Where to Find Real-Deal Bagels Around Philly
As much as we love Wawa, the “bagels” they sell are really nothing of the sort. Defined by a shiny, pliable crust and a dense, chewy interior, true versions of these breakfast favorites used to be extremely tough to get in Philadelphia. Not anymore. From the smaller Montreal-style rings to the bulging circles in New York style, here’s where to find real-deal bagels around Philly.
Spread Bagelry: Mark Cosgrove and Larry Rosenblum introduced Montreal-style bagels to Philadelphia in 2011, and the honey-dipped rounds from their wood-fired oven have become a Rittenhouse staple, with a regular morning line that can stretch down the block. Pick up one for $2 or a dozen for $18, and don’t miss the housemade spreads made from Amish farm cheese, in flavors like roasted garlic-veggie and smoked Nova salmon (262 S. 20th St.; 215-545-0626).
New York Bagel Bakery: A North Jersey expat puts to rest the myth that New York water is what makes that city’s bagels so good with the impressively chewy specimens coming out of his City Line Avenue strip mall storefront. With a crisp shell that gives way to a dense interior, these kosher rings come in 17 flavors for $1 each. A collection of specialties like bialys and “black Russian” or “French cinnamon raisin” bagels are available for $1.25 a pop (7555 Haverford Ave.; 215-878-8080).
South Street Philly Bagels: When you order a bagel at a coffee shop in Center City, there’s a good chance you’ll bite into one from this family-owned shop just off of South Street. Opened in 1996 by Michael Wagner, who learned the trade from his Brooklyn-raised father-in-law, the store is the place to go if you want to choose from 20 varieties and get your bagel hot from the oven - while they’re not quite as substantial a model NYC specimen, they’re certainly close (613 S. 3rd St.; 215-627-6277).
High Street on Market: Head baker Alex Bois is an alum of Manhattan’s acclaimed Sullivan Street Bakery, and he recently augmented the collection of heirloom grain breads at this Old City cafe with his own bagel rendition. Misshapen and relatively small, the hand-formed circles might not look like much, but three gnaws in and you’ll appreciate the surprising richness of the almost jaw-taxingly chewy dough. Don’t miss the housemade hay-infused cream cheese spread (308 Market St.; 215-625-0988).
Kermit’s Bake Shoppe: Saturdays and Sundays are special at this Washington Avenue cafe and pizzeria, because on those days chef Chad Durkin adds bagels to his diverse lineup of baked goods. A hard, crusty exterior dressed with bits of garlic, onion, sesame or poppy seeds puts these weekend baubles firmly in the real-deal bagel family. Pick them up for $1.50 each (2204 Washington Ave.; 267-639-4267).
Mount Royal Bagel Company: At the beginning of the year, Norman Vosko launched this bakery-cafe in the Marlton Crossing Shopping Center to showcase the bagels of his native Montreal. Much smaller than the ones we’re used to in the U.S., these slightly-sweet rounds come from a wood-fired oven in eight varieties, available for $1.50 each or $15 per dozen (101 Route 73 South, Marlton, NJ; 856-334-8108).
Four Worlds Bakery: Along with his acclaimed croissants and challah breads, Michael Dolich’s West Philly bakery puts out trays of bagels each morning, enough to supply several Philadelphia cafes and restaurants and and provide enough for the cafe’s retail business, too. Made from sourdough starter, the resultant knots are slightly lighter than some other versions, but with a unique tangy flavor. Pick them up for $1.10 each or $11 per dozen (4635 Woodland Ave.; 215-967-1458).
Brooklyn Bagels: Proprietor Steve Gherca’s New York accent is the first hint of his product’s authenticity, a suspicion borne out by the glossy sheen on their crust and their thickly dense dough. Whitefish salad made from whole-smoked fish and housemade vegetable cream cheese are good accompaniments for the breakfast favorites, or if you’re in for lunch you can opt for another import from 90 miles north - a “hero” sandwich (1051 County Line Rd., Huntingdon Valley; 215-364-1347).
Philly Style Bagels: After working a year on their recipe, partners Collin Shapiro and Jonathon Zilber have started hosting a series of Sunday morning pop-ups to bring their hybrid-style bagels to the people. Made with a sourdough based and boiled in water mixed with Yards, the crunchy rounds have been a success. Early events at Pizzeria Beddia sold out quickly (even though bagels go for $2.50 each), and no one knows when or where to find them next, but we’ll definitely keep you posted.
Schmear It: If you’re out and about when a bagel craving hits, or if you’re willing to travel for cream cheese adventure, this food truck is the answer. To add to your bagel (from South Street Philly bagels), you get the option of multiple salads - egg, whitefish, tuna - nut butters and cream cheeses, to which you can “schmear-in” toppings that range from fruit to nuts to maple syrup to Sriracha.
Talula’s Daily: Quick shout-out to Aimee Olexy’s Washington Square market-cafe, where there are no bagels but the bialys - a bagel’s non-boiled cousin - are a worthy substitute (208 W. Washington Sq.; 215-592-6555).
BJ’s Wholesale Club: Last and maybe least - but definitely worth mentioning - are the bagels sold at this shoppers’ warehouse at the edge of Southwest Philly. Even though they’re likely made using the steam method, which means they lack the perfect crust, the insides have a proper density and chew. If you’re already at the store, it's worth checking out with a dozen (2300 W. Oregon AVe.; 215-982-5440).