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A lox bagel sandwich
Photograph: Jeffy Mai

The 12 best bagels in Chicago

Whether it's New York or Montreal-style, the city's premier bagel makers have plenty of options that satisfy.

Amy Cavanaugh
Jeffy Mai
Written by
Amy Cavanaugh
&
Jeffy Mai
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Jump-start your day with a carby delight from the city’s finest bagel makers. Sure, an indulgent donut is never a bad decision but a bread roll just hits differently. New York Bagel & Bialy and Taste of New York Bagels offer great versions that even East Coast transplants will be happy with, while Reno is the move if you prefer a Montreal-style bagel. You’ll find a variety of flavors and toppings, as well as gluten-free options and complements like lox and spreads. And these places are among the best bakeries in town so you can also pick up pastries, cookies, cakes and more. The next time the craving hits, head over to one of the following spots for the best bagels in Chicago.

The best bagels in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Lincolnwood
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Wicker Park
  • price 1 of 4

Pastry queen Mindy Segal made a glorious return this past summer with a new bakery in Wicker Park. Get there bright and early in the morning (seriously, they sell out quickly) for first dibs on wonderful bagels and bialys, which are available in standard and rotating flavors like garlic challah. And don’t forget the giardiniera cream cheese, either.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Wrigleyville

Though it takes inspiration from classic Jewish delis, Steingold’s is nothing like the places your bubbe would’ve frequented back in the day. Chef Aaron Steingold’s contemporary deli doesn’t conform to tradition (there’s even a bacon-egg-cheese sandwich on the menu) and his New York-style bagels are simply exceptional. Made from a recipe that was developed and refined over several years, they’re considered by many to be one of the city’s best. Pair them with the meat and fish that are smoked and cured in-house for an impeccable combination.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Logan Square
  • price 1 of 4

Reno offers Montreal-style bagels, which are wood-fired, smaller and slightly sweeter than their New York counterparts. They come with an array of toppings, such as poppy seeds and olives. Top the bagels with seasonal “schmears” (e.g., sweet potato) and jams (such as mixed berry cranberry). 

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  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

Chicagoans and New Yorkers don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but even locals can agree a chewy and crusty New York bagel is hard to beat. Due to differences in the water supply between the two cities, this Lakeview shop imports its products from the East Coast and then bakes them on site. For an Instagrammable hit, the rainbow bagel is an attention getter that’s sure to garner likes. There’s a variety of cream cheese flavors to spread on them including bacon cheddar and honey pistachio with avocado.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Lake View
  • price 2 of 4

This cult favorite from Madison, Wisconsin expanded to Chicago a few years ago and now has several locations around town. Despite its origins, the bagels are authentically New York-style, meaning they’re large, soft and chewy. If you’re ordering for a group, the platters are a great option and come with a dozen bagels plus lox, tuna or pastrami and veggies. The shop only accepts online orders so plan ahead.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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Tilly Bagel Shop
Photograph: Courtesy of Tilly Bagel Shop

7. Tilly Bagel Shop

Hannah Tillett is the driving force behind this virtual operation that’s responsible for some of the best doughy delights in the city. After working in several high-profile kitchens, the pandemic pushed the pastry chef to start her own bagel business. To ensure quality, she makes her sourdough bagels in small batches and dips them in toppings by hand. You can order them for delivery or pickup on the Tilly Bagel Shop website.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Wicker Park
  • price 1 of 4

Located in a tiny space next to Piece Brewery & Pizzeria, Brobagel is a venture from Piece owner Bill Jacobs, who ran a local chain of bagel shops, Jacobs Bros. Bagels, with his brothers in Chicago in the ‘80s and ‘90s, before selling it. Now he’s back with Brobagel, which offers seven kinds of bagels, six spreads, and a menu of breakfast sandwiches. Try the spicy-sweet sriracha spread on the garlic bagel, which is studded with bits of garlic, and has a pleasantly chewy texture.

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  • Restaurants
  • Jewish
  • Uptown

If a vegan Jewish deli sounds perplexing, well … you’re not alone. But Sam & Gertie’s manages to successfully put a unique spin on an old-school experience. Whether you eat meat or not, everyone can appreciate the bagels made here, available in flavors like sesame, mish mosh (everything) and salt and poppy. There are also wheat-free bagels for those with dietary restrictions. Need something heartier? Grab a vegan lox or breakfast sandwich.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Skokie
  • price 1 of 4

After a fire forced it to close in 2011, this classic deli (which originally opened in 1955) rose from its ashes. Traditional Jewish breads—bagels, rye bread—are Kaufman’s foundation and form the base for dozens of deli sandwiches, such as the New York Special (thinly sliced corned beef with chopped liver—ask for mustard, too).

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  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • River North
  • price 1 of 4

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. Get them as a bagel sandwich, such as the classic with Nova lox, capers, cucumbers, tomato and red onion.

  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Lake View
  • price 2 of 4

Established in the early ‘50s, The Bagel is a classic diner and deli that delivers homey delights. As the name suggests, bagels are a must-get here and you should definitely grab some smoked whitefish or a lox platter to go with them. Don’t just take our word for it—there are seven decades of happy customers backing us up.

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Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
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