My search for the best bagels in New York continues….

The cream cheese from bagel shop to bagel shop is practically identical with a few slight variations – which can really affect a bagel experience. For instance, the toppings that are mixed-in are usually unique from store to store and can really make for some interesting options (jalapeƱo cream cheese, anyone?). The temperature and storing procedures of the fluffy stuff is also very important. And of course, the amount of cream cheese an employee schmears on your holey bagel can make a big difference.

My biggest problem with Tal Bagels was just that. The cream cheese that was put on my Everything bagel was a tower of topping and really ended up being too much. However, unless Tal has some strict training policies, I imagine I just got a heavy handed schmearer. And since it was easy enough to wipe some of that excess goop off my bagel, I can’t really fault the shop too much. Yet it definitely changed my experience.

Tal Bagels has more than one location around the city and it was tough for me to choose which one to try. Normally, I want to go to the original location and really get a sense of the “history”. Yet I really couldn’t glean which Tal was the original. There are three locations – the Upper East Side one seems to be the most popular (based on web visibility), the Upper West Side location is the only one with its own website, but the Midtown East location was the one I was closest to. So in the interest of being in the neighborhood, Midtown East it was.

When I arrived I noticed the facade was definitely from a different decade, but I could see that the interior had recently been renovated and expanded. Around the corner from the ordering station (which offers deli sandwiches and salads in addition to the bagels), was a modern, sleek sitting area. I could tell based on laptops and newspapers that some people had been relaxing at the tables for a little while.

I brought my Plain bagel and Everything bagel to one of the tables. The only hot options were Whole Wheat and Everything and since the latter is one of my favorites and really gives you the widest possibility of flavors, it was clear which to order.

The hot bagel wasn’t really hot, but rather lukewarm. The texture however was perfectly soft and chewy. It had a nice dusting of seasonings, but none of the flavors were overwhelming. The fluffy cream cheese could have taken a clue from the restraint given to the everything toppings. Seriously, I think there was more cream cheese than bagel here.

Which says a lot because these bagels were quite large. The plain bagel was a true gutbomb. It had a toasty crunch without being warm. My first bite gave way to a slight sweetness and malty flavor that reminded me of a dense biscuit. This one veered on the edge of being too well done.

Maybe I should try the other two locations of Tal Bagel to see if there are many variations even within the company. Based on this one experience in their fancy new interior, I liked their bagels. My only problem was that (aside from the garlic, salt, seeds, etc. on the everything bagel) things were a little too big. And if having too much food is your worst problem, then I think you’re doing pretty good.

Does Tal Bagels’ have the best bagels in NY? The textures are good, although often a little too crunchy, so they get a 7 out of 10 even though the cream cheese portion is a bit too large for my tastes.

979 First Avenue (between 53rd and 54th Street)
Midtown East
(212) 753-9080
333 East 86th Street (between Second Avenue and First Avenue)
Upper East Side
(212) 427-6811
1228 Lexington Avenue (between East 83rd Street and East 84th Street)
Upper East Side
(212) 717-2080
2446 Broadway (between 90th and 91st Street)
Upper West Side
(212) 712-0171
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Category: Bagels

About the Author

I was raised in South Florida by a family of very conservative eaters. I moved to New York to be a world famous actor, but found myself receiving more notoriety as a waiter. I soon found myself more excited by dinner than auditions and realized my intense love for food started to overshadow my love for the stage. I'm currently looking to get out of the restaurant business and seek work as a NYC tour guide and turn every day into a food adventure.

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