Throw Back Thursday – With today Being Bagels and Lox Day – here is a throwback to the Sandwich America and USA Today10Best 20 nominees for Best Bagels and Lox in New York.
The final winner was: Zucker’s Bagels
Photo Credit – Zucker’s Bagels
See all the the winners at USA Today 10Best
To make your own gravlax to celebrate this day check out our easy recipe here.
Bagels and Lox – a Sublime Sandwich
Bagels and Lox represent what we love most about sandwiches. Bagels are not originally from New York, Lox are not originally from New York, but it was New Yorkers who created this mash-up and the result is one of the most sublime sandwich combinations ever created. Versus many of our categories, there is no hot debate about the creator of bagels and lox, it just has been for as long as most can remember. Now a daily staple in most New York households and available across the country, lox use to be a luxury only served on special occasions or as an incentive to get young kids to sit through temple. Now bagels and lox are enjoyed several days a week by many around the globe. It is quickly evident from the names of our top nominees that some focus on the bagel and import the lox while others focus on the lox and import the bagel. What’s more important, the bagel or the lox? It’s a good thing we don’t have to pick!
Here are the list of the 20 nominees in no particular order:
|Russ & Daughters
This New York institution has been around for over 100 years. Selecting only the highest grade and freshest fish and smoked to perfection each salmon in their collection is known for its unique characteristics depending on its sea of origin, diet, size, and smoking process. They only slice by hand at Russ & Daughters and each order is made by hand by a master slicer. Fans describe it as having an “exquisite, old school, and top of the line selection of lox.” They get their bagels from fresh from Bagel Hole in Brooklyn, a New York institution in and of itself and they are happy to toast the bagel for you. Fans report “The salmon is sliced so thin you can practically see through it.”
|2nd Avenue Deli
The 2nd Avenue Deli is no longer on 2nd avenue but follows the traditions of the original and provides some of the finest Jewish culinary creations in New York City. Known for its great meats its fish also gets great accolades, particularly the pastrami salmon which people come for far and wide. Like other great delis on our list, they bring in great bagels to accompany their smoked fish and offer a classic pure and simple bagel and lox combination.
There always seems to be a line out the door at this Upper West Side mainstay, the bagels keep coming, all day long, fresh from the oven and piping hot. You can actually see the bagels boiling before they finish their last bake. Many fans love their 3 ounce bagel but all who enter love the hand rolled old school bagel with “no frills” that are crunchy in the right places, chewy in the right places, and not too sweet. Pair that with your choice of cream cheese and lox and wait for the smile.
If you find yourself in need of a bagel fix in the middle of the night hope you are near the Bagel Oasis as they are open 24/7 every day of the year. They are open and honest about their old-school baking practices; they blend water with flour, salt and malt syrup (instead of sugar) and then boil them in a kettle before they hit the oven. They haven’t changed one thing about this formula since they opened in 1961. They offer 16 varieties of bagels and 15 cream cheese spreads with lox to help you create your best bagels and lox experience with a vast selection of other sandwich offerings that just may tempt you away from the New York classic.
One of the old school style spots on our list that actually comes from an old school source, Barney Greengrass has been serving the Upper West Side since 1908. This “appetizing shop” has a diner available for sit down but also has a grab and go deli serving some of the best bagels in New York topped with Nova Scotia salmon. This is a New York institution known for its high quality lox, cream cheese, and bagels.
|Best Bagel & Coffee
Best Bagel & Coffee doesn’t appear to have a website or any social media presence, what it does have is a continuous line of patrons with no worries about waiting 30 minutes to get their favorite bagel and schmear. These are old school bagels at their finest, hand rolled, kettle boiled and offered with a large selection of cream spreads and a solid fish selection that speaks for itself and to the patrons lining up outside the door.
With three locations throughout the city, Black Seed has taken the tastes of two cities, Montreal and New York, and created a hybrid that combines the best of both worlds. The bagels are rolled by hand then boiled in honey water to add a touch of sweetness, then they are baked in a wood-fired oven just long enough to achieve the perfect amount of crispness before being transferred to a marble shoot for cooling with hand-carved walnut peels. They offer “sometimes traditional” other times “adventurous” but always delicious options. A modern old school take on the classic bagels and lox.
|Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company
With three locations in Queens and one in Manhattan, Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company utilizes old-school baking methods to ensure the classic combination of crunchy exterior and chewy center that a classic New York Bagel should have. With an astonishing 17 bagel varieties, they also offer spelt bagels so those with gluten sensitivities can enjoy this New York favorite. They have upwards of 20 spreads and introduce a spread of the week to surprise and delight patrons and delicious lox to top it all off.
The size of the bagel is not shied away from here. In fact, Ess-A-Bagel claims – without shame – that they have the largest bagels in the city. The story goes that there was an error in the refrigeration process of the dough that caused the bagels to puff up beyond the normal size and the response was so great to the oversized bagels that the error was re-created and locals and tourists alike have flock here in droves to wait in line for this oversized bagel since the 1970’s. Ess-a-Bagel doesn’t stop with “AMAZING” bagels of which there are 16 varieties, they offer close to 20 varieties of cream cheese, and a variety great lox to help you create the best bagel and lox sandwich in New York.
|Gotta Get A Bagel
A Queens’s institution with a sign in the window advertising “Hot Bagels Baked on Premise” is frequented for its large variety of bagels and cream cheese spreads and its highly lauded bialy and it also has a great selection of lox. Although a bit crowded many wait in line to get their favorites every day of the week, a testament to the solid quality of Gotta Get a Bagel.
