Battle of the Bagels – NYC Edition

So during my recent trip to NYC, I decided to try out some of the most well known bagel shops in town. While there are a lot of excellent bagelries in New York, I had to narrow down to a choice of three due to time constraint.

My first stop was Murray’s Bagels in the Greenwich Village. My roommate and I used to live close by and she would always rave about the bagels there. For whatever reason, I never went myself and apparently I’ve been missing out all this time!

Location: 6th Avenue between 12th and 13th streets

Murray’s is a neighborhood bagel shop with only one retail location. Inside looks like a regular deli with a ton of spreads and bagels on display. The bagels were huge! Much bigger than what I was expecting but I’m not complaining.

Murray's cinnamon raisin bagel with regular cream cheese

Appearance: The bagel had beautiful marble streaks of cinnamon speckled with plenty of raisins. For me, it had just the right raisin to bread ratio. The size was a little bigger than usual and was thicker in some parts than others, which meant that it was hand rolled. Overall, it looked delicious and I couldn’t wait to bite into it.

Taste: The crust was the perfect firmness and gave the bagel a consistent chewy texture. The bread inside was dense and doughy and tasted exactly like how a bagel should.

Cream cheese: Look at all the cream cheese oozing out of the bagel hole! Murray’s is definitely generous with their cream cheese portions. The spread was whipped to a creamy and slightly airy consistency, but the saltiness was a bit overpowering.

My next destination was Tal Bagels in midtown. I stumbled across some good reviews online and decided to give it a try since it was relatively close to work.

Location: 1st Avenue between 53rd and 54th streets

Tal Bagel’s is another neighborhood gem. Inside was spacious with plenty of seating, but the decor was stale and slightly run down looking. Most of the customers were the elderly crowd, a testament to its staying power?

Tal's everything bagel with regular cream cheese

Appearance: Tal’s bagel has a nice brown color on the outside but lacked “everything” on their everything bagel. It barely had any seeds left by the time I sunk my teeth into it.

Taste: The bagel was served warm and smelled like it was fresh out of the oven. The outside was hard but not crusty. The inside was somewhat airy and bready and was missing the chewy texture that’s characteristic of an authentic bagel. The flavor was also a little bland and could’ve been confused with a plain bagel.

Cream cheese: The cream cheese was light and fluffy but was slightly melted by the warmness of the bagel. The flavor was plagued by the same saltiness as in Murray’s cream cheese. Do they all use the same recipe or get it from the same vendor??

Overall, Tal Bagels failed to impress and I quickly moved on to my next stop – Ess-a-Bagel.

Ess-a-Bagel can be considered an institution in NYC and has two locations in Manhattan. It is one of the most popular and beloved bagelries in the city so I went with high hopes.

Location: 3rd Avenue between 50th and 51st streets

Ess-a-bagel is decorated with a wooden exterior and had a homey feel to it when I walked in. There was a short line while I tried hard to choose amongst the myriad of bagel and cream cheese flavors.

Ess-a-Bagel's onion bagel with scallion cream cheese

Appearance: Ess-a-Bagel’s onion bagel was just the right size with plenty of onion bits to cover its entire surface. It was evenly molded on all sides and had an almost-too-perfect round shape. I’m gonna venture to guess that it was machine produced. The hole in the middle was also nonexistent as it was swallowed up by the surrounding bread.

Taste: The bagel crust was right on – not too hard or too soft. The bread had a hint of onion flavor which was further enhanced by the onion bits on the outside. The texture was bready but slightly chewy and noticeably denser than Tal’s.

Cream cheese: Thrown off by the saltiness of the regular cream cheese in my previous experiences, I decided that scallion was the way to go – and it did not disappoint! The cream cheese was super creamy and had a strong scallion flavor with just a hint of sourness. It definitely made the bagel 10x better.

Final verdict: Judging only by the bagel, Murray’s is by far the best among the three bagel shops. Its hand crafted bagels have the perfect texture and consistency. I would recommend Ess-a-bagel for those who prefer a lighter bagel and I would definitely go back just for the scallion cream cheese.