2022’s Best Cities for Bagel Lovers

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Woman eating a bagel sandwich with a coffee next to her

Whether you like salty, sweet, or a little bit of everything, bagels are a great go-to for a cheap, filling meal in many American cities.

But which cities have the best bagel and schmear?

Lawn Love ranked 2022’s Best Cities for Bagel Lovers, highlighting large U.S. cities that have an abundance of high-quality bagel shops and an enthusiastic bagel-loving community. 

Find out how your city compares below, and use our rankings and in-depth analysis to get an informed taste of this Jewish-American culinary staple just in time for National Bagel Day on Jan. 15. 

In this article

  1. City rankings
  2. Results in depth
  3. Bagels by the numbers
  4. Expert take
  5. Methodology
  6. Final thoughts: Not just a roll with a hole

City rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Infographic showing the best cities for bagel lovers, a ranking based on access to bagel shops, quality, and local popularity of bagels

Results in depth

New York: Our schmear winner

It’s no surprise that New York City came in first place overall and in every category of our ranking — bagels are a prime breakfast choice in The City That Never Sleeps. 

Bagels first arrived in the U.S. in the late 1800s as Eastern European immigrants moved into New York’s East Side. With the highest concentration of Jewish-Americans among all major cities today, The Big Apple naturally shows huge demand for high-quality, culturally authentic bagels. It’s the only city in our ranking with six figures’ worth of both Google searches for bagels and consumer reviews.

Fortunately, locals and visitors alike won’t have trouble finding the perfect schmear in this iconic bagel city — it’s also the only one in our ranking with hundreds of establishments serving up this delicious breakfast staple. The city with the next biggest number, Las Vegas, has only 52.

Local tip: If you like your bagel toasted, check out Zabar’s on the Upper West Side, which makes its kosher bagels with malt barley flour, featuring a special toasting process. 

Whether or not you like a toasted bagel, be sure to stop by world-renowned Russ and Daughters. This was the first American business to have “and Daughters” in its name, and they have been serving bagels for more than a century.

Knead a little culture

For an authentic experience, bagel lovers flock to cities with highly rated Jewish delis and bagel shops. It’s no wonder, then, that many of our top cities have high concentrations of Jewish-American residents, including San Francisco (No. 2), Boston (No. 3), and Washington, D.C. (No. 4). 

Some cities leave bagel fans hungry for more. Despite high search volumes for bagels and bagel shops, cities like Denver (No. 69) and St. Paul, Minnesota (No. 143) lack access to high-quality bagels. 

Business-savvy bakers, take note: There’s a bagel-craving population waiting for you to make their lox-and-cream-cheese dreams come true.

Local tip: House of Bagels is one of San Francisco’s favorite bagel shops, where they boil and bake traditional, Brooklyn-style bagels daily. 

Bagelsaurus is one of the best bagel shops in Boston, serving unique bagel flavors such as black olive, pretzel, and cheddar garlic bagels, and spicy pepper, honey rosemary, and beet hummus schmears. 

Pearl’s Bagels in Downtown D.C. delights residents of the nation’s capital with its fresh bagels made on-site daily. 

Hole-in-one with tourists

Bagels are a perfect breakfast option for tourists looking for a cheap, quick bite before exploring their destination. 

The Strip is one of the most visited tourist attractions, and thankfully visitors to Sin City don’t have to gamble with their breakfast: Las Vegas finished at a sparkling No. 6. No dice in North Las Vegas (No. 155), though, which missed the mark in all categories.

Other tourist destinations that landed in our top 10 include Florida cities Fort Lauderdale (No. 5) and Orlando (No. 7), as well as Chicago (No. 9). In Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Access and Popularity far surpass Quality. In Chi-Town, access is more limited, but you’re more likely to eat a high-quality bagel.

Local tip: Vegas’ favorite delicatessen is Siegel’s Bagelmania. With a roomy 10,000-square-foot space and unique flavors like salted pretzel and asiago, there’s a little something for everyone.

In Fort Lauderdale, local favorite Chesapeake Bagel Bakery helps kick bagel cravings to the curb. A few hours north in Orlando, Bagel King serves artisanal kettle-baked bagels to please residents and tourists alike. 

