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Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

My Search for the Best Boston Bagel

The Gavel's Diatribe acts as the satirical medium for short rants over topics ranging from complete triviality to utmost importance.

As the school year is coming to an end, I’ve had the chance to look back on all of the great things I was able to do and see this year. My first Red Sox game, countless T rides into Boston, dinners that were too expensive. However, as someone who prides himself on an affinity to bagels, I had an unsettling realization—I still have not found the best bagel in Boston.

Senior year of high school when I could leave campus for lunch, I went to my local bagel shop (shoutout Hot Bagels) so much (everyday) that they knew my name and order (an everything bagel with cream cheese and butter) by October. By March, I was getting free cookies thrown in my to-go bag. 

Coming to BC, I have suffered from a lack of my daily bagel. The Rat is great for bagels and Philly cream cheese (rumor has it they’re from Long Island), but they just don’t quite hit the mark like a good ol’ Jewish bakery or family owned bagel shop. Before the school year ends, and before I would ultimately have to sacrifice every spare minute of my time to the confines of O’Neill ahead of finals, I began my quest to find the best bagel in Boston. 

The Bagel Table

Right past the Chestnut Hill T stop sits The Bagel Table, a bagel shop fairly new to the area that has spread into various parts of Boston. Out of feeling that I had to, I got the “Chestnut Hill” bagel made of challah dough and veggie cream cheese. Points for the challah and really good veggie cream cheese, but it didn’t quite hit the spot.

Rosenfeld’s Bagels

Next was Rosenfeld’s, an all-Kosher shop, right in Newton, which prides itself on bringing the traditional New York bagel to Massachusetts. While I argue that New Jersey bagels are better for reasons I can write a separate article about, the sun dried tomato and dill cream cheese on an underrated garlic bagel made me homesick. I doordashed a side of this cream cheese three days later.

Bruegger’s Bagels

In Coolidge Corner is Bruegger’s Bagels, a chain with shops all across the nation, from Alabama to Minnesota to Florida. Suspiciously, there are no Bruegger’s Bagels in New Jersey. I got an everything bagel with jalapeño cream cheese, and unfortunately, the delicious cream cheese deserved better. Halfway through I just licked the cream cheese off with my finger and stared sadly at the pitiful bagel. The bagel lacked that fresh, homemade feel, and I’m starting to think there’s a reason why these aren’t in New Jersey—Bruegger’s can’t hang.

Kupel’s Bakery

Kupel’s Bakery, also in Coolidge Corner, has a beautiful menu—The Porter Square bagel with egg, avocado, tomato, jalapeño, and garlic and herb cream cheese was oh-so tempting—but to keep my search fair, I wanted to get a simple bagel. Here, I got an everything bagel with cream cheese and butter, and a weird look from the cashier when I asked for both. With each bite I was more and more delighted! I already have a time on my calendar for when I’ll return for that egg and avocado bagel. 

Black Sheep Bagel Cafe

If the search was for the best looking bagel, dare I say artisanal, Black Sheep Bagel Cafe in Harvard Square would easily take the cake. I ordered my first ever cajun spice bagel (it sounds as amazing as it was) with fresh jalapeño cream cheese. A tiny cafe, they also have great coffee. But alas, my search continued. 

Pavement Coffeehouse

On par with most millennial-esque coffee shops and cafes, my bagel and coffee here cost me, like, half my paycheck. I ordered a rosemary-salt bagel with their acclaimed diablo cream cheese and it was double what I would pay for two bagels back home. The bagel was dry and a bit cold, and the cream cheese, while spicy and pretty decent, was unable to make up for this failure. 

Katz Bagel Bakery

I am scared to admit that I spent over an hour on the T just to get to this place, but I heard good things! Founded in 1938, Katz has built an amazing reputation within the City of Boston. I bought two things there, the first being their deemed legendary “Pizza Bagel,” which is exactly like it sounds: the best thing on God’s green Earth. It did in fact bring a tear to my eye. I didn’t include this in my search for the best bagel because it just didn’t seem fair. So, I also got an everything bagel with cream cheese—I had a gut feeling that this long-standing Jewish bakery in Boston knew how to make the classic. And I was right! The bagel was toasted to perfection, the cream cheese was simple and easy, and every bite took me right back home. 

I did more investigating on Katz and, apparently, the second generation Katz baker taught an olympian from China how to make bagels, who then took the recipe and craftsmanship she learned to open up the first bagel bakery in Beijing, China. That is so hardcore.

Once I hit Katz, I was more than satisfied. While there are certainly many great contenders, Katz Bagel Bakery was quite literally off the charts. I lack the right combination of words to adequately describe how great the bagels were, and how awesome I felt while eating them. 

I’m elated I dedicated a week of traversing through Newton, Cambridge, and Boston to find the best bagel in the area. I can go home in peace now, knowing I have a slew of amazing places to return back to Chestnut Hill for! I may even reward myself with another trip to Katz once I get these finals over with.

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