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Boston bagels

Q. Why this furshlugginer FAQ?
Q. What's the difference between a Boston and a New York bagel?
Q. So, nu, which is better?
Q. Where can I get Boston bagels?
Q. Where can I get New York bagels?
Q. What about Dunkin' Donuts and Bruegger's?
Q. Is it true that bagels in New York are better because of the water?
Q. What about bialys?
Boston bagel trivia
Q. How do I submit a change or addition to the FAQ?

Q. Why this furshlugginer FAQ?

A. For some reason, New Yorkers are constantly moving to the Boston area. And one of the first things they do when they get here is post a message in the newsgroup: "I just moved to Boston. Where can I get decent bagels around here." Inevitably, this is followed by advice to drive back to New York, followed by more serious (well, more practical, at any rate) messages about bagel places in the Boston area. Finally, David Lewis suggested an FAQ. Your humble scribe, with not enough to do, complied. And now can get back to other matters, such as explaining to native Californians why they can't find a decent taco around here.

Q. What's the difference between a Boston and a New York bagel?

A. The most obvious difference is size. Boston bagels are relatively small, roughly donut-sized (but with a smaller hole). New York bagels can be used as spare tires on Geo Metros.

However, there's more to separate the two than just size. Boston bagels tend to be fairly soft, both outside and in. New York bagels ideally have a hard outside crust and a dense, chewy inside - if you need to exercise your jaw, you could do far worse than eating a New York bagel.

Barry Shein, a New York bagel maven, writes: "It should be chewy, glutinous, not like sandwich bread which is typically soft and fluffy by comparison. It should take a little work to get that first bite, you might even find yourself pulling it away from your teeth with your hands to help. It should usually have a shiny or certainly distinct crust. This is a result of real bagels being boiled for a moment before being baked. If you go into an authentic bagel place and watch them make them the usual set up is one person cutting and rolling them out of the mound of dough and then floating them with a push across a large (3 or 4 foot) vat of boiling salted water to a person at the other end who fishes them out and puts them on the pan for baking.''

Terry Montlick writes: "To make a good bagel you've got to use a very heavy, high-gluten dough. In fact, its heavy enough to eventually break a standard commercial dough mixer. I think that's why so many chains have soft, lousy-textured bagels."

Q. So, nu, which is better?

A. Bist meshugeh? That's like asking somebody which is better: A Mac or Windows. As they say in the old neighborhood, "de gustibus non est disputandum."

Q. Where can I get Boston bagels?

A. The pre-eminent Boston bagel place is Kupel's, 421 Harvard St. in Brookline. Open long hours, it sell just about every spread imaginable in addition to a zillion varieties of bagels. David Lewis provides this Kupel's mini-FAQ:

Q. Is it true that the quality of a bagel is inversely proportional to the pleasantness of the wait-staff selling the bagel?
A. Yes, if Kupel's is the store under consideration.

Rosenfeld's at Union and Center streets in Newton Center is another classic Boston baglery. ''Not the chic-est of places, but great, fresh Boston bagels,'' says Ben Grossman.

Cheryl-Ann's in the Putterham strip mall on the West Roxbury Parkway in South Brookline also has Boston bagels. However, they tend to run out fairly early on Sunday morning and they don't sell any shmears (but they do have great challah). If you get there too late, the restaurant next door usually has enough bagels for your fix.

Also, try the Blue Moon in the Shaw's mall on Rte. 109 in Medfield or Zeppy's Baigel Bakery on Main Street in Randolph (Rte. 128 to exit 5A), which is open 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day (except on some Jewish holidays) - you can also get their bagels at Roche Bros. supermarkets.

Finagle a Bagel, with outlets in Quincy Market, Dedham (Rte. 1), Back Bay (535 Boylston St.) and elsewhere, sells sort of mutant Boston bagels - they approach New York bagels in size, but maintain the Boston bagel softness. They are also available in many Star Markets.

Q. Where can I get New York bagels?

Bagels Plus
93 Great Rd. (508) 263-7070

Bagels By US
791 Massachusetts Ave.
(617) 646-2662.
Web site
Comments: Bagels are actually made in NYC, then finished locally.

Bagels, Etc.
Mass. Ave. between the center and East Arlington.
Comments: "My wife and I think it is better than Bagels by US and we are both native New Yorkers." - Uri Guttman.

Life's A Bagel
55 Knapp Center (Rte. 123 to Manley St to end; left turn onto W. Chestnut; ight turn at Baynes; L.A.B. is on the right)
(508) 895-9010.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Comments: 18 kinds of bagels and 10 kinds of cream cheese. Voted the #1 bagel in the Boston Globe, Feb. 12th, 1997.

Cafe Bagel
374 Washington St. (Dedham Square). (617) 326-1222.
Comments: "What's a New York bagel place doing here? Good bagels, but few shmear choices (cream cheese and lox spread)." - Adam Gaffin.

Fall River
New York Bagels
President Avenue
Take 24 South to the President Ave. exit in Fall River. Bear to right around rotary, the shop is in the shopping center with the McDonalds. The building is on the opposite side of the shopping center from the McD's.
Comments: "The guy who owns and runs it is originally from NYC, and moved to the area a number of years ago. There is also a kosher deli, which is very good. They have some of the best pastrami I have ever had in my life. Bakery offers bagels in numerous varieties as well as several types of bread." -- Kate.

