All words by Elsie Yang
Move over, New York. The bagels from D.C. may not have the same notoriety as those carbacious circles of heaven from the Big Apple (not yet, that is), but a growing number of bagel purveyors are here to prove that getting your gluten fix doesn’t have to mean an hours-long commute to the north.
In recent years, and particularly in recent months, a few bakers have planted their roots in DC and opened storefronts to adoring fans across the district. While most of these purveyors are selling New York style bagels, the consistent inconsistencies around what actually comprises a “New York style bagel” has allowed for plenty of variation and creativity when it comes to these magnificent mounds of dough. Here are a few of our favorite bagel shops selling hand-rolled, baked-this-morning, way better than average bagels throughout the district.
The riotous success of Call Your Mother has led to not one, not two, but a total of four locations across the DC area. And that doesn’t even include the farmers’ markets at which you can find these delicious bagels. But despite its rapid expansion, Call Your Mother maintains its neighborhood deli vibes with a phenomenally friendly staff and an insistence on making almost everything in-house.
Call Your Mother uses wood-fired ovens to bake its signature bagels, which are available in five flavors: plain, everything, sesame, poppy, and my favorite, za’atar. This delightful spice blend gives these bagels an unexpected twist, and they are perfect when paired with candied salmon cream cheese. The creatively-named bagel sandwiches are overstuffed to perfection, and offer surprising twists on classics (like the Pastrami Sun City, which comes with pastrami, bodega-style eggs, American and cheddar cheese, and spicy honey on an everything bagel).
One of the newest additions to the DC bagel scene is Pearl’s. The sourdough starter makes the bagels from this husband and wife team particularly noteworthy — it doesn’t result in an actual sourdough bagel, but it gives the classic tang that bagel lovers have come to expect from their morning carbs.
At Pearl’s, simplicity is key. The joint uses local, organic ingredients that are down home and down to earth. As such, there are just six flavors on the menu, but where Pearl’s lacks in variety, it more than makes up for in taste. I love the poppy bagel, and the hot jalapeno cheese is not to be missed. If you’re a sandwich fiend, go for The Jack, a tuna spread situation that is a smoke fish lover’s dream.
via Pearl’s Bagels’ Instagram
You won’t find any social media manager queuing up an Instagram story on behalf of Bagels Etc, but this mainstay cash-only joint in Dupont Circle has been attracting bagel lovers for years. The prices are extremely right and the flavors are, in my mind, the closest that you’ll get to a New York bagel in DC (perhaps that’s compounded by the decidedly New York-esque ambience of the store).
Whereas other bagel shops on the list offer just a handful of flavors, Bagels Etc really underscores the “etc” portion of its name — you can find classic varieties as well as surprises like spinach, chocolate, and sun dried tomato. And if you’re not feeling a bagel, the shop’s expansive breakfast menu will certainly have something for even the most persnickety of morning personalities.
Ah, Bullfrog — the bagel store in DC that seems to have started it all. A first mover in the trendy bagel mania that has overtaken the city, Bullfrog is known for doing things the old-fashioned (read: New York) way. It now has three locations (including a food truck), and there is almost always a wait for these delicious bagels.
The Bullfrog onion bagel is not to be missed, and the asiago variety is also a real delight. I particularly appreciate how crispy the exteriors of these bagels are when compared to their almost fluffy interiors — they’re not just chewy, they almost manage to be light. If you’re going for a sandwich, try the smoked salmon BLT.
via Bullfrog Bagels’ Instagram
New York transplants will not only appreciate the bagels that come out of Buffalo & Bergen, but the decidedly New York-esque knishes (potato stuffed pastries) as well. After all, a bagel shop that shares its name with an intersection in Brooklyn must be the real deal. The team just opened a second location in Capitol Hill, which churns out a wide range of bagel flavors that are as creative as their sandwiches. Definitely try the marble rye and the french toast bagel, and if you’re an everything bagel fiend, know that you can get them in three varieties — egg, whole wheat, and good ol’ original everything.
I’m a huge fan of the whitefish salad from Buffalo & Bergen, but ultimately, will never pass up the opportunity to grab a sandwich from this spot. It would just be wrong to miss It’s a Banger, which is a quarter pound of beef brisket, scrambled egg, American cheese, caramelized onion, and horseradish mayo. And the amount of lox that goes into The Original makes it well worth the price tag.
via Buffalo & Bergen’s Instagram
Often heralded as the best bakery in DC, Bread Furst is much more than a bagel store, but that doesn’t mean you should skip the bagels. James Beard winner Mark Furstenberg is churning out the best pastries, baguettes, muffins, and loaves in the city, and the bagels are not just an afterthought. Don’t miss out on these old-fashioned, chewy rounds that are just as tasty on their own as they are with a schmear. These are one of the only bagels that I simply cannot save for later, which perhaps makes them always taste a little fresher than anyone else’s.
via Bread Furst’s Instagram