The Perfect Bagel

When other people anticipate a trip to New York City, they might think about fine dining. What’s the latest new cuisine to taste? Which famous chef should we try? Where do we need to make a reservation?

(Zie Nederlands versie beneden!)

Or they may be looking for “ethnic” food: Chinese, for example, or Cuban, or Cuban-Chinese (yes, that’s a thing!).

What I was looking forward to more than anything was a bagel.

Lots of different types of bagels, displayed in baskets in a bagel store

Fresh bagels!

That’s a very specific bagel: if you don’t live in or near New York City, what you think of as a bagel isn’t quite the same thing.

I grew up in Connecticut, and every Sunday morning my mother or father would drive down to Gold’s Deli in Westport to pick up a bag of bagels. Gold’s had them delivered early each morning from New York, so they were the real thing.

It must be something in the water that explains why New York City bagels are better than other bagels. I assume that bagel-makers in California, for example, use the same recipe as in New York: bagels are a yeast bread and, after rising, they’re shaped and then boiled in water before they’re baked. But somehow they’re never quite the same anywhere else.

In New York, the bagels are chewy and slightly salty.They present a certain resistance when you bite down, but the crust isn’t crispy; it’s just the right amount of chewy.

close-up of a plain bagel with cream cheese and lox

the perfect bagel

We always ate them with cream cheese and, when my father was feeling flush, he’d also buy lox. Lox is smoked salmon, and it wasn’t the same as what you can buy in the supermarket. At Gold’s they would slice it right off the salmon, so it wasn’t so neat, but it was saltier and had a stronger flavor.

So that’s what I wanted in New York: a quality bagel—a plain one, not one of these sacrilegious blueberry bagels or cinnamon-raisin or chocolate chip bagels—with cream cheese and lox.

I found a listing on-line of the best bagel places in New York and simply figured out which was nearest to where I was staying, the Jane Hotel in the meatpacking district. That turned out to be Murray’s Bagels: a hole-in-the-wall deli on 6th Avenue between 13th and 14th in Greenwich Village, with just a few tables and a constantly long line waiting to buy their perfect bagels.

the storefront of Murray's Bagels

Murray’s Bagels

They were indeed perfect. I had one for breakfast both days and, exaggerating only a little, it was heaven. I found myself eating very slowly, totally focused on each bite, putting off the moment when it was done.

I so wish someone here in Holland would figure out how to recreate that perfect bagel. I miss Sunday morning bagels. And I’ll keep going back to New York whenever I have a chance until that happens.

Have you ever eaten a true New York bagel?

For more ideas of things to see in New York City, check out my article “New York City on a Budget: Free or cheap things to do“!

De Perfecte Bagel

Als andere mensen er over denken om een trip naar New York City te ondernemen, zouden zij over lekker eten denken. Welk restaurant is nieuw? Bij welke beroemde chef-kok moeten we eten? Waar hebben we een ​​reservering nodig?

Of zijn ze misschien op zoek naar “etnisch” food: Chinees, bijvoorbeeld, of Cubaans of Cubaans-Chinees (Ja, dat is een ding!).

Ik? Ik was op zoek naar een bagel.

En wel een zeer specifieke bagel: als je niet in of in de buurt van New York City woont, is wat jij een bagel noemt niet helemaal hetzelfde.

Ik ben opgegroeid in Connecticut. Elke zondagochtend ging mijn moeder of vader naar Gold’s Deli in Westport om bagels te halen. Bij Gold’s werden ze elke ochtend vroeg geleverd vanuit New York, dus die waren het echte werk.

Het zal iets in het water zijn wat verklaart waarom New York bagels beter zijn dan andere bagels. Ik neem aan dat bagel-bakkers in Californië, bijvoorbeeld, hetzelfde recept gebruiken als in New York: bagels zijn gist brood en, na een rijzing, zijn ze gevormd en vervolgens gekookt in water voordat ze gebakken worden. Maar op een of andere manier zijn ze nooit zo goed buiten New York.

De bagels in New York zijn taai en een beetje zout. Het is niet alleen een wit brood recept in de vorm van een donut maar zij presenteren een zekere weerstand wanneer je erin bijt. De korst is niet knapperig; het is gewoon de juiste taaiheid.

We aten ze altijd met roomkaas en, als mijn vader in een goede bui was, kocht hij zelfs lox. Lox is gerookte zalm maar het is niet hetzelfde als wat je in Nederland in de supermarkt kunt kopen. Bij Gold’s sneden ze uit de zalm zelf, dus het waren niet zulke netjes plakken, het was zouter en had een sterkere smaak.

Dus dat is wat ik zocht in New York: een kwaliteits bagel—een naturel, niet één van die heiligschennende blauwe bessen bagels of kaneel-rozijnen of chocolade stukjes bagels—met roomkaas en lox.

Ik vond een lijst op het internet met de beste bagel-bakkers van New York en rekende uit welke het dichtst bij waar ik verbleef, het Jane Hotel in het Meatpacking District, stond. Dat bleek Murray’s Bagels te zijn: een hole-in-the-wall deli op 6th Avenue tussen 13e en 14e in Greenwich Village, met slechts een paar tafels en een constant lange wachtrij om de perfecte bagels te kopen.

