Best Bagels In Chicago

February 21, 2012 2:00 PM


by Dan Morgridge

Chicago’s tourism board has been using the phrase “Second To None” in reference to our city’s classic nickname. And while the jerks out in a certain East-coast city with a pomaceous nickname will always feel superior, we’ve got them equaled or beat in several categories. We’ve produced a slew of great musicians. The Bulls are wiping the floor with the Knicks. But if there’s one field where we’re still undeniably behind, it’s bagels. But that’s not to say the city has nothing to offer – in fact, there’s a number of places making top quality bagels. Give these bagels a chance, and maybe someday we can have the NYC vs. Chicago debate on bagels as often as we do now about pizza.

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The quality of a bagel is always important, but to take the experience to the next level, it needs to be part of a good sandwich. Bagel Art offers an array of classic bagels (egg, salt, oat bran bialy, pumpernickel and more) and some classically paired toppings to boot. The Rococo offers a healthy spin with turkey, sprouts, cucumbers and tomatoes, while the Medieval gets decadent with roast beef, red onions, tomatoes and garlic cream cheese. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, they have an easy make-your-own menu including everything from peanut butter to albacore tuna.

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With a strong selection of bagels and some creative spreads, Bagel on Damen offers a fine base bagel experience. But they really take their sandwiches to the next level, offering both some traditional fare (the breakfast bagel with egg, bacon, cream cheese and avocado) as well as some creative variants (The Alexander the Great mixes turkey, bacon, gouda, sliced granny smith apples, avocado and Russian dressing). And for the coffee fanatics, they’ve also got a selection of coffees from Stumptown to compliment their wares.

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Once the bagel itself is cooked – boiled and then baked, of course – you might think additional preparations are only about what you put on it. But Chicago Bagel Authority (and most of its regulars) will swear by steaming them once they’re in sandwich form. Of course, it’s a long road to get to the steaming process – customers have to choose from the staggeringly huge list of options, which rivals the sandwiches at Jerry’s for insane number of options. How insane? One of CBA’s sandwiches even has Doritos as an ingredient…

This might be a bit of a hike for most Chicagoans, but the old school Jewish family behind New York Bagel and Bialy is absolutely the real deal. Although their name gives credit to that Other city, their production is 100% homegrown – right down to their homemade schmears. And besides being crispy, well-seasoned, and just chewy enough, their bagels have one extra advantage over the competition for sandwich-making: Their holes are almost none-existent, meaning none of your precious ingredients will go missing down the middle. And no matter when you have a craving for one, fear not: NYBB is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

With bagels delivered fresh from New York Bagel and Bialy, this is really just another nod to the fine work done by the folks up in Lincolnwood. But the Ravenswood crowd (and those who live near their Lincoln Square location) surely appreciates having some top quality bagels a little closer to home. And B&B has a little more fun with their sandwich varieties: The Hemingway’s lox, Muenster, spinach and basil pesto combination is feisty like the old man himself, and the Screaming Winchester’s turkey, spinach and Provolone gets some added zip from barbecue sauce.

Dan Morgridge is a writer from Chicago. He’s more worried about the bagel competition from Montreal than he is NYC.

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