Food Review: The Best Bagels Around BC Law

The Impact Blog is launching a new spotlight series focused on local foods! We believe that one of the most important features of an area is the food, and no one should need to search far for good options. We’ll provide critiques and reviews of foods in the immediate Newton area surrounding the BC Law campus. Not all establishments are made equal, so whether you’re planning on coming to BC Law or just recently moved to the area, we’ll try all the local spots so you don’t have to.

Our first review turns to an American staple that doesn’t receive the credit it deserves. An often overlooked, taken for granted, carb-y snack: BAGELS!

There are two types of bagel people. The first type doesn’t appreciate the love, time, and science that’s behind each bagel. To them, a bagel from a 70-year-old shop in Brooklyn is the same as a bagel from Stop & Shop. We have nothing to say to this group.

We call the second group Bagel Connoisseurs. These people search for the best bagel around as a measure of an area’s worth (or maybe that’s just us!). If you find yourself in this group, this review is for you.

Tess Halpern and I (Travis Salters) visited six bagel shops located close to the BC Law campus, meaning we excluded bagel shops closer to Boston or too far outside of the Newton area. Full disclosure: Tess was born and raised in New York and I’m from the Philadelphia area, so naturally our reviews may differ. However, we gave each bagel shop an equal opportunity to impress us, ordering one plain bagel toasted with cream cheese and one specialty bagel (typically the best seller or one of their unique options) from every place. Our critiques are listed below in no particular order, and our final rankings are posted at the end.

Bruegger’s Bagels

Bruegger’s is a chain bagel shop located throughout the New England area. We visited the location on Commonwealth Avenue in the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton.

Tess: Breugger’s definitely makes bagels, and those bagels are definitely fine. The ambiance was mediocre at this particular location, with essentially no seating and just a basic set up. The man behind the counter also did give me a wink but did not give one to Travis, so let that add or detract from your own personal ambience score however you see fit.

We probably gave Breugger’s its best shot at success by ordering a cinnamon raisin bagel as our specialty option, which is just a delicious flavor that’s hard to mess up. Thankfully, they met the challenge, or at least didn’t fail it. The plain bagel was also decent, with a good bagel-to-cream-cheese ratio. It did have a crunchy crust on the outside that was similar to Pavement’s bagel (discussed later), which isn’t what I’m really looking for in a bagel, but it wasn’t bad. I think Breugger’s is a good option in a pinch, and it’s probably the best bagel chain you’ll find around. If it’s between Breugger’s and Dunkin’, do yourself a favor and go to Breugger’s.

Travis: Bruegger’s sets the standard for bagels in the area. It’s not the best bagel around, but it’s certainly not the worst – it’s a tasty bagel (which is a great name for a bagel shop someday!). The bagels are small, but they have a crunch on the outside and are soft on the inside. The strongest feature of Bruegger’s is the multiple options, as they have several varieties of bagels and tons of cream cheese flavors. This bagel is also relatively inexpensive, coming in at $3.69 for a bagel and cream cheese.

Pavement Coffeeshop

Pavement Coffeeshop is another chain, which often raises substantial skepticism among Bagel Connoisseurs. We visited the location on Western Avenue in Brighton, just off Soldiers Field Road. Pavement provides a great atmosphere for studying/working and great coffee. But, we’re here for the bagels!

Tess: Pavement wasn’t my top-rated bagel place, but it did provide the best ambience. I’m not really much of a “work in a coffee shop” type of student, but I could see myself taking up a small table in this place and reading the day away. Pavement also had some of the best looking pastries we saw all day, which I will have to try on my own time at some point.

But part of the reason why I’ll likely try Pavement’s pastries is because I wasn’t blown away by their bagels. Don’t get me wrong, the bagels as a pair were nowhere near the bottom of the pack, in part because the rosemary salt was the best specialty bagel we tried all day. The plain bagel also had what I consider to be the perfect amount of cream cheese on it, which has to be factored into the ranking. But the texture of a bagel is key, and the texture of this bagel was off. The outside was too crunchy and the inside was too light, making this more like a bread and less like a bagel. A good bagel needs some weight or some pull to it, and this one was lacking that factor. I wouldn’t turn away a bagel from Pavement in the future, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to buy one.

Travis: This was our biggest disagreement of the day. Disregard the fact that it’s a chain — Pavement delivers a great bagel! It’s encompassed by a crunchy exterior, which cracks into a soft, chewy interior. In particular, the rosemary salt bagel is incredible (and it doesn’t even need cream cheese!). The bagel could use a bit more pull, but it’s otherwise an excellent option in the area.

Bagel Table

Bagel Table is located in Chestnut Hill on Route 9. However, this location information isn’t necessary, because we do not recommend that you visit.

Tess: Well, someone had to be the worst, and Bagel Table was just that. The ambience was fine, with some tables and bench seating, but it didn’t have the cool, relaxing vibe of a place like Pavement. Bagel Table was also pretty crowded for 10:30 am on a Thursday, which I thought was a good omen for what was to come. Now I just think the cheap prices might be attracting some customers, even though the prices were cheap for a reason.

