The 12 Best Bagels In Philly  guide image


The 12 Best Bagels In Philly

When your alarm goes off and you’ve got bagels on the brain, head to these 12 spots.

There are so many things that go into a perfect bagel: dough density, chewiness, the ratio between maltiness to yeastiness, and even how big the hole is (people who look forward to that heap of cream cheese in the middle: we see you). Because of this, some of Philly’s best shops are setting themselves apart by culturing their own cream cheese, topping them with smoked fish, and making bagel sandwiches so stacked that you’ll be full until dinner time. These are the city’s 12 best places for bagels–and what you should put on them when you go. 

Kismet Bagels

You probably heard of Kismet Bagels long before they opened their spot on Girard (thanks to their pop-up days)—and their reputation lives up to the hype. They serve soft bagels with a satisfying crackle from Wednesday – Sunday, starting at 7am. It’s the bagel sandwiches, though, like The Spicy (with bacon, egg, cheese, pickled jalapeños, and peppery everything schmear) that makes this more than just your neighborhood bagel shop. After we tried the silky spread on the sandwich, we literally turned our car around to buy a half-pint just so we could spread it on the dozen we bought to go.

If you’ve taken a Saturday or Sunday morning drive down Lancaster Ave., you’ve seen crowds of people lining up in front of Bart’s Bagels. From grabbing an onion topped with nova smoked salmon and pickled cucumbers for breakfast to a classic Reuben for lunch, there are plenty of reasons why the line outside is a fixture in West Philly. Their bagels are remarkably yeasty and deep golden brown, and since they smoke their fish in-house, they have a bagel sandwich list that’s longer than any other shop in Philly. 

If you want a bagel or bialy with as much puff as a small pillow, head to West Philly’s Cleo Bagels. The small shop has people lining up for their big, doughy creations (FYI—they’re only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). They have seeded classics like poppy, everything, and sesame that you can top with things like whitefish, house peanut butter, or scallion cream cheese. But it’s their signature sandwiches that really showcase their creativity. The Ramen Thing is the perfect layering of marinated egg, pickled ginger, bamboo, togarashi mayo, seaweed crisps, and scallions, all on a bagel of your choice. Each bite is slightly sweet, salty, and has everything that makes a brothy bowl of ramen so great—while being much handier. Come here for a morning cup of coffee, a few Apple Thing pastries, and bagels you’ll want to eat down to the last crumb. 

Everyone has a favorite bagel place in the city, and for Fishtown, Philly Style Bagels is it. It’s a small corner spot off Frankford that offers plump baked beauties that are also boiled in beer, which we think makes them a little more flavorful and, well, “Philly Style”. You can get your bagel topped with classic lox, or spread with smoked salmon or strawberry cream cheese, but they also have running specials like pizza bagels that will please your inner fourth grader and your taste buds at the same time. 

If you’re a person who gets excited about bagels beyond the standard sesame, cinnamon raisin, or everything, head to Knead Bagels in Old City. Here you’ll find flavors like togarashi, za’atar, and fennel seed and sea salt, to name a few. These bagels are simple, super doughy and dense, and we especially love them with their house-made scallion lime cream cheese, pineapple and sumac jam, or in a fluffy bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich.

Four Worlds Bakery serves up super-seasoned sourdough bagels daily from 7am-2pm. They’re perfectly crisp on the outside and so soft and chewy on the inside that they’re good enough to eat plain–which is a plus since they don’t spread your bagel with anything here. But the case at the West Philly pastry shop is packed with apple tarts, vanilla cream beignets, and cheese danishes, so grab a sweet to balance out your savory jalapeño cheddar bagel (or a cream cheese packet and spread your bagel on the go).

We love sitting in Eeva’s dining room on a date night and biting into any of their wood-fired pizzas (they make some of the best in the city), but don’t pass on their bagels if you happen to stop by in the morning. They’re made with sourdough, which leaves them on the denser, smaller side, but they’re always beautifully toasty and golden. When you get specialty bagel sandwiches like the evergreen (which layers herb cream cheese, sliced cucumber, dressed greens, and capers) each bite will taste like a garden exploded in your mouth. In a good way. Plus, with other standard toppings like avocado, red tomato, or smoked salmon, and a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich that comes with chili oil, there are quite a few reasons to swing by this Kensington shop before sunset.

The super bready bagels at Northern Liberties' The Kettle Black are the best in the neighborhood. There’s no pre-ordering here, and you’ll usually find six daily options like everything, sesame, pretzel, cheddar jalapeno pretzel, with specials like spinach and artichoke. It’s a great place to pick your favorite bagel and get it topped with salmon cream cheese, tomatoes, onions, and capers, and some vegan-friendly options like house-made vegan lox. And since we all love unique takes and colored bread (looking at you, rainbow bagel hive), go for at least one slightly sweet and nutty black sesame bagel when you can. It’s deep space dark (which makes the sesame seeds the stars), delicious, and just super cool to look at. 

This East Passyunk bakery sells things like peach danishes, cookies, and almond croissants, but one of the main reasons to head here is for the selection of New York-style bagels that are baked in-house daily. You can order ahead of time or stop by the shop and check out the specials on the massive chalkboard in the window. They have flavors like cheddar, salt and pepper, and za'atar, which thankfully you can buy in bulk. The bagels here are big, golden-brown and have a shiny crust, and with scallion, candied orange, and dill cream cheeses, there are lots of ways to make each bite silky smooth, savory or sweet. 

The Bagel Place is a Queen Village staple and it’s easy to see why. The easygoing space–that we love to head to for a coffee date or to get work done—has bagels down to a science. When you walk in, you’ll see endless metal baskets packed with flavors like french toast, onion, blueberry, and rosemary. The bagels are perfectly balanced between light and dense, and have a nice crackle from their blistered, super toasty exterior. Toppings are a la carte but we usually go for their house-made, super creamy honey walnut spread or a bagel sandwich loaded with fluffy eggs and melted American cheese, and wash it all down with a La Colombe iced coffee.

Of course Essen Bakery makes great bagels—the Passyunk Square Jewish pastry shop makes some of the best apple cake, babka, and chocolate rugelach in town. The bagels here are dark blonde on the outside, tender on the inside, and are covered in mini bubbles from their speedy boil at high heat. Plus, the neighborhood bakery gets bonus points for covering their poppy bagel with so much seasoning that you have to squint just to make out the crust underneath. Get them topped with tomato, lox, and onions, but we also love them simple, with nothing but a bit of their house-made veggie cream cheese. 

Overbrook’s New York Bagel Bakery is one of our favorite places to go for a quick and casual bagel sandwich for breakfast or lunch. You can dress up the gorgeously crackly bagels with classic bacon, egg, and cheese, tuna salad and tomatoes, nova lox, or just go basic with a flavored cream cheese like apple cinnamon. They’re on the fuller side, which means if you go the sandwich route–which is the best way to eat them–be prepared for some mouth gymnastics and some super chewing. But with an ideal ratio of meat, cheese, and fluffy eggs, it’s the kind of exercise we actually look forward to. 

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photo credit: GAB BONGHI

The 12 Best Bagels In Philly  guide image