Sink your teeth into L.A.’s best bagels
Long considered one of L.A.’s most elusive breakfasts, Belle’s Bagels started as a pop-up that blinked in and out of the city’s dining scene. Fortunately it came back by popular demand, and set up a permanent home in Highland Park. Today, it operates out of the small window on the street-facing side of the Hi Hat (you’ll usually spot the line out front). Somewhat unique in style, Belle’s serves smaller, denser bagels than what some aficionados may be used to, but the golden crust and unique high-end ingredients (like caraway and fennel on the everything bagel) will easily win over skeptics. Equally impressive are the massive sandwiches and myriad schmear and topping options, including beet and vegan cream cheeses, tangy tomato jam, crispy salmon skin and hot pastrami.
L.A.’s homegrown bagel mini-chain has been making some of the best in the business since 1958. With 11 locations (most of which are in the San Fernando Valley), the family-owned Western Bagel is often cited as an essential piece of L.A. food culture. The bagels are soft and light, and, when served with a heaping helping of cream cheese, are almost in danger of folding over, even when toasted. Very SoCal bagel options, including low-carb and sprouted wheat options, complement a decidedly less health-conscious lunch menu, including a full line of Boar’s Head cold cuts and in-store roasted and thick sliced turkey breasts.
California gets a little dose of Canada with Courage Bagels, a bagel vendor slinging wild-yeasted, Montreal-style bagels: slightly burnt, lightly chewy, barely sweet and thinner than your New York style. Owner Ari Skye humbly began her operation using a friend’s borrowed bike, cycling around town until she finally landed a spot at the Silver Lake Farmers Market on Saturdays, and then the nearby Broome St. General & Company on Sundays. Sky cheekily proclaims Courage is “farm to bagel,” so pile on those farmers’ market veggie options such as heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, local dill, you name it—which are always available in some form or another. (Don’t skip the razor-thin slices of lox, either.)
One of L.A.’s most beloved bagel pop-ups finally landed its own brick-and-mortar, and Maury’s Bagels in Silver Lake is about as old-school charming as it gets: There are metal baskets of piles upon piles of the chewy, yeasty bagels, while black-and-white signs display the daily selection of house-made schmears and bagel sandwiches. They’ll toast the bagel, if they must, and a little frowny sign hints that owner Jason Kaplan isn’t thrilled about the request. What the sign doesn’t tell you is that toasting a bagel removes some of its moisture and chew—and the chewiness of a Maury’s bagel is unparalleled, so don’t mess with a good thing. Toppings can skew familiar (whitefish salad) to rare-in-L.A. (there’s kippered salmon, in addition to lox). If you’re really feeling ritzy, add roe to any bagel.
Despite the occasionally erratic schedule, Yeastie Boys makes a fantastic bagel worth tracking down. Initially a single roving, pun-sloganed food truck parked on L.A.’s Eastside, the operation now uses a full fleet with regular stops across the city. These bagels and sandwiches are a solid deal for their $8-ish price tag, absolutely heaped with cheese, eggs, bacon and whatever else they’ve got in the truck. But it’s not just about the massive sandwiches (Instagrammable as they may be). A Yeastie Boys bagel truly tastes like a carefully hand-crafted baked good: The interior is light, airy and almost flaky, but it maintains its integrity with the sturdy, crusty exterior.
Light without weighing you down, and fully embracing simplicity, Pop’s Bagel’s are some of the best and most unique in the L.A. bagel scene. You’ve only got three choices at this pop-up—plain, everything or cinnamon raisin—but with execution this strong, you won’t be missing the bells and whistles of some of the more modern, spice-flecked concoctions popping up around town. Always served hot, the insides are practically pillowy, slightly melting the straightforward, house-cream cheeses upon impact. Find ’em at Culver City’s PLATFORM development complex on Saturdays, and Brentwood’s Nagao on Sundays.
Inside a weathered storefront on the western portion of Olympic Boulevard, Bueller’s is baking some truly spectacular bagels onsite. The dense—but not too heavy—interior subtly fades into a crispy, chewy, boiled-until-golden crust. Toppings on the bagels (poppy seed, onion and more) can be a little sparse, but the full-flavored, pungent lox schmear and onion cream cheese more than make up for any missing flavor. This decidedly old-school shop has plenty of seating inside, with a few seats outside for those who want to take in the charm of Olympic. Don’t forget to bring cash, as it’s the only way to pay.
Bagel Broker is the real deal, and it’s been family-owned since ’87, already passing down its method to the next generation. The popular neighborhood spot in a quiet strip mall serves made-onsite bagels that have a nicely airy interior and chewy crust, even when toasted. On certain varieties, a heavy dusting of cornmeal adds a bit of crunch to the soft exteriors. The small shop stays busy throughout the day, owing to their popularity among locals and late closing time—for a bagel shop, anyway (5pm on weekdays, 4pm on weekends).
Unlike most West Coast bagel shops, which highlight connections to New York City, Manhattan Bread & Bagel is proudly named because it was founded in Manhattan Beach, and the bagels—along with the entire bakery—have a distinctly Southern California vibe. A popular breakfast and lunch spot, Manhattan Bread & Bagel is a full-service bakery, its counter filled with crusty loaves of bread and flaky pastries alongside stacks of bagel baskets. The bagels themselves are dense and heavy, with a lighter crust that stays chewy even when toasted. There are a wide variety of styles and flavors of bagels on offer here, with rotating specials popping in and out according to the season.
Larchmont Village’s beloved bagel stalwart is a full-service bagel-maker with a large dining area. That means it’s something of a hangout for locals, who order their bagels for-here so they can read the news, schmooze or people watch through the large window looking out on the bustling boulevard. The bagels themselves have a crispy exterior with a dry, almost crumbly interior, and Sam’s has an extensive selection of bagel styles to choose from—including sweet bagels like cranberry-apple and peanut butter chocolate chip.
How can you tell that New York Bagel & Deli is a serious bagel joint? The pillars of grain and flour sacks are a decent clue. But even without these stacks, at either location, a quick scan of the bagels, bialys and bagel sticks sitting inside the glass counters should make it clear that you’ve reached bagel nirvana. With an inside that’s the perfect combination of flaky and dense, plus plenty of choices in toppings, this is one of the Westside’s top bagel destinations. Though they wear their East Coast influence with pride—including a logo reminiscent of the NYPD’s—there are California influences as well, seen notably in the very spicy Tijuana Chili cream cheese.
Bagel Factory is a small chain of bagel bakeries and shops, with three locations across western L.A. and Torrance. The Factory labels its bagels as kosher and New York-style, but also operates as a full-service bakery with a big selection of house-made breads, cakes, pastries and challahs. The focus, though, remains on the namesake bagels, which are sold in a staggering amount of styles and flavors, including white, wheat, cranberry, bagel-chip and sugar-free varieties. The boiled exterior and ordering options, including classic and modern spreads and sandwiches, is difficult to beat.
More of a wholesaler than a retailer, New York Bagels LA makes some of the county’s favorite and far-flung bagels from an industrial park in Whittier. Fortunately, they’re open to the public, selling bagels individually or by the dozen from a dusty window in a sparse warehouse environment. Bagels are perfectly cooked, with an almost gooey interior and a complementary exterior. Though their bagels are exceptionally executed, the somewhat lackluster cream cheese spreads—served in tubs to be self-applied—are just about the only non-bagel items available. No coffees or decked-out sandwiches are to be found, but the lack of frills is indicative of this bakery’s Spartan commitment to crafting stupendous bagels.