While debates still rage about whether a Philadelphia-made bagel can ever truly compete with New York standard bearers, it’s undeniable that our city has experienced something of a bagel renaissance in the past few years: newcomers like Knead, Spread, and the Bon Appétit-blessed Philly Style Bagels are doing new and exciting things, some of Philly’s longest-running bakeries that dominated the market for years are still turning out great bagels every morning, and even artisan bakeries are getting in on the action with limited-edition runs one or two days per week.
The next time you’re looking for a lox sandwich, an egg and cheese, or just a classic schmear, turn to one of these solid options.
1437 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk
Tova du Plessis’ tiny Jewish bakery has a lot going for it — the black and white cookies and challah are must-try items — but it’s her Bagel Thursdays that have been drawing crowds. Her chewy, generously-flavored rounds are perfect topped with cream cheese, lox, capers, and onions, spread with house-made veggie schmear, or bagged and brought home for private consumption.
1611 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk
Essen’s boutique bakery neighbor to the south specializes in intricate, show-stopping cakes and other sweet treats, but they bust out the bagels on Saturdays and Sundays. They also turn these into sandwiches topped with the likes of roasted red peppers, harissa, and creamy slices of Brie.
Philly Style Bagels
1451 East Columbia Avenue, Fishtown
Collin Shapiro and Jonathan Zilber incubated their concept — an original bagel for Philly, boiled in Yards ESA and crusted in sesame, poppy seeds, or everything spice on the bottom and the top — at Bon Appétit’s pet Pizzeria Beddia in 2015; the next year, they were lauded by the mag as the best bagel sandwich in Philly. We gave them 2016’s award for best bagels in the city. If these are Philly style bagels, we can’t wait to see the trend spread.
Four Worlds Bakery
4634 Woodland Avenue, Cedar Park
All the breads and pastries Michael Dolich’s bakery just west of the USciences campus are delicious, but their sourdough bagels, heavy on the seedy toppings, are the best made west of the river. While not strictly traditional, the sourdough in the recipe adds flavor and rise while still keeping the bagels pleasantly dense and chewy, and a little whole wheat flour in the mix also boosts the healthy factor.
South Street Philly Bagels
613 South 3rd Street, Queen Village
One of the most ubiquitous bagels in the city is one of the best: This spot just south of South Street supplies its sister restaurant in the heart of Center City, Chestnut Street Bagels, as well as newer purveyors like University City’s mission-driven Schmear It brick and mortar and truck. Owner Mike Wagner learned to hand-form bagels from his Brooklynite father-in-law and continues the tradition today in his Philly shop, which has been open since 1996.
High Street on Market
308 Market Street, Old City
High Street’s much-lauded bread program makes transcendent loaves from long-fermented doughs made with freshly milled, locally sourced grains — and their bagels are just as impressive and delicious. High Street is also one of the few places within city limits to pick up a bialy, the bagel’s flatter, unboiled cousin, which their bakers color a deep brown with squid ink and top with whitefish salad and pickled peppers.
725 Walnut Street, Washington Square West
Knead — which bills itself as “a non-traditional bagel shop” — made a splash when it opened in 2014 with some uncommon as well as classic bagel and cream cheese flavors. Bagels flavored with spicy togarashi are recommended along with the scallion-lime cream cheese; black rather than white sesame seeds top bagels that get a poblano cream cheese schmear. And their sandwiches veer into new territory with options like Kale and Smoked Gouda Pimento with egg at breakfast and Korean Beef BBQ for lunch.
262 South 20th Street, Rittenhouse & 3602 Chestnut Street, University City
These Montreal-style bagels — distinguished by the honey water in which they’re boiled before being baked in a custom-built brick wood-fired oven — are available in classic flavors, plus a few harder-to-find varieties (whole wheat everything, chocolate chip). What they do with the bagels is a little more interesting: they’ll serve up your bagels pizza-fied or open-faced and topped with sliced cheese and other goodies, before letting the cheese get melty-licious. At their Penn location, you can even get a burger or split Hebrew National cheese dog served up on a bagel.
262 South 19th Street, Rittenhouse; 4013 Walnut Street, University City; 51 North 12th Street in Reading Terminal Market, Market East
Philly’s longtime artisan bread purveyor makes just about every kind of loaf, roll, pastry, or sweet under the sun — and bagels are no exception. The bakery, which sources locally and regionally grown and milled flours to make its breads and bagels, sells chewy, voluminous rounds; their flavorful multigrain, studded with oats and seeds, is a favorite healthy choice.
Le Bus Bakery
129 South 18th Street, Rittenhouse
Philly’s longtime wholesale bakery and caterer started in 1978 as a food truck built out of a converted school bus (now that you know that, the name makes a lot more sense). The first Le Bus breads (and bagels) were baked in an oven in the back of that bus. Today, their substantial, chewy bagels — in flavors like pumpernickel onion and fruit-packed apple cherry walnut — can be purchased direct from the bakery’s retail space in Rittenhouse or from The Market Bakery, which is fully stocked with Le Bus products, in Reading Terminal Market.