Lately, my kids have discovered the joys of bagels smeared with cream cheese. They aren’t picky—spongy supermarket bagels will do. However, I’m very particular, and I keep a running mental list of the best bagels.
Recently, friends shipped me a dozen from the best Jewish food purveyor in the United States, the 106-year-old Russ & Daughters (plus lox and black-and-white cookies; thanks, Chris and Devra!). Those are my favorite.
We don’t have anywhere quite like the Lower East Side here in Boston, but receiving that shipment inspired me to list some of my own go-tos right here at home. I’d love to hear your picks, so let me know!
For a Scene: Bagelsaurus
Owner Mary Ting Hyatt launched her shop as a pop-up at Cutty’s in Brookline. Now, eight years in, she has an enormous following at her small storefront outside of Porter Square—the line stretches for blocks. The bagels themselves are crackly on the outside and chewy within, but I really love the toppings: spicy pepper spread, hot smoked salmon, roasted tomatoes and avocado (I’ve dropped plenty of these in the front seat of my car because I just couldn’t wait to get home). For kids? Banana and bacon (if your family eats bacon). Remember to pre-order on weekends.
1796 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, bagelsaurus.com
For Innovation: Be Okay Bagels
This pop-up is a newcomer to the Boston scene, launching in 2020 with Sasha Moraski at the helm. She moved here from Los Angeles during the pandemic and got her start baking inside Little Dipper in Jamaica Plain, and her specialty is unusual bagels: jalapeño cheddar, Sriracha roasted garlic and za’atar cheese, to name a few. Here, bagels are a canvas for creativity.
669A Centre St., Jamaica Plain, beokaybagels.com
For the Gluten-Conscious: One Mighty Mill
Get everything from lemon spinach to double-chile bagels at this Lynn café with an on-site mill, where founders Jon Olinto and Tony Rosenfeld (the masterminds behind local chain B.GOOD) specialize in fresh-milled flour with a low gluten content. These bagels are dense and nutty; due to the lack of gluten, they’re not as springy or doughy as you might be accustomed to. You won’t feel weighed down or sleepy after eating these bagels (good for kiddos). Another bonus: Nearby sensation Nightshade Noodle Bar provides spreads such as chili crisp cream cheese.
68 Exchange St., Lynn, onemightymill.com
For Purists: Rosenfeld’s Bagels
This kosher-certified bakery has been around for over 40 years, and fans swear by the vaguely malty, subtly sweet taste. I appreciate this spot for straightforward varieties: pumpernickel, egg, onion. (The handmade challah is great, too.) The only downside is parking—if you can’t find a metered spot in Newton Centre, be prepared to double-park out front in the tiny lot and scoot in.
1280 Centre St., Newton, rosenfeldsbagels.com
For Gourmands: Turenne Bagels
Star restaurateurs Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann (Bronwyn, the late T.W. Food) run this Union Square shop next to their pizza parlor, T&B, where they specialize in wood-fired, small-batch, Montreal-style bagels. That means the bagels are extra-crunchy and dense, while being a little more slender (and sweeter) than their U.S. counterparts. Top with kielbasa, tarragon cream cheese, brie, pastrami, sauerkraut and so much more.
251 Washington St., Somerville, turennebagels.com
I know I missed some top contenders. I’d love to hear your picks, so leave a comment!