As a New Jersey/NYC native (don't @ me NY people, I am only 20 minutes from the bridge), it is no surprise that I consider myself a bagel connoisseur. Like many other people born and raised in NJ/NY at the University of Michigan, I called my mom begging her to ship me bagels by the second week of school. Despite the fact that they are technically a "New York" classic, they are also an integral part of the suburban New Jersey diet. Each Sunday, the native New Jerseyan will wake up to a breakfast of hot, fresh bagels. Whether you're with your family, friends, or just on a solo trip to the bagel store, no weekend is complete without a bagel.

Why All The Bagels?

Kristen Yee

First, I want to address exactly what makes these bagels so great. Whether it be the New York water or the skill in New Jersey, the bagels are fluffy yet dense. They boast a crispy, toasted outer shell with a soft and fluffed inside. This is all made possible by the fact that these delicacies are hand-rolled fresh each morning so that your breakfast/lunch/dinner (you can have a bagel for any meal) can be that much better! There are endless possibilities when it comes to personalizing your bagel: everything, cream cheese, Taylor ham (NOT pork roll), lox, vegetable cream cheese, and more. All made right there in the store, there are endless customizations to make your bagel perfect.

Another major difference between the New Jersey-New York region and the rest of the country is the absence of chain bagel stores. In fact, I didn't know chain bagel stores even existed until a year ago. Each town is sprinkled with individually owned and operated local bagel businesses, and each person has their favorite destination. For example, in my town alone we have about four individually owned bagel stores, but I still have one favorite. Many people outside the bagel-fanatic region struggle to understand how these carb-loaded specialties have such a cult following. During fall break, I soaked in every moment at my favorite bagel stop and made sure to take pictures so everyone can see for themselves what makes them so much better.

What are "non-NJ/NY bagels?"

Kristen Yee

Is there even such a thing? Yes. The bagels of NJ and NY are fluffier, doughier, and thicker... must I go on? The bagels everywhere else are relatively similar to one another. They are dense and solid, smaller, significantly thinner, and do not come with the same quality (or variety) of bagel-condiments. I've tried Einstein's and other chain-retailers, but they taste like grocery store bagels to me. They lack the fresh-made magic and coziness of a mom and pop owned bagel joint. The bagels that do not come from the NJ/NY area, or the "outsider bagels", also tend to come with standard customizations. For example, the variety of bagels is typically plain, everything, cinnamon raisin, and sesame or poppy. To make matters more plain, the "toppings" don't usually go beyond cream cheese, butter, and maybe lox. Chain bagels just do not give you the same 500 hundred calorie satisfaction.

Being 525 miles away from a good bagel can be difficult, and it definitely comes with its struggles. I have yet to return to another chain bagel store here in Michigan, and while I am unsure of if I ever will, I will say the closest alternative to a semi-decent NJ bagel I have found is actually at Starbucks. All jokes aside, I have had some AMAZING food in Ann Arbor, and am looking forward to exploring the culinary scene further.