The question has come up time and time again — where can you get the best bagel? Is it in New York, or New Jersey? What about LA? How about bagels in Canada? Every city basically has its own version of a bagel, and the people think it’s the best.

Although bagels may seem like simple food, they’re far more complicated than they seem. The ingredients used, the way they’re cooked, and the type of oven all contribute to the way a bagel looks and tastes. Bagel makers in different regions of the world have developed their own processes for how to make what they deem the “perfect” bagel. These processes can go back decades, when the original bagel makers set up shop in their respective cities. Today, newer generations keep the recipes the same and proudly produce authentic bagels for their cities.

So, which city actually has the best bagels? It’s hard to decide without tasting them, so let’s break down what makes each city’s bagels unique. 

Los Angeles Bagels

In recent years, LA bagels have been garnering more and more attention. Remember when the entire internet hated this guy from LA that asked for a “scooped” bagel in New York?

A scooped bagel is basically what it sounds like: a bagel with its insides hollowed out. People usually order scooped bagels to limit carbohydrate and calorie intake, and it’s a pretty common thing to order in LA. To me, it just sounds like it’s stripping away the best part of a bagel.

Besides this weird ordering quirk, the main difference between West Coast and New York bagels is that bagels out west are softer in the middle and crispier on the outside, according to They’re typically less dense than New York bagels, which makes the inside squishy and chewy.

What’s unique about LA bagels is that there’s a lot more creative freedom allowed in their baking process as opposed to in places like New York and Montreal. Courage Bagels, an LA shop that has found recent success thanks to social media, uses inspiration from Eastern European cuisine and California produce to create a unique type of bagel. “Even when I was very young and cheffing in LA, it was a known thing that you could come here and kind of do anything, and it would be considered,” owner Chris Moss told Eater LA. “And that is not true of a lot of large food cities. [In] New York, Paris, London, San Francisco... there are a lot of rules.”

Montreal Bagels

The bagel discourse goes all the way to Canada, where some claim Montreal has the best bagels. 

St-Viateaur Bagel has been serving customers in Montreal since 1957, making it the longest running bagel shop there. I spoke with Vince Morena, the current owner of St-Viateaur Bagel, about what makes Montreal bagels special.

“The main difference is they are much smaller, because they’re hand-rolled,” Morena said. “Our bagels are about three ounces, whereas the New York bagel can go up to about six ounces.”

The bagels are cooked in a wood burning oven, which makes them crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, according to Morena. The oven also adds a distinct flavor. “There’s a slight wood smokiness to them, and they’re a little sweeter,” Morena said.

And, of course, Morena thinks Montreal bagels top all others. “We even have our own shoe now, the Montreal Bagel Dunk. They didn’t make a New York bagel dunk, so Nike knew who’s bagels are better,” Morena said.

Photo courtesy of Vince Morena

New Jersey Bagels

If you’ve ever met someone from New Jersey, then you know how much pride they take in their bagels. They think their bagels top all other bagels, especially New York bagels. 

While I can’t prove this to you with just my words, it is true that Jersey has some pretty good bagels. I mean, the state is practically known for their bagels. So what makes them so good?

According to, it’s all in the water. Water plays a huge role in the process of creating a true Jersey bagel. It’s used to rehydrate the yeast and boil the bagels before they’re baked. Jersey water is unique in itself; it’s soft water, which means it has a low mineral concentration. This works well with the high protein concentration in the bread flour used, making the inside fluffy and the outside nicely toasted.

Jersey bagel makers also do something called proofing, where after the bagels are shaped, they are left in the fridge for a couple of days. This allows the yeast to ferment, in turn releasing all of the bagel’s flavors. Before the bagels are put in the oven, they are boiled, giving them that iconic Jersey crispiness.

New York

Bagel shops litter practically every street in New York City. Many stores have even opened multiple locations across Manhattan, like Zucker’s, Ess-a-Bagel, and Russ & Daughters. And of course, every New Yorker thinks that their bagels are significantly better than those from anywhere else, especially New Jersey. 

But for some New Yorkers, it’s less about what is used to make the bagel, and more about the people who make it. Jesse Spellman, co-owner of Utopia Bagels in Queens, feels that the extensive history of New York bagels is what makes them all the more delicious.

“It’s the experience of the workers and the businesses that have been open for quite some time that makes New York bagels different,” Spellman said. Utopia Bagels has been using the same oven since they first opened 43 years ago in 1981, but the oven itself has been around since 1947. “We always tell our customers that their family generations can eat the same bagels out of the same oven in the same place, so it’s a way to connect to people that you love,” Spellman said

The size of New York bagels is also what sets them apart and makes them the best, according to Spellman. “If you go to a Montreal-style bagel shop, it’s almost like a snack. I could probably eat like five of them, as opposed to eating one New York bagel,” Spellman said. 

Each region has its own factors that make their bagels special, but is any one really the best? It’s the dedication and traditions of bagel makers everywhere that makes their bagels unique from one another, making each incomparable to the next.