately, you're already in the right place since Queens has some pretty incredible bagel spots.

Utopia Bagels was originally founded in 1981 in Whitestone, New York, the northernmost part of Queens. The shop is still hand-rolling, kettle boiling, and baking their bagels in a carousel oven from the 1940s. They say this is how they get the same quality out of their bagels year after year. There's no reinventing of the bagel wheel happening here.

Sticking to the paradisical naming conventions, next up, we have the Bagel Oasis, located in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood. Established in 1961, the Bagel Oasis has existed since the beginning of the bagel craze in New York City. Today they're open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, to keep hungry New Yorkers satisfied and happy.

Be a mensch and get you some bagels in Brooklyn

Did you know that Brooklyn has the largest Jewish population in the U.S.? This may very well make it one of the most Jewish places in the world outside of Israel. With the history of bagels so closely tied to the Jewish community in New York, this makes Brooklyn a great starting point for those searching for the city's best bagels. This borough has a long list of shops that stand out as some of the best in the city, but here are a few to get you started.

Per the Everything is Everything rating system for New York bagels, the Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe and The Bad Bagel are duking it out for the best bagel spot in Brooklyn. These two shops are newer entrants to the Brooklyn bagel scene but pack a punch with their perfectly boiled and baked treats and creamy schmear.

However, the crowd-favorite titles go to Terrace Bagel and Bagel Pub. Terrace Bagel is a family-owned bakery that has consistently churned out top-notch bagels since 1991. One of their more popular products, though, is their mini bagels and seemingly endless flavors of cream cheese. The Bagel Pub offers a huge variety of bagels as well as great coffee — it's recommended to try the cold brew.

A Bronx tale about bagels

The Bronx is one of the trendiest boroughs of New York City. Though it's had a rough past, its more recent history recognizes the Bronx as an epicenter of culture and the birthplace of hip-hop. We're unsure if hip-hop and bagels go together, but that won't stop us food lovers from trying.

First stop, Riverdale Bagels, located on — you guessed it — Riverdale Ave. This bagel shop has been around since the early 90s, and the owners, Enzo and Joe Tardinuovo, are dedicated to using only the best ingredients for their bagels. After all, you can perfect the bagel-making technique, but without great ingredients, it's all for naught.

Per the Bronx Times, Empire Bagels was voted the best bagels in the Bronx in 2022. This local's hidden gem is quickly gaining steam as one of the better bagel spots in the city. This no-frills spot serves bagels from a window, and you may even find yourself waiting in line for the good stuff. They're only open in the morning, so get there early to snag the doughy stuff, and don't worry if there's a line. It moves fast.

Don't miss the bagels in the forgotten borough, Staten Island

When talking about New York City, Staten Island is often treated like a neglected middle child — forgotten and ignored. We think that's a shame! That's because the fifth borough of NYC has a lot more to offer than meets the eye, especially when it comes to its bagels. With over 170 green parks and tons of museums and historic districts to explore, what better way to fuel your tour of this borough than with a thick, doughy, crunchy bagel?

Just down the road from Willowbrook Park and the College of Staten Island, you'll find Bagels N' Buns. Reviewers write that this is possibly the best bagel shop in Staten Island and may serve the tastiest bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich you'll ever try. After over 25 years in business, Bagels N' Buns knows exactly what its customers want — fresh bagels made with only the best ingredients.

On the southeast side of Staten Island, you'll find your next bagel fix at Bagels R Us, just a little ways from the Great Kills Harbor. This is a local's spot with frequent flyers grabbing their daily bagel on the way to work. On top of making incredible bagels and breakfast sandwiches, most reviewers comment that the service treats you more like a family than a customer.