Ze waren inderdaad perfect. Ik nam er beide dagen één voor het ontbijt en ik overdrijf misschien een beetje: het was de hemels. Ik at heel langzaam, volledig gericht op elke hap, om het moment zo lang mogelijk uit te stellen dat ik de bagel op had.

Ik zou zo graag willen dat iemand in Nederland zou uitzoeken hoe die perfecte bagel gemaakt werd. Ik mis elke zondagochtend die bagels. Ik zal terug blijven gaan naar New York wanneer ik de kans krijg totdat het zover is.

Hebt jij ooit een echte New York bagel gegeten?

Wil je meer weten over wat te zien in New York City, kijk dan naar mijn artikel “New York City on a Budget: Free or cheap things to do“!


    • rachel75

      May 23, 2015 at 10:37 am

      I remember Zabar’s but not H&H. I know that Zabar’s didn’t show up on the lists I saw of best bagel places, though they may get their supplies from one of the good ones. Yes, good memories!

  • Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

    May 25, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Love it! When I traveled to NYC regularly for business many moons ago, Zabar’s was it. Imagine the horror to see bagels served with ham and melted cheese on them when I moved to Minnesota. Where do you even start with so many levels of wrong? ::::facepalm::::

    • rachel75

      May 27, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Exactly! Bagels are acceptable in a few different versions: plain, sesame seed, poppy seed, onion, salt or egg. That’s about it. They should NOT be sweet, like blueberry bagels or chocolate chip, and, given that they were originally a Jewish food, ham and cheese is about as sacrilegious as it can get!

  • vetaretus-6

    May 25, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    I visited my sister in January in NJ and we got us some bagels in NY. It’s so true, I’ve never eaten anything like it!! I’ll have to refer this post to my sister for the perfect bagel!!

    • rachel75

      May 25, 2015 at 10:37 pm

      I know! They’re just better than anywhere else! Earworm: ‘There’s something in the water, something in the water, that makes me love you like I do…’

    • rachel75

      May 25, 2015 at 10:35 pm

      Yes, and I live in Holland. Sigh. I suppose if I lived anywhere else I’d miss the Dutch cheese, so I really can’t complain!

  • Chris

    May 25, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    They look great (will be getting my chomps into true NY bagels very soon), although I’ve always understood a hole in the wall joint to be just that.

    A hole in the wall!

    They look like they have true shop frontage, prime real estate! 🙂

    • rachel75

      May 26, 2015 at 6:14 am

      When I used the expression ‘hole-in-the-wall’ I was referring more to the inside than the outside. It was crowded! And there were just a few small tables next to benches, with no table service. It was all a bit chaotic on our side of the counter, that’s all. On their side they were remarkably quick and efficient with filling orders.

  • Irene S. Levine

    May 26, 2015 at 1:25 am

    So glad that you found good bagels, the perfect one for you! I have found it fascinating how international the bagel has come. We even saw bagel shops in China. I just read a fascinating article on Eater that explains why bagels taste better in New York!

    • rachel75

      May 26, 2015 at 6:16 am

      I know! And I often try them and end up disappointed! I’ll go look for that Eater article! Thanks!

  • Donna Janke

    May 27, 2015 at 12:31 am

    I have heard about New York bagels but have never tasted one. I look forward to trying them some day, although if I find them as good as others claim, the experience may spoil me for other bagels.

    • rachel75

      May 27, 2015 at 11:52 am

      If you didn’t grow up with them, you might not relish them as much as those of us who grew up with them. I’d love to hear what you think, when you do finally try them! And, yes, it spoiled me for other bagels. I only very rarely eat them.

  • Tracie Howe

    May 27, 2015 at 3:29 am

    I’ve always wondered why everyone makes such a big deal out of NY bagels. I’ve never had one though. It’s great that you grew up with them and came back to try them as an adult, not to be disappointed. I find that all too often I try something later in life and it’s never the same. That cream cheese and lox bagel made my mouth water… now I’m craving this for dinner!

  • The Educational Tourist

    May 28, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Food is such a fun part of the travel! Funny thing about bagels – people have very strong preferences. We tried bagels in NYC, too and our party is split. My husband and son think bagels should be plain or savory. My daughter loves the cheesy ones and I love sweet. Love that your bagels have such sweet memories!

    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

    • rachel75

      May 28, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      It’s memory food for me. I suppose everyone has some sort of memory food, which might or might not also be comfort food. Thanks for commenting!

  • Marilyn Jones

    May 29, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I would definitely take your advice on this…I love how you blended your own experience from your childhood and today. Next time I am in NYC, I’ll be looking for a bagel-breakfast!!

  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    May 30, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I love the plain or “everything” bagels with the sesame and poppy seeds spread with cream cheese and lox. How fabulous to see the salmon sliced right off the fish in irregular chunks and to have that as one of your childhood memories. Hope to get back to NYC this year, and if I do, I’ll be looking for the best bagels to try. MMMM!

  • A Cook Not Mad (Nat)

    May 31, 2015 at 4:44 am

    We lived in NYC for 5 years and still like Montreal style bagels better, more dense and chewy.
    I always found it funny that locals would get their bagels “scooped out” because they were so thick and bready.

  • Sue Reddel

    June 1, 2015 at 1:36 am

    NYC bagels are the best in the world. They say it’s the water. Who cares? They’re terrific and that’s all we need to know. The perfect bagel with lox and cream cheese is heaven!