Fresh, warm, soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside and served alone or with toppings, a good bagel is a thing of beauty. The jewel in the crown of any bagel shop, of course, is its bagel and lox combination. Most often paired with cool cream cheese, the cured, smoked salmon fillet that sits atop half or inside a sliced bagel is as highly prized a piece of fish as there ever was, and one that reaches its apotheosis when married to a freshly baked bagel. Boston has many great bagel bakeries and delis where this glorious fare can be found, and here are just five which serve some of the best bagels and lox in Boston.
“My girlfriend and I aren’t ‘bagels and lox people,” says a young Bostonian who lives near Porter Square. “But Bagelsaurus in Cambridge does unusual stuff. That’s what keeps bringing us back.” Such testimony is not uncommon among the clientele who frequent Bagelsaurus, the deservedly popular and oft-praised bagel shop founded and run by baker Mary Ting Hyatt. Her bagels are made by hand and in very small batches, which means they are always fresh and almost always sold still hot or at least warm. The demand is so high that they rarely have time to reach room temperature before being sold out, which of course makes room for the next small batch. Although Mary believes her bagels are good enough plain, Bagelsaurus does offer the requisite toppings, including of course smoked salmon. What makes hers just a little extra special, however, is that it is provided by the Boston Smoked Fish Company, and is served up with pickled red cabbage, sliced onion and, of course, cream cheese, topped off with a dash of dill.
Kupel’s Bakery is a regular contender and frequent winner in numerous “Best of Boston” contests, and while they take special pride in their pastries, notably their massive bear claws, it is their bagels for which they are most famous, and have been most honored – and rightly so. With 21 different kinds of bagels to choose from, Kupel’s is ideal for bagel fans who like to mix and match their carry away order, or who want to try different combinations to see what type of bagel goes best with what kind of topping. Kupel’s keeps Kosher, which is an added plus for some of their repeat customers, and offers not just the usual lox and a schmear, but also a treat they call “Miami Lox,” which is lox and scallions, with either regular or light cream cheese. Kupel’s offers 25 different spreads for their bagels, including a lox and tofu cream cheese for those who just don’t do or can’t handle dairy.
If Boston is Bean Town, then Brookline is Bagel Town – or at least it seems like it should be so named. The neighborhood is home to many of the best bagel shops in the Boston area, and right up near (and some say at) the top of the list of those is Zaftigs Delicatessen. An old-fashioned, authentic deli where the pastrami is piled high and the potato pancakes piled even higher, Zaftigs has bagels and lox to die for. Not only do they do lox and cream cheese, like everyone else, but also lox and sour cream – which is an entirely different taste experience altogether. Although more frequently served with the potato pancakes and warm applesauce, the lox and sour cream combo is a favored topping for their bagels as well. Zaftigs does a lot of great things with lox (like serving them with onions and scrambled eggs) and with bagels, but when they come together, it is a breakfast of beauty.
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Finagle Bagel has several locations around Boston, including a kiosk in the Kinkos Building on Chestnut Hill, a shop inside Mass General and a Bakery, Cafe and Test Kitchen in Newton, but the store on Boylston Street has a special feel all of its own. Finagle offers 20 different kinds of bagels – as well as bagel chips, bialys, and “The Queen’s Muffins,” which are their own take on the classic English muffin. While many Boston area grocery stores also carry their products, bagel fans know that the best way to buy and enjoy a bagel is to get it fresh and warm in the store. Finagle also makes its own cream cheese and uses local vendors for the fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat and fish that go into their bagel sandwiches. Family owned and operated for nearly 20 years, Finagle uses only all-natural ingredients and, of course, makes everything by hand.
Sparkling clean and bright, Pavement Coffeehouse on Commonwealth Avenue is a very modern breakfast and coffee shop, yet the quality of its fare – including its bagels – harkens back to the glory days of yesteryear. The original Pavement Coffeehouse is still in Boylston, and from there this little breakfast empire spread to Allston, Fenway, Gainsborough and Newbury, but the Comm Ave store in the heart of Boston University is a favored haunt – and haven – for starving students. Pavement does not necessarily offer the best bagel and lox in town, but it does offer a very, very good one, and one that is among the most affordable in town. At $8.50 their Lox Bagel of nova lox on cream cheese with capers. tomato and onion is a sumptuous, satisfying and simply grand meal, and at a price even most poor students can afford. It is also the highest priced bagel combo on the menu, which offers many other wonderful bagel creations for as low as $3.
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