A truly good bagel can fill your belly, lift your spirits, and make you swear that there's more than flour, salt, water and yeast in the dough. Here are some places on the North American continent turning out unbelievable bagels. Have a look at these ten famous bagel spots (listed alphabetically). Set aside some time to make a special trip, or just enjoy reading their menus, tips on bagel care and legends about bagels.
- The Bagel Broker on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, Calif., celebrates 25 years of bagels in 2012, with special deals if you are 25 years old or it's your 25th anniversary. This L.A. institution offers up breakfast and deli sandwiches alongside classic bagels and bialys for a buck a pop, plus prodigious catering spreads and massive platters of bagel toppings for pickup or delivery.
- BB's brings authentic hand-rolled, kettle-boiled NYC-style bagels to the heart of the South, operating two locations in Alpharetta, Ga. Known for the no-nonsense attitude and a serious passion for boiled breads, BB's boasts over 30 years of baking experience. This small diner has a big reputation and an even bigger menu; tables won't be held, so show up hungry and order quick.
- The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. stakes the quality of its bagels, sandwiches, melts and muffins on the water used to make them. With franchises from Beverly Hills, Calif., to Hollywood, Fla., the company sets up high-tech filtration and treatment systems to turn local water into a virtual copy of the stuff from Brooklyn. At these shops, you can try anything from an Asiago bagel to a flagel (AKA flat bagel).
- Eltana, a café on Capitol Hill in Seattle, Wash., cooks up hand-rolled bagels boiled in honeyed water and baked in wood-fired ovens, following the Montreal style. The menu offers lox spread with pink peppercorns as well as Eastern Mediterranean street food. As if the bagels weren't enough, each week Eltana features a new artisan-made crossword puzzle to entertain you.
- Ess-a-Bagel turns out to be the first spot on our list in the Big Apple -- any list of bagel places has to get around to New York sooner or later. The founders who opened this spot in 1976 had a background baking in Austria. Ess-a-Bagel has won acclaim throughout the years, not only for its classic bagels but for its creative cream cheeses, salads and sandwiches. Ess-a-Bagel offers kosher deli items and a coffee house, with desserts and pastries like rugelach (yum).
- House of Bagels, one of the elder statesmen of our list, sits on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, Calif. The founders brought their Brooklyn recipe to the West Coast 50 years ago. The company also provides copious catering services and a traditional New York deli, with seating to enjoy treats like potato latkes. And don't forget the grocery store and fresh-baked cookies and pastries for your sweet tooth.
- Kupel's Bakery (pronounced "couples") on Harvard Street in West Boston has dished out bagels, breads, rolls and pastries since it opened in 1978 at the site of the Bagel King. With the logo "best bagels in Boston," Kupel's continues to focus on the honest, no-frills products that helped build its reputation. Specials for autumn include pumpkin-spiced coffee, and bagels come in classic varieties or new styles like jalapeño.
- Murray's Bagels, at 500 Avenue of the Americas in Greenwich Village, is named after owner and baker Adam Pomerantz's father. In 1996, Pomerantz quit his high-powered finance job, hoping to make the best bagels in New York City. City residents are validating that ambitious dream and eating his wares by the thousands. If you're looking for a quick nosh but not a bagel, Murray's also serves a host of pastries, omelets, salads and such.
- Schmendricks is a San Francisco outfit with a purist's philosophy and focus on authenticity. The simple menu could fit inside a matchbook, but the business has won the title of Best Bay Area Bagel. This bagel domain extends beyond San Francisco; various local cafés host Schmendricks pop-ups, and you can order bagels delivered as far as Palo Alto. These delights may cost more than some other bagels, but patrons don't seem to mind.
- St-Viateur Bagel in Montreal has baked bagels based on an Eastern European recipe since its founding in 1957. St-Viateur offers 24-hour shopping and sells over a thousand dozen bagels daily. If you can't visit one of the four bakeries and two bagel cafés in the City of Saints, the firm also ships its products. Fortunately for customers, you don't need to speak French to order "un bagel."
These are some the most delicious bagels we could find, but you can look for other places to satisfy your craving for the perfect boiled bread. Explore your local bagel scene and discover what your hometown bakers are cooking up. You never know, the next great bagel maker might have just opened shop down the street.