New York… City of my birth… Center of the Universe…I really start to miss it sometimes, especially when it seems like half the people I know in LA are going there some time in the near future. Definitely time to book a trip.
I’m not sure, but I think what got me started was bagels. I could say “I can’t remember the last time I had a really good bagel…” but that would be a lie. I remember exactly when the last time I had a good bagel was: last time I was home, of course! When it comes to this breakfast of (NYT crossword) champions, I am really selective about where I go and what I eat- but that’s nothin’ new. And you can be assured of one thing- I have found a few places that make my favorite bagel, my favorite way; for me, it’s gotta be an Everything Bagel with a nice schmear of lox spread- nothing, but nothing, else will do.
Now, if you’re looking to have a sit-down with a bagel and some smoked fish, this list would have to be revised. I love these takeout places best for a quick bite on the go- like a good slice- but if you wanna go full on, you’ll have to consider places like Barney Greengrass (best chopped liver in the city- even for a mensch goy like me!!), Ess A Bagel, or Noah’s. A whole separate write-up as far as I’m concerned.
There is a great shop in Carroll Gardens, on the corner of Henry and Union. And considering what my bagel of choice is, it seems the perfect place for me: Everything Bagel. First time I was here was during a snowstorm- big feather-like flakes were piling up on any surface they could find- the street, cars, me… I stepped in and was greeted by the great smell of fresh baked bagels and the beautiful sight of baskets behind the counter loaded with them. It was my first time here and I went right for the benchmark so I could make a proper call on the place- Everything with Lox spread, coffee regular. I was not disappointed: the bagel was still warm, making the cream cheese a little mushada; it had a slightly crisp exterior with a good mix of salt, garlic, onion, and all the appropriate seeds and the steamy interior was just chewy enough… Great coffee too, which never hurts.
If the mood strikes me while I am on the West Side, up in the 70’s/80’s, there is a great little spot on Amsterdam Ave. Bagel Talk has warm bagels coming out of the oven all day long. The turnover is fast and I’ve actually been double-parked out front waiting for their Everything Bagels to come out- warm and chewy on the outside, steam coming off the soft doughy inside as it is cut open- what else is there? Let them put a nice (Now if only I could avoid those meter-maids …)
These two places are good if you’re in town, but to get my favorite bagels, the best bagels I have ever had, you would have to go east- out to the Island. May seem like a long trip, but that never stopped me and it shouldn’t stop you either. I have been eating bagels from this place since…whoa- a really long time. Take the LIE to exit 37 or the GCP to exit 28 and head south a bit. On Willis Ave in Albertson, you’ll find a place called Bagels and Bialys. Couldn’t be more straightforward than that, could it? This place has been putting out the best everything bagel the world has ever known for as long as I can remember. It is THE perfect bagel. Hit it with a schmear of (you guessed it) lox spread and chase it with a nice cuppa coffee; could you get much closer to heaven in a handheld breakfast? Almost enough to make me convert!! The line on any given morning, not just Saturday or Sunday, is surprising, but only if you have never tasted their bagels. I used to make the occasional trip from the boros out here just for bagels. I’m not sure, but I think the receipts from any given Sunday would just about wipe out the national debt- I have seen the line that long!!
So there it is- the Big Guy’s picks for a few places to catch a great bite on the run. If you find yourself in the neck of the woods of any of these places at any given time, do yourself a favor, step in and grab a half dozen to take home and let them fix one for you to have on the ride, too. If you don’t wanna do yourself a favor, then do me a favor and send em out to me- these lifeless lumps of dough out in SoCal are killin me!!
Remember, bagels aren’t just a breakfast food- like a good slice, not only good to travel with… you could eat it any time. Stop in any of these places anytime they’re open and ask for whatever they have that’s warm with a schmear- if they won’t tell you what’s warm, put your hand on the glass window between you and your meal- you’ll find out fast enough. There’s no way you could be disappointed. ‘Cause Johnny Tomatoes says so!!
520 Henry St
(corner of Union)
368 Amsterdam Ave
(left side b/t 77th and 78th)
Bagels and Bialys
1152 Willis Ave