Chicago may be known for deep-dish pizza and late night tacos. However, it’s also secretly home to some of the most authentic, chewy, and all-around delicious bagels that make “plain with cream cheese” sound just sad. After visiting all nine spots and getting to know the menus *very* well, I feel I’m qualified & bagel-fied to offer carbohydrate guidance to the NYC skeptics reading this.
At these top spots, the possibilities are endless and no combination is incorrect. So get your most comfortable pants on and grab an iced coffee to wash ’em down because we’re going on a bagel hunt.
Hoosier Mama sits right on the dividing line between Evanston and Chicago (right off the South Blvd stop on the Purple Line!) making it the perfect homework or date place for college students and young adults. They offer a large collection of house-made pies, fresh cookies, assorted treats, and most importantly: bagels. While they only carry bagels on specific days, the bagels are worth the wait (especially rye with veggie cream cheese) because the open, naturally-lit and vintage-chic seating area is too cute to miss. They also brew Metropolis coffee, which gives it an extra thumbs up.
2. Bro Bagel
Started by two young men fresh out of college, this northwest bagel hub is home to some of the most unique dough flavors and creative cream cheeses, making it a destination spot for foodies across the city. From sea salt bagels to beer bagels (yes, that’s right), to sandwiches and soups, there is no shortage of authentic options that have that old-school crunch and chew to them.
This is possibly the most classic and nostalgic bagel experience you can have in Chicago. The Great American Bagel offers many, MANY flavors and low, LOW prices. With supreme bagels and sandwiches galore, this well-known chain is great for large bulk buys of bagels. With summer picnics and BBQs upon us, why not add bagels to the table?
With an open, studious vibe and tons of outlets to plug into so homework can go on for hours, Next Door offers small pastries and bagels as well as delicious, unique coffee and tea beverages. The bagels offer a burst of carbo-energy and fulfill the need to snack while plowing through essays and internship assignments. Think “library, but way more enjoyable and not as dungeon-like.”
5. The Bagelers
New to the scene but definitely not lacking, this kettle-boiled bagel shop in Lincoln Park has a taste all it’s own, the nicest staff *ever*, and does not disappoint in any respect. From lox to giardiniera cream cheese, options are endless and the iced lattes are some of the best around. With real espresso shots poured beautifully over ice and a plain-with-strawberry-cream-cheese bagel, your day is bound to start with a smile.
With a couple locations dotting the north side of Chicago, the much celebrated “CBA” is known for their signature technique that involves steaming the bagels in a press before crafting one of the dozens of sandwiches offered up on their chalkboard menus. With an urban vibe that’s causal and neon-sign-dotted, it’s great for meeting friends for that Monday weekend recap or for grabbing a bagel sandwich on the go (like the Greg-O, for you vegetarians and carnivores alike!)
7. Jaffa Bagels
Jaffa Bagels is a secret diamond-mine in Chi, with a couple locations sprinkled around the Loop area. Serving a mix of coffee, smoothies, Mediterranean food, and bagels, you certainly don’t run out of options in this order-at-the-counter cafe. Their cheddar-herb bagels are by far the best, while the smoothies are worth the price tag.
“The Baker” certainly knows what he’s doing because amidst all of the pastries, famous rainbow layer cake, and other goodies the bagels shine out like a breakfast beacon. With Everything and Plain as your two options and plain cream cheese as the topping of choice, it’s clear the bagels are just *plain* good and made with love. Seriously, some of the best bread products in the city can be found here. And get a mocha — they’re too good!
Heading to Union Station or Ogilvie Station for a long weekend somewhere? Grab a bagel & some joe from NYC to make the trip a little bit better. With a location right between the two transportation hubs and a killer view of the river, there’s no better place to order your egg & cheese. Or have them cater your next work event or summer party with a killer lox & cream cheese platter.