New Yorkers argue that Boston bagels don’t hold a candle to theirs, and they may be right. But unless you’re willing to drive four hours and go back in time for the perfect Brooklyn bagels that my Jewish grandfather ate in the ’30s, we recommend you find a decent shop here (yes, they exist). What Boston bagel shops may lack in credibility, they make up for in creativity with these unique holey rolls.
Bagelsaurus (1796 Mass Ave, Cambridge)
Every day at 10 am, one of Boston’s most beloved bagel companies offers the humble bialy: a Polish roll with a sunken onion-filled center, instead of the characteristic bagel hole. Another key difference is that bialys are not boiled before they are baked, which results in a much softer exterior than the sometimes jaw-pain-inducing bagel chewiness. Or you can enjoy a classic poppy and onion bialy, or try Bagelsaurus’ rotating variety of bialys, like salami cheddar or broccoli cheddar garlic. For a sweeter option, check out Bagelsaurus on a Monday to indulge in a chocolate chip pretzel bagel. Lean into the dessert flavor by pairing it with the house-made almond butter, or add some cream cheese for that elusive balance of sweet and salty.
Tatte (locations throughout Boston and Cambridge)
You may have heard about this place, and how founder and pastry chef Tzurit Or left her home country of Israel and became one of Boston’s most successful bakers. While the store has plenty of pastries—heirloom tomato galettes, halva sesame tea cakes, chocolate hazelnut brioche—its Jerusalem bagels are a standout breakfast option. The oversized, oblong bagels are topped with sesame seeds and baked to perfection. Tatte’s inventive Jerusalem bagel egg-in-a-hole makes for a breakfast as unique as it is delicious.
Levend Bagelry (100 Hanover St, North End)
While most of us remember pizza bagels as the childhood snack that came in a freezer box (and usually burned the roofs of our mouths), Levend serves up a slightly more gourmet version. Its pizza bagels are made with its signature three-cheese blend (though it’s unclear what the three cheeses are) and a variety of toppings. Go classic with the homemade tomato sauce and basil, or try the Harvest, topped with roasted red peppers, sweet potatoes, and caramelized onions.
Exodus Bagels (3346 Washington St, Jamaica Plain)
Those obsessed with the ultra-trendy Everything But the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s should most definitely try Exodus’ “Everywhere Bagel.” Instead of a measly sprinkling of seeds and spices on top, this bagel has seasoning generously packed on all sides for optimal flavor. Top it with the sriracha cream cheese for an extra kick.