Philly might have great bread, but the bagels are decidedly sub-par. So when those of us who grew up in New York or northern New Jersey want the breakfast of our youth, there are only certain spots that will cut it. Check out this list of the best places in Philadelphia for a real bagel, and get a taste of what you’ve been missing. – Chelsea Karnash
This neon orange truck owned by Penn grad David Fine just started “schmearing” in mid-2013, but it’s already a fan favorite on the Philly food truck scene. The bagels, which are sourced from South Street Philly Bagels (next on this list), are predictably delish, but it’s the smiling staff and, of course, the many schmears that make this bagel-mobile so awesome. Choose from “Signature Schmears” such as the Nutty Naner (nutella, peanut butter and bananas) or the Flaming Islander (mango, Sriracha and cream cheese), or create your own bagel sando from ingredients like tuna salad, hummus, fresh fruit and veggies, soy sauce, cream cheese and more. The best part of chowing down on your scrumptious creation? Knowing you’ve done some social good: The Schmear It truck also acts as a fundraising platform for a rotating nonprofit, such as the Monster Milers, which connects homeless dogs with runners in the Philly area.
South Street Philly Bagels
This Queen Village bagel factory is chaotic, steamy and often has a huge line, but it’s worth the wait. From sundried tomato to chocolate bagels to all the regular standbys, these freshly-boiled-and-baked circles of dough have the perfect ratio of crunchy to chewy. Coat with your pick of the numerous flavored cream cheeses (Buffalo chicken! Jalapeno! Pumpkin! Lox!), then devour while warm. If you’re feeling like brunch in bagel form, try the pastry-ish French toast bagel, a heavenly creation I honestly thought only existed in my Jersey hometown.
Four Worlds Bakery
In Philadelphia, the “Challahman” (aka Michael Dolich) is famous for his extremely yummy breads. However, the bagels made at his bakery are great, too—although some complain they’re too doughy and thus inauthentic (whatever). Head over on a Thursday to pick up your breads, pretzels, cupcakes, pastries and bagels, then enjoy them camped out in front of your computer while you read up on Dolich on his blog.
You’ll have to venture up to a crappy-looking strip mall in Roxborough for a Caplan bagel. Oh, and you should really call ahead, because on weekends, this place sells out of the good stuff fast. And don’t forget to bring cash either, since Caplan doesn’t accept plastic.
It might feel like jumping through hoops just for a light breakfast, but those of us who fight bagel cravings daily are willing to go through it for a good one. And Caplan, my friends, has some really good bagels. Try an everything with horseradish-cheddar cream cheese, or a tuna melt on pumpernickel, then enjoy a few minutes of pleasant convo with the hipster dude behind the counter—by your third visit, you’ll feel like BFFs.
Like Caplan, Bagel Hut is tiny and cash-only. Most of the time, there’s a line, but don’t let that deter you—it moves fast. Pretty soon, you’ll be biting into a spicy cheddar bagel with egg salad, and any annoyance you had over the wait will vanish almost as quickly as your meal. Prefer your bagels with cream cheese? Try the veggie or the apple cinnamon. And don’t forget to order a mocha-java (a mix of coffee and hot chocolate) for a yummy energy boost.
Sadly, Bagel Hut is only open weekdays, so unless you’re a Temple student or work nearby, there’s probably no chance you’ll ever make it here. And that’s just too bad, since the Hut’s excellent bagels, cheery service and low prices make it one of the few Philly bagel-ries worthy of a visit.
You have to have some seriously great bagels (or serious cojones) to name your bagel operation after Philly’s arch nemesis. Thankfully, NY Bagel (not to be confused with the chain New York Bagel Café & Deli) delivers the goods.
Set behind a McDonald’s on City Line Ave, this bagel joint is owned by a Jewish family that observes the Sabbath, meaning it’s closed on Saturdays. Unlike many of the others on this list, New York Bagel chooses to keep it traditional, offering toothsome bagels in your basic flavors with a relatively limited list of toppings. While this is the perfect bakery for bagel purists, don’t go if you’re craving an egg sandwich. They don’t serve them, and you’ll only be disappointed. What won’t disappoint you, however, is your bagel—this is as close as it gets to authentic in Philly.