The bagels at Bagel Table weren’t “bad,” but they just really gave me nothing. The asiago cheese bagel was just a plain bagel in disguise, as it really had no additional flavor to speak of. Was it cheesy? No. Was it salty? Not even. Was it good? I mean, it was a bagel, but it wasn’t any better than one you could probably get from the grocery store.

And if the specialty bagel was so bland, I’m sure you can imagine what the plain bagel with cream cheese was like. Honestly, by this time in our bagel-tasting journey, I was entering into a bagel coma and my notes became less than satisfactory. But the fact that I can’t even remember what this bagel looked like (which can’t be said for bagels that came after it) just goes to show how little of an impact it had. Very rarely do I say a bagel isn’t worth the calories, but the ones from Bagel Table met that unfortunate bar. They also offered the least variety in terms of bagel flavors and cream cheese flavors, so not even a unique pairing could save their fare on a return visit. It’ll be a hard pass from me moving forward.

Travis: While Bagel Table has a clean and modern aesthetic, the bagel simply does not deliver. The bagel was spongey and dense with not much flavor. Essentially, it was a hard piece of bread in the shape of bagel. In fact, I would rather walk next door to Star Market. Also, the only cream cheeses offered are plain, veggie, and chive. However, this was the cheapest bagel, coming in at $3.60 for a bagel with cream cheese.

Kupel’s

Kupel’s is a well-known bagel shop located in Brookline. While this shop is farther out of the area than others, we believe it deserves some attention.

Tess: Kupel’s was essentially the opposite of Pavement in every way. It certainly didn’t have the coffee shop ambience that you would want to sit and enjoy for a day. In fact, it didn’t even have tables, so you couldn’t enjoy the bright lights and big display cases even if you wanted to. However, it did remind me of pretty much any bagel place you can find in New York, from the lox on display to the lack of parking outside, which did led me to believe I was in for some authenticity.

As for the bagels, while Pavement’s specialty bagel brought its overall ranking up, the egg everything bagel at Kupel’s was underwhelming. When I’m going for an everything bagel, I want it to be flavorful, with onion, sesame, and poppy seeds all competing for attention in a way that makes the bagel pop. However, this egg everything bagel was more just a poppy seed bagel with some onion sprinkled on top. No one’s eating an everything bagel and saying “I wish that had more poppy seeds,” so the topping ratio here definitely made for a disappointing lack of flavor.

That being said, the plain bagel at Kupel’s was easily top two on the day. There was too much cream cheese for my taste, but that didn’t mask the quality of the bagel itself. Kupel’s nailed the chewy, slightly dense bagel texture I was going for, and it also had some little seeds on top which added a nice crunch factor, even if I frankly don’t know what they were. This was the bagel place my mom would go to when she moved to Boston from Brooklyn, and I can see why.

Travis: Kupel’s is the most authentic, no-nonsense, “New York”-type of bagel shop on our list. Parking is not easy and there is no seating, but we aren’t here for that. The bagel is solid – better than Bruegger’s – but still leaves a lot on the table. The inside is soft and chewy with a healthy amount of cream cheese. However, the egg everything bagel (their self-proclaimed best bagel) was most definitely baked the day before, which was quite disappointing. However, overall, you can’t go wrong with Kupel’s.

Rosenfeld’s

Rosenfeld’s is the closest bagel shop to BC Law, located on the bottom floor of an old building in Newton Centre.


Tess: If Bagel Table put me in a coma, Rosenfeld’s brought me back to life. I always say that when you go to a bagel place, you should be able to get a plain bagel untoasted with no cream cheese or other toppings, and it should still be good. As a kid, when going to the store with my dad to “help” with the shopping, that would always be my treat — a fresh plain bagel in a bag. Is that weird? Maybe, but I consider it the gold standard.

Rosenfeld’s was the only bagel place with a plain bagel that actually had some real flavor. Kupel’s got the texture just right, but Rosenfeld’s was the only one bagel with the right saltiness, doughiness, and bagel-y-ness to really bring me home. Even though the blueberry bagel wasn’t a home run, it wasn’t as disappointing as the egg everything from Kupel’s, making Rosenfeld’s the clear winner in my book.

Travis: Rosenfeld’s is simply the BAGEL GOAT of the area. You can never go wrong with a Rosenfeld’s bagel — just walk in and ask “What’s hot?” and trust the person behind the counter to hook it up. It’s a perfect bagel that explodes with flavor in every bite, and they serve bagels so warm that the cream cheese begins to melt. It just doesn’t get better (in Boston). However, be sure to visit Rosenfeld’s close to when they open at 7 am because they only serve hot bagels early in the morning.

*Sultana’s

We visited Sultana’s on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton with the belief that it offered bagels. Unfortunately, no bagels are found here. However, the owners of this Greek-Turkish shop couldn’t be nicer. They offered us acma, which was a mix between a bagel and a croissant that was absolutely delicious! Buttery, flaky, sweet, and salty, but unfortunately not a bagel, so we cannot provide a review.

On our way out, the owners also offered us free baklava, which was by the far the best baklava we’ve ever had! Is that simply because we were tired of eating bagels and this was a welcome departure? Maybe. But they were also sweet, gooey, and just the perfect size to not be overwhelming. It wouldn’t be fair to rank Sultana’s against the other bagels, but they had to get a shoutout for their more unique fare and incredible customer service. So, definitely pay