|Hot Bialys & Bagels
With Bialy in its name this seems the perfect place to define a Bialy vs. a Bagel. A bialy is a yeast roll similar to a bagel but where bagels are boiled then baked and have a hole in the center, bialys are only baked and have a depression in the center. Patrons describe the bagels here as “AMAZING” and the bialys as “EVEN BETTER.” Touted as the best bagels and bialys in Queens and the best bialys, well just about anywhere, both are made the old fashioned way with a large selection of cream cheeses and lox to create great bagels and lox, or bialy and lox sandwiches.
|H&M Midtown Bagels Midtown East
Opened by the founders of H&H bagels in 1974, two years after the opening of the now closed West side H&H Bagels is has been under new ownership since 1979 but has continued its legacy of making New York Bagels the old-fashioned way. They are hand-rolled, kettle boiled, and baked on burlap covered wood boards in vintage revolving tray ovens. This labor intensive process, they claim, is essential to make the “World’s Best Bagels!” With upwards of 20 bagels selections, as many cream cheese options and top notch nova scotia smoked salmon, it is no wonder this established is still beloved by locals and visitors alike.
Named for the artsy neighborhood in Montreal. Mile End is the name of a Brooklyn Delicatessen and a Manhattan Sandwich Shop which brings Montreal flavors to traditional New York Bagels and Lox and other New York favorites. The bagels are a little smaller and denser with a touch of honey and the meats carry a flair of Montreal seasoning. The bagels and lox is an inspiring quantity of old fashioned belly lox, cream cheese, red-onion slices and a tomato on a warm bialy. Can’t go wrong with this New York Classic with a twist.
Open for nearly 20 years, Murray’s prides itself on hand-crafted methods to produce the delectable Murray’s bagels. Their amazing selection of bagels (13) are hand-rolled and made fresh every day from just a few simple ingredients – but the process, handed down through generations, turns these simple ingredients into something “a bit magical” and are described by fans as “Old School Bagel Perfection.” They boast the right combination of crispy crust and chewy inside and have a strict “no toasting” rule. Murray’s pairs their bagels with great ingredients including a selection of lox that combine to make one of the best bagels and lox in New York.
|Sables Smoked Fish
Laying claim to the “BEST” smoked salmon, sturgeon, and caviar in the world is not taken lightly in New York but Kenny and Danny Sze stand by their claim. Originally from Hong Kong, neither spoke English when they arrived in New York in 1972 and began learning their craft at various New York fish houses, including Zabar’s. In 1990, they opened their own shop and New Yorkers agree, they give Zabar’s a run for their money. Focusing on their fish, which is now considered among the New York greats, they bring in high quality New York bagels to provide a great bagels and lox experience.
Sometimes “everything old is new again” and Sadelle’s is bringing back bagels the way they are supposed to be. Only recently opened, biting into their bagel you’d think they’d been making bagels in New York for decades. And their bagels and lox are an inspiration. At Sadelle’s, the house-smoked salmon arrives sprinkled with flaky salt on a tiered tray, accompanied by chive cream cheese and fresh-baked bagels on a miniature wooden rod bringing a brunch at home feel without having to do any of the work. Their everything 2.0 has been named one of the best food finds in New York for 2015 and is a crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside master piece studded with poppy seed, sesame seed, caraway and fennel seeds is indeed everything. One of the only places we found that make their own bagel and house smoke their lox.
|Shelsky’s of Brooklyn Appetizing and Delicatessen
Shelsky’s is a new Brooklyn nod to an old fashion “Jewish Appetizing and Fish Shop”. Owner Peter Shelsky, takes his salmon seriously, “smoked salmon has to be sliced fresh to order. And it’s gotta be paper-thin – even a millimeter too big and it’s messed up. You want your bagel to be chewy not your salmon.” Described by fans as having an “Ethereal fish selection” they even divide their menu by “cold smoked and cured” versus “hot smoked” which for any fish lover is a vital distinction. The addition of a superb bagel baked by Brooklyn Basin Bagels rounds out the picture and makes this a must eat Bagel and Lox.
|Tompkins Square Bagels
A relative newcomer to the bagel landscape you wouldn’t know it to taste their bagels, hand rolled, kettle boiled and oven baked on planks, Tompkins claims their bagels “are simply the best you can get” and it’s hard to find much disagreement. As beloved as their bagels are some claim the cream cheese is even better with 27 varieties and an additional 11 tofu spreads. A favorite is the wasabi cream cheese and lox combo described as “AMAZING!” Their bagels and lox sandwiches take on fun twists like the Grav Deluxe with gravlax, sundried tomato, capers, onions, and avocado on a pumpernickel bagel. Go for the bagel, stay for the neighborhood feel.
“Zabar’s is New York and New York is Zabar’s” is their motto and there is really no dispute. There is nothing quite like seeing a someone arrive bearing the gift of brown paper bag emblazoned with the big orange Zabar’s because anything from Zabar’s will be a treat.
A complete list of the best bagels and lox in New York wouldn’t be complete without the most popular do it yourself establishment in New York. Zabar’s has bagels they claim are “specially formulated for toasting” and a great selection of hand sliced lox and a wide variety of cream cheeses plus all the fixins including onions, tomatoes, and capers. Picking your own bagels, lox, and cream cheese seems to make the finished product taste all the better.
|Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish
On opening day of Zucker’s, owner Matt got word that his bagel machine operator could not report to work. In a scramble, he found someone who could hand roll and kettle boil bagels and the response to the bagels was so fantastic the business model changed immediately to hand rolled bagels and the machine was destined to collect dust. With a great bagel in store, Zucker’s needed an equally impressive lox and chose Acme Smoked Fish, a four generation institution out of Brooklyn who has been delivering to Zucker’s for 16 years. This is classic New York, hand rolled bagels, old school lox, and a schmear of cream cheese.