Waiting For Bagels: Ess-A-Bagel, NYC

A big thank you to my folks for sending us to NYC for my birthday!

“Wouldn’t it be funny if it ended up tasting like Brueggers,” I joked as we settled into the back of the bagel line at Esse-Bagel.

An hour and a half later in line, I found myself pleading with the bagel gods, “Please don’t taste like Bruegger’s, please don’t taste like Bruegger’s.” The hunger and hostility inside of me bubbled.

Two of my friends included Ess-a-Bagel in their Quintessential New York Bagel recommendations. We were excited to learn it was less than a mile from our hotel in Times Square.

However, we should have known better than to arrive at this popular bagel shop at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning. By the time we arrived, the line was wrapped around the corner. We joined the back of the line.

Jake gave me a look. I shrugged.

“How long can a bagel line possibly take?” I wondered.

A very long time. 

A half an hour later we were inside the door. A half on hour later it was almost our turn to order.

There are many choices at Ess-e-Bagel. Besides mixing and matching over a dozen types of bagels (plus bialys) + ten cream cheese flavors, there’s also a large selection of hot and cold bagel (and non-bagel) sandwiches.

The latest controversy is that Ess-e-Bagel added toasters in 2016. I’ll never forget one of my friends from the East Coast once hissing, “You should never have to toast a real New York bagel!”

We ordered three things (all UNTOASTED of course):

  • Everything bagel with lox cream cheese.
  • Salt bagel with raisin-walnut cream cheese
  • The Signature bagel sandwich with lox scallion cream cheese, tomato, lettuce, red onions, and capers.

These bagels most certainly didn’t taste like Brugger’s.

For the record, it’s not that I don’t like Brugger’s, but if I’m going to travel to NYC and wait an hour and a half for a bagel, it better not taste like Brugger’s or Einstein’s. 

Jake and I have lived in the Midwest our entire lives. We’re used to chain restaurant bagelries that serve tiny, leathery skinned or squishy bagels, foamy bagged grocery store bagels, and Bagel Crisps. Of course you toast the bagel because  it’s the only way to give the bagel taste and texture! Whenever a new bagel shop opens, people we know who are East Coast transplants or familiar with NYC keep saying that it’s still not the same as a real New York bagel. The bagels in question always tasted good to me. I always wondered what they could possibly mean?

Now we know. 

Ess-A-Bagels are huge. The dough is flavorful and the exterior has a perfect chew and light crisp. So much of what made that bagel different from any other bagel was the texture. We ate in silence for a while, hunched over the unraveled bagel wrapping paper. Any ambiguity we felt about the wait melted.  For these are truly the best bagels we’ve ever tried.

We both agreed they were worth the wait.

Jake declared the signature lox bagel sandwich one of the best sandwiches he’s ever eaten, ever. And then there’s the cream cheese. Ess-A-Bagels spreads it in a layer so substantial that you can’t mistake it for an “accent” but a main attraction. It’s thick and extra silky; none of that whipped (you’re paying for air) crap, here.

My typical bagel order consists of a salt bagel with honey walnut/honey almond cream cheese. Upon ordering, we were a little skeptical of their walnut-raisin flavor. The salt and cinnamon and plump raisins worked. If you like sweet and savory combinations, give this a try.

Ess-A-Bagel is a very popular destination. You’ll find it on every “Best Bagel in NYC” list. Go early, order ahead of time, or wait in line. Either way, you won’t have any regrets.

Ess-a- Bagel
(212) 980-1010
831 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10022

1 Comment

  1. Now I’m hungry for a bagel… I’ve never had a “NYC bagel” before but now I’m wondering how have I gone this long with missing out on this wonderfulness. Your picture of the sandwich looks amazing!

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