Chicago Bagel Authority This Ohio-loving, toaster-shunning shop steams every bagel it serves, and if that sounds weird, you obviously haven’t had one of its warm, soft sandwiches yet. Steaming the bagels (or, if you must, wraps and sub rolls) makes ambitious sandwiches like the “Bacon Boat to Turkey Town” (stuffed with turkey, bacon, chive cream cheese, red onion, banana peppers and spicy mustard) soft and manageable to eat. If it’s a crisp bagel you prefer, though, you’re out of luck. 953 W Armitage Ave (773-248-9606). Average main course: $6.
e.leaven Food Company This bakery/café has gained some fame over the past couple of years for its “flagels”—flat, square bagels that, like all the baked goods here, are made in-house. The flagels are pretty good, but if you’re going to do breakfast here, may as well go all the way with the over-the-top strawberry-stuffed challah French toast, which is something you might find at IHOP (only, thankfully, here it’s of higher quality). Want something healthier? Something more lunchy? The fresh avocado salad will do you right. 54 E Ontario St (312-202-0899). Average sandwich: $8.
New York Bagel & Bialy Don’t take our word for it—any Jew or New Yorker can tell you the best bagel in Chicago is not in Chicago. It’s in Lincolnwood, at a nondescript strip mall just off I-94. This place never closes, doesn’t have tables and until recently, didn’t accept plastic. Which is why if you’re looking for us, we’ll be in our car in the parking lot, inhaling a bagel sandwich with Nova lox and clutching a bag of still-warm salt-and-poppy and sesame bagels for later. 4714 W Touhy Ave, Lincolnwood (847-677-9388). Average bagel sandwich: $6.
NYC Bagel Deli The success of owner Corey Kaplan’s chain relies on its kettle-boiled bagels: They’re just chewy enough, just dense enough and just sweet enough to give New Yorkers a run for their money. But just in case the bagel sandwiches (such as the classic with Nova lox, capers, cucumbers, tomato and red onion) and deli sandwiches (e.g., corned beef) don’t cut it, this third location also offers New York–style pizza. Each slice is the size of half a pizza; ours also came with a reminder to “Stay beautiful!” 515 N Dearborn St (312-923-9999). Average bagel sandwich: $8.