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New Yorkers can have pretty strong opinions when it comes to one of their most famous breakfast staples: bagels. Everyone has a favorite bagel shop that they swear makes the perfect crisp and chewy dough, but what deli can really boast the title of “best bagel in Queens”?
In order to solve this great riddle, I’ve set out to try some of the most famous stores in Queens, including Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company, Bagel Oasis, Utopia Bagels, and Hot Bialys.
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company
My first stop was Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company. Across New York City, the company has four store locations: three in Astoria, and one in Manhattan. I went to the one at 30th Avenue in Astoria. This chic and modern store sells all sorts of bagels from cinnamon raisin to pumpernickel and salt. They also have a variety of spreads like bacon scallion cream cheese and tofu. Even more so, they sell other toppings like smoked fish, but I simply ordered a toasted plain bagel with plain cream cheese.
This homemade bagel was different from the kind that most of us have grown up knowing. It was large, roughly 5 inches in diameter. The exterior was golden brown, and instead of having a smooth and glossy finish to it, it was unlustrous and had a lot of tiny pocket bubbles on its surface, which gave it a unique look. Besides this, you can see that the bagel was hand rolled with its markings from when it was being twisted still intact and with its imperfect circular shape.
The bagel was also hard and crunchy on the outside while on the inside, it was warm, moist, fresh, plushy, and sweet. The bagel was overflowing with cream cheese, which was both a good and a bad thing; I thought that it was too much and at times it covered the delicious taste of the bagel itself, but at the same time the cream cheese was splendid. It was rich in flavor; smooth, yet thick in texture; had just the right amount of saltiness; and it wasn’t sour at all as cream cheese can sometimes be.
Although this was the most expensive of all the bagels that I tried (it was well over $2), I still believe that it was money well spent because it was so delectable.
The next store I went to was Bagel Oasis, which has one location in Fresh Meadows along the Horace Harding Expressway. This store was opened in 1961 and through the last five decades has never changed their location or their bagel process: they offer fresh bagels with no preservatives/additives. The small, classic shop sells a variety of classic bagels like poppy and sesame and also has a wide selection of spreads including strawberry cream cheese. Frequent customers also enjoy their other products like salads and muffins, but once again I got a plain toasted bagel with plain cream cheese.
This bagel was slightly smaller than that of Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company, but still just as filling. It was toasted to a light brown color on top, and it was perfectly round. Oddly enough, the top half of the bagel was mostly soft and chewy while the bottom half of the bagel was crunchy and embedded with lots of tiny grains; this strange phenomena seemed to bring out the best of both worlds.
The bagel inside was fluffy and leaned more on the salty side. There was a perfect amount of cream cheese. Compared to Brooklyn Bagel’s cream cheese, this seemed smoother, but it was more sour, it wasn’t as rich, and I found it under-salted. In addition to this, the cream cheese melted too easily and the bagel got cold and stale quickly.
Overall, this bagel wasn’t too bad and being under $2 I wasn’t disappointed, but my experience seemed to fall a little shorter than expected.
My third stop was Utopia Bagels, which has one store location in Whitestone. The counters of this welcoming shop are lined with sweet and savory bagel flavors like french toast and sourdough, as well as unique spreads like walnut cream cheese; they also sell pastries, paninis, and sandwiches. Although according to locals this is the best bagel store, my taste buds beg to differ.
Of all the bagels I tried, this was the smallest. The physical appearance of the bagel was typical: shiny, smooth, golden brown, and perfectly circular. It almost seemed too good to be true.
When I bit into the bagel, it was tough, chewy, and hard to swallow. The inside of the bagel was firm and dense, making it only somewhat spongy. The bagel alone lacked flavor; it was neither sweet nor salty. In fact, it barely tasted like bread. On a more positive note, there was a good amount of cream cheese. The spread was slightly sour, but it had an exceptionally thick consistency, and a velvety texture.
My experience at Utopia Bagels was displeasing; the bagel was not so filling, it seemed too small for $2, and it looked like something that I could buy from my local grocery store. The bagel wasn’t putrid, but I wouldn’t recommend people to go out of their way to buy a bagel from here.
Finally I ate at Hot Bialys which is only located in Forest Hills, along Queens Boulevard. There weren’t too many bagels to pick from. On the other hand, they have more compelling spreads like olive cream cheese and white fish cream cheese. They also sell eggs, salads, fish, cheeses, cold cut meats, and more. I purchased another plain bagel with plain cream cheese.
The bagel I ordered here was just as large as the one from Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company. However,it was also stiff and had a hard-to-bite-through exterior, but it wasn’t as difficult to eat as that of Utopia Bagels. The thick bagel had a bit of an onion taste to it, and it tended to be slightly sweet.
Overall, this bagel wasn’t anything amazingly delicious, but it was a decent size for such an affordable price of under $2. I think that this place is good if you’re looking for something to fulfill your hunger and you don’t want to spend too much money.
Through this hunt for the best bagel, Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company won by a landslide. Their savory and aesthetically intriguing bagels make them unforgettable. They are a little more expensive than the rest of the bagels that I tried, but you might as well go big or go home.