Brooklyn Bagels
Rte. 9 in Framingham Centre

Andy's Bagels
847 Edgell Rd (near Water Street)

Aesops Bagels
1666 Massachusetts Ave. (617) 674-2990.

Einstein Bros. Bagels
1203 Walnut St.

Zayde's Bagel & Bake Shop
120 Broadway (Rte. 1 eastbound, just south of the Blue Moon brewery)
(617) 233-3080
Comments: "Excellent NY-style bagels, a little small, but dense and chewy with a real crust. The flavored varieties (spinach, etc.) don't have the usual rancid flavors caused by commercial garlic and onion powder. A treat." -- Larry Rapoport.

Einstein Bros. Bagels
371 Broadway (Rte. 1)
Comments: Einstein Bros. "are the same chain as Noah's on the west coast. People in California think that Noah's bagels are wonderful, which is yet more confirmation that all that sunlight and smog turns your brains into bean dip." -- John Levine (Bagel creds: born on Upper West Side, NYC).

Bagel Time
194 Park Ave. (between WPI and Elm Park next to Trust Better Homes and Garden real-estate office).
(508) 831-7230
Mon.-Fri., 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. and Sun., 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Notes: Voted Best of Worcester '92,'93,'94,'95.'96,'97,'98,'99. Excellent Bagels; 21 Flavors all made from scratch on premises. 15 Flavors of Cream Cheese mixed on premises. Boars Head Deli, Fresh Samantha. Many customers stop in to bring Bagels back to NYC -- Ruven Israel.

Q. What about Dunkin' Donuts and Bruegger's?

A. See the answer to the question about which is better: Boston or New York bagels. Somebody must like the things - they keep getting sold, and Bruegger's keeps expanding (there's even one in West Roxbury, for crying out loud!).

Take the following exchange in about bagels at Dunkin' Donuts:

David Wald writes: "Dunkin Donuts bagels are overrated? How can something be overrated without anyone speaking well of it?"

David Chesler, a Bronx native, retorts: "The corporate recipe writers have worked really hard on the concept, and they know what a bagel is supposed to be. I'm glad to know that if I'm already in Dunkin Donuts and I want a bagel, I don't have to leave."

Rachel S., for one, sticks up for Bruegger's, sort of: "In general, for the large chains (Brueggers, Finagle A Bagel, Einstein Bros, Dunkin Donuts, etc.), I find that Bruegger's comes closest to making an enjoyable bagel. And when I'm at work in the financial district, I pick Bruegger's over Finagle."

For what it's worth, your humble scribe has yet to find any lox in Bruegger's lox spread.

David Lewis's mini bagel FAQ:
Q. Does Bruegger's make good bagels?
A. No.
Q. Does Dunkin' Donuts make good bagels?
A. No.
Q. Does Einstein Brothers make good bagels?
A. No, but the stores are hip and trendy, so people claim to like their bagels.

Then there's the "bagels" (as some writers put it) at Au Bon Pain. "What is WITH that name?,'' says Phaedra Hise. "The thing is nothing remotely resembling a bagel. I mean, there's not even a hole in the center. And the texture is suspiciously bread-like. What gives? Why don't they just call them breakfast rolls or something?"

And don't even get us started on those Thomas' "New York style bagels" at the supermarket. "When Thomas labels their bagels as 'New York Style' they mean 'round, hole in the center, wheat-based' and not much more," Shein says. "In the same context consider their ever-popular recipe for making their english muffins into 'pizza' in the toaster oven by spreading ketchup and american cheese on one (something like that) and its relationship to what's usually called 'pizza' ''. Same goes for Lenders.

Q. Is it true that bagels in New York are better because of the water?

New Yorkers are forever babbling about the magical properties of bagels baked in New York City. The claim is that there's something different about the water in which the bagels are cooked before they're baked.

The guy who started Finagle a Bagel, though, claims that he once took some Boston water down to New York and made up two batches of bagels - one with NYC water, one with Boston water - and that nobody could tell the difference. Based on what we know of the two cities' water supplies, that would make sense. Both get their water from large reservoirs way out in the country (both created by damming up rivers) by way of antiquated underground aquaducts.

Q. What about bialys?

A.Kupel's sells 'em. Many Star Markets also carry bialys trucked up from Brooklyn.

Boston bagel trivia

Moe Eagerman, who for many years was almost synonymous with Boston bagels, claimed to have invented the cinnamon raisin bagel (or "baigel" as he always spelled them) in the 1960s.

For such a small community, Boston-area bagel makers have had an amazing number of feuds. For example: For many years, Eagerman basically owned the bagel franchise in the Natick/Framingham area - selling bagels from a shop in Natick that featured possibly the world's largest bagel on a stick (a giant toroid that could be seen from quite a distance down Rte. 9). When a couple of arrivistes opened Bagels, Bagels, Bagels and More in Framingham in the early 1980s, it was too much for Eagerman, who retaliated by opening a "bagel cafe" right across the street. It failed, and some say that was the beginning of the end for Eagerman, who not long after also closed his Natick store and then the outlet in Brookline.

Meanwhile, Bagels, Bagels, Bagels and More suffered its own loss when a key worker up and left to set up his own bagel shop (Manhattan Bagels) a couple miles down Rte. 9.

The co-owner of Bagels, Bagels, Bagels and More can predict the weather by feeling a small scar above her upper lip.

Q. How do I submit a change or addition to the FAQ?

A. Use our handy bagel change form or write us at

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