Don’t mess with Texas’ breakfast

Bless your heart if you’re craving a bagel in the Lone Star State. 

Many Texas cities, such as El Paso (No. 155), Irving (No. 153), and Lubbock (No. 151), fell to the bottom of our ranking, due largely to lack of bagel shops. While it might not be easy to find a high-quality bagel in these cities, not many Texans seem to mind — few Google searches suggest low interest.

Texans are proud of their culture, and that’s especially true when it comes to food. Instead of bagels, Texans chow down on their own unique Tex-Mex breakfast traditions, like breakfast tacos and migas, which you won’t find in other regions of the country.

Bagels by the numbers

Infographic showing statistics about bagels
Sources: 1-5, 6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13, 14, 15, 16 | Research by: Sarah Bahr

Expert take

You might be able to pick out a bagel from a plate full of onion rolls, but do you know what makes them so mouthwatering? We kneaded the minds of some bagel experts to find out – read on to absorb some of their baking insights. 

  1. What makes bagels so popular?
  2. What makes a quality bagel?
  3. Panera Bread, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and Caribou Coffee recently merged to form one company, Panera Brands. What does this merger mean for customers who traditionally get their schmear from one of these establishments? How will the merger affect bagel quality, if at all?
  4. What are some unique bagel flavors, spreads, or toppings that bagel enthusiasts should try?
  5. What are different bagel styles? What makes New York-style and St. Louis-style stand out? 
  6. What bagel trends, if any, should bagel lovers keep an eye out for?
Chef Dan Moe
Baking & Pastry Chef Instructor, The Culinary Institute of Montana
Chef Mark Muszynski
Culinary Arts Pastry Instructor
Chef Dan Moe
Baking & Pastry Chef Instructor, The Culinary Institute of Montana
Flathead Valley Community College

What makes bagels so popular?

I think bagel popularity is based on several factors: convenience, versatility, and quality. Whether served over the counter or from the grocery store, Americans love food that’s ready to go in the morning, and again at lunch.

That range also allows to top or shmear them with any range of flavors. They can be a tasty vessel for gourmet toppings, a chewy pairing for soft creamy cheese, or even the base for microwavable pizzas.

With the Noah’s Bagels explosion in the 1990’s, the need for high-volume, quality bagels sky rocketed and the technology has advanced since then to the point that we can get really decent bagels even when they’re not produced fresh, on-site.

What makes a quality bagel?

The first thing anyone notices about a quality bagel is going to be the look. It has to have a decent bread-to-hole ratio, such that the toppings or fillings can reach the other side, if necessary.

It also must have good rise from proper fermentation and poaching, and proper heft upon picking it up, indicating a slightly dense crumb.

The toppings can’t be burned, but the bagel must have a sufficient browning, just shy of golden.

The crust of a bagel really shouldn’t be crusty at all, it should be soft and very easy to get your teeth through. Then, as we chew, and there should be chew from the high-gluten bread flour, we pick up a slight saltiness in the crust from the poach, sweetness in the dough from either malt or honey, and then our toppings, whether savory or sweet.

Panera Bread, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and Caribou Coffee recently merged to form one company, Panera Brands. What does this merger mean for customers who traditionally get their schmear from one of these establishments? How will the merger affect bagel quality, if at all?

Those three companies have put out quality products in the fast-casual scene consistently for a while, so hopefully it means a little more variety on the menu, but that same consistency from each store.

What are some unique bagel flavors, spreads, or toppings that bagel enthusiasts should try?

I worked for a Japanese company years ago that made frozen bagels in Portland and shipped them to Japan to be baked fresh and sold in bagel shops, grocery stores, and even on airlines.

They used some traditionally Japanese ingredients and combined them with common American bagel ingredients to create some really unique combinations that I wish I could find in stores or bakeries. Macha chocolate chip, edamame pepper jack, and adzuki, or red bean paste.

At bagel shops, I’m always on the lookout for salt bagels and then a sweet shmear option, like chocolate. Love that salty/sweet juxtaposition.

What are different bagel styles? What makes New York-style and St. Louis-style stand out?

The St Louis style bagel is really more of a method of preparation, or slicing to be exact.

New York style bagels are made with malt syrup and New York City water (which locals will tell you makes all the difference), and their fermentation is drawn out in cold temperatures to deepen the flavor. They’re poached in salted water and then baked.

Montreal, on the other hand, prefers a sweeter, fluffier product, so the dough contains sugar in addition to the malt. It is then poached in a honey or malt-sweetened bath and baked in a wood-fired oven, giving each bagel a distinct, light char.

What bagel trends, if any, should bagel lovers keep an eye out for?

The biggest bagel trend that I see right now is opening your own bagel shop! I’ve seen a big push since the pandemic in classes, support material, and even some brands offering guidance in how to open your own bagel shop. That’s a good thing!

Hopefully the independent, mom and pop bagels shops of America can come up with new, exciting flavor combinations or usages for the almighty bagel!

Chef Mark Muszynski
Culinary Arts Pastry Instructor
Joliet Junior College

What makes bagels so popular?

I feel they are very versatile and can be eaten any time of the day. The new flavors, toppings and smears makes the possibilities endless. It seems like they are making a comeback. Simply toasted, plain with a smear of cream cheese or avocado, as a sandwich, or made into chips are all great choices.

What makes a quality bagel?

Great ingredients accented with great flavor combinations.

A great chew and flavor made by a person with good old fashion know-how of what a true bagel should look like and taste like.

Panera Bread, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and Caribou Coffee recently merged to form one company, Panera Brands. What does this merger mean for customers who traditionally get their schmear from one of these establishments? How will the merger affect bagel quality, if at all?

Hopefully they will combine efforts and take what made all these companies successful and deliver this to the customers. They run the risk of losing the customers of those who enjoyed Einstein and Caribou. I feel Panera does quality work and I feel that they will not sacrifice quality but hopefully their bagels will be enhanced and become even better.

What are some unique bagel flavors, spreads, or toppings that bagel enthusiasts should try?

As far as new flavors, I am more of a traditionalist. I do love the everything bagel and feel there is room for variations of this flavor. Ethnic flavors are another option, as well as curry and Thai flavors, tomato or bacon jam, and maybe vegan options.

What are different bagel styles? What makes New York-style and St. Louis-style stand out?

I am familiar with New York and Montreal but had to look up St Louis style. Seems like St Louis is just sliced differently. Like pizza, everyone has a favorite. New York is most well known for a certain look(shine) and a good chew.

What bagel trends, if any, should bagel lovers keep an eye out for?

Bagel Trends continue to see innovations with flavors and smears. Vegan options should be seen as an up-and-coming option. I help run a vegan Mexican restaurant along with teaching, and I can see the popularity continue to grow and gain momentum.

I have been experimenting with laminated doughs, so I would be curious to see how a laminated bagel dough might turn out.

Methodology

We ranked 158 of the biggest U.S. cities from best to worst (1-158) based on their overall scores (out of 100 points), averaged across the weighted metrics listed below. 

Access

  • Establishments Serving Bagels per Square Mile
    • Weight: 2
    • Biggest Value = Best

Quality

  • Number of Highly-Rated (4.5+ Stars) Establishments Serving Bagels (with At Least 10 Consumer Reviews)
    • Weight: 3
    • Biggest Value = Best
  • Average Consumer Rating (Out of 5 Stars) for Establishments Serving Bagels
    • Weight: 2
    • Biggest Value = Best

Popularity

  • Average Monthly Google Search Volume for Bagel-Related Terms Over Past Year
    • Weight: 1
    • Biggest Value = Best
  • Total Number of Reviews (Across All Establishments Serving Bagels)
    • Weight: 1
    • Biggest Value = Best

Sources

Google Ads and TripAdvisor

Final thoughts: Not just a roll with a hole

You’re probably familiar with bagel flavors like sesame, cinnamon-raisin, and everything, but what about more unique tastes like sparkly cotton candy-filled unicorn bagels or fiery Flamin’ Hot Cheetos bagels?

Thankfully, you don’t need a ticket to New York — or even a tasty bagel shop in your neighborhood — to try these trendy bites. Don’t worry about buying bland bagels from the grocery store ever again. Instead, throw on an apron, and test your skills in the kitchen by making your own.

You also can satisfy your cravings with pizza bagels, bagel chips, and simit, a bagel-like breakfast staple from Turkey.

Bagel appétit!

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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