Look no further for the top bagels in Westchester. Photos by Andre Baranowski
Puffed and chewy, plain or with a schmear, these are the tasty orbs that dominate our carb-craving dreams.
One of the fundamental attributes of comfort food is that it’s easy, and what’s easier and more comforting than a bagel and cream cheese? It’s the perfect grab-and-go breakfast, it surely works as lunch, and there’s no shame in a bagel for dinner when the craving hits. Plus, with a bagel shop (or a shop that sells bagels) in virtually every Westchester community, comfort-fueled carbo-loading is effortless — and the impetus for endless opinions and arguments over which bagel shines brightest. We know the ones that make the cut in our book; read on to see if you agree. Then ask yourself, Keto who?
The Bagel Emporium
Armonk, Chappaqua, Port Chester, Tarrytown, Yorktown Heights
More than just a 10-plus-time Best of Westchester winner, this family-run string of bagel shops (that began as a mom-and-pop in Hartsdale in 1982) is also a major distributor of bagels to supermarkets, delis, and bagel stores (yes, other bagel stores) throughout the Tri-state area. With a factory in Port Chester that churns out fresh bagels daily and a companion silo that holds 65,000 pounds of flour, devotees get exactly what they want and expect from their chosen bagel, bite after bite. “Consistency is key when it comes to making the best bagels,” says Michael Rozins, who is gradually turning over the business to his son, Ryan. “He’s more in tune with what the kids want,” from rainbow (the most vividly colorful we’ve seen) and French toast bagels to cream cheese that smacks of cotton candy or cannoli. Kids of all ages get giddy over the whopping 24-inch party bagel that spans six feet when stretched out end to end.
Bagels by Sofia
A newcomer to Westchester’s bagel scene, these boss beauties are born from a 25-year-old recipe and inspired by owner Benny Krasniqi’s mother, Sofia, who baked bread daily, refusing to serve her family supermarket stock. Krasniqi makes his bagels via “a more lengthy process, but it’s the old-fashioned method,” in which scratch-made dough is chilled overnight, kettle boiled (instead of standard steaming), rinsed in cool water, and tossed in the oven. Not too big, not too small, they are perfectly sized; not exactly puffy but light as air with an easy, pleasing chew. Expect all the traditional flavors, with just the right ratio of seasonings to dough, along with a slightly denser, delicately sweet French toast bagel. Slather that bad boy with Nutella and call it best bagel day ever.
There’s a distinct difference between a bagel rolled by hand and one born from a machine. While most bagels are not hand-rolled, yet still beloved by the masses, a hand-rolled bagel receives greater care and customization. “If it’s a dry day, you add more water to the dough,” says owner Sang Lee. “If it’s a humid day, you add more flour.” Hand-rolled bagels are chewier than their machine-made brothers, he notes, and they sport a smaller hole in the center, making them “better for a sandwich.” Dough at Lee’s shop, in business for nearly three decades, is rolled into flagels and mini-bagels, with a not-too-salty salt bagel and a standout spinach bagel that boasts the slightest light-green hue. (Look Ma, I’m eating my vegetables!)
Highridge Bagel Factory
At the original shop in Yonkers (both locations are on Central Ave), the signage simply reads, “Bagels” in tall, crimson letters. But as they say in the YO, if you know, you know. And it seems everyone knows about these light, moderately puffed rings of doughy delight that are dished out continuously from 6 a.m. to an eye-popping 5 p.m., which is two to three hours past closing time for most bagel shops in Westchester. “Yonkers water makes all the difference,” says staffer Dawn Orfanos. All the expected flavors are on offer and many are fashioned into face-sized flagels, twists, and minis, including the seldom-seen chocolate chip mini-bagel. Freshly mixed cream cheese reads like an adventure novel set on a dairy farm, with more than a dozen rich and luscious varieties to choose from.
JV Hot Bagels
Baldwin Place, Jefferson Valley
A past Best of Westchester winner, this dynamic duo of northerly bagel bakers is owned and operated by Lakeland School District grads who work side-by-side with their staff, proud to feed fellow carb-addicted community members. Friends and fans praise them for their unique flavor combos, which marry egg and/or wholewheat bagels with an everything bagel. Cream cheese is mixed up fresh on-site, with olive pimento knocking a pumpernickel-rye bagel right out of the park.
Park Place Bagels
Bronxville (9 Park Pl & 52 Palmer Ave)
Wildly popular among local kids and teens, but equally loved by their parents (and grandparents), this village staple has been carbing up the crowds for more than three decades with well-sized bagels that are continuously baked fresh all day long, from 5:30 a.m to 5 p.m. Owner Claudio Iaccarino oversees the process (beginning at 3:30 a.m.), working alongside the two employees who helped him get the business rolling back in 1992. “The consistency of having the same guys baking with you, that’s why our bagels are so good,” says Park Place store manager Carlo Juarez. Rainbow and plain bagels sell like hotcakes and mini-bagels come in a range of flavors. Puffy, but not overly so, with just the right chew, these bagels make for a perfectly proportioned meal or hearty snack.
Laura’s Bagels (AKA Sammy’s)
New Rochelle; 914.235.7800
Laura’s Bagels is the place to be when the craving for carbs strikes in the Queen City, but to locals, the red-brick corner spot will always be known affectionately as Sammy’s. After all, it’s the home of the Sammy stick, which is best described as an unrolled bagel where the two ends refuse to meet in the middle. It’s puffed; it’s got perfect chew; and it measures approximately 11 inches long by two inches wide. Those in the know order the Sammy stick covered in everything seasonings and spices, and they bring cash, too, because that’s just how Sammy, and now Laura, rolls.
Taking bagel baking to another level, these doughy discs are hand-rolled and puffed up so big and high, they’re almost completely round with a center hole that is nearly nonexistent. Smooth and super-shiny on the outside, your chompers will make an audible crust-like crunch as they sink into the well-baked outer rim that shelters the light, ultra-chewy interior. No shame in going plain, but these rich-tasting beauties demand a generous spread of cream cheese, especially when it’s whipped up in house and, in some cases, organic.
(Not so) Secret Score!
Dark, puffy, shiny, and generously doused with seeds and/or seasonings, these artisan beauties are available only at select farmers’ markets, pop ups, or via pre-order for pickup at a market. They’re the creation of Chappaqua’s Josh Small, a recent grad-school grad who began experimenting with flour and water when he couldn’t get a decent bagel at school in the Midwest.
Today, Small uses regionally sourced flour and fresh Hudson Valley malt that he grinds himself. He rolls each bagel by hand, then boils them in malt-infused water, yielding “a rich taste, a more unique texture, and a darker color.” He says his plain bagels are often mistaken for whole grain or even pumpernickel. A tight lineup of varietals includes traditional plain, sesame, poppy, everything, onion, and rosemary salt; all beckon with a gleaming exterior glow, chewy center, and head-turning crunch. Freshly churned cream cheese comes plain or dotted with scallions or cilantro and jalapeños.
It’s okay to be a plain Jane, but we say: What’s a bagel without the cream cheese? These local spots offer unique and tasty riffs on classic cream cheese, turning breakfast right into dessert — or an elevated nosh.
Bagels by Sofia
Carb loaders and sweet toothers alike find a home here where fresh cream cheese is house-churned with rainbow sprinkles, satisfying all those overgrown funfetti fantasies in one yummy bite. Cinnamon sugar butter and fudgey brownie are also fan favorites, along with seasonal pumpkin spice and apple pie, oh my!
The Good Witch
A bagel and cream cheese on the menu of a trackside coffee shop won’t stop anybody in their, well, tracks, but how about a bagel with kimchi-spiked cream cheese topped with a salad of scallion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime? “We’ve been serving it since day one and it’s a signature of our menu,” says owner Joanna Prisco. Other seasonal cream cheese iterations include fall-time truffle mushroom, winter beet, springy olive fennel, and spicy Sichuan chili in the summer.
Hand Rolled Bagels
Lovers of lox would be wise to look no further for smoky lox cream cheese: The pieces of fish here are visibly oversized compared to others. Fish is chopped on premises, then delicately blended by hand into luscious cream cheese for an exquisitely satisfying schmear like no other, land or sea.
Highridge Bagel Factory
Along with plain, scallion, and vegetable cream cheese, expect a dozen outside-the-box varieties, from savory cheddar bacon; sundried tomato; spinach garlic; and tomato bacon to sweet and sunny strawberry; blueberry; and walnut raisin, plus zippy jalapeño lox and mouthwatering olive pimento. Each one is blended by hand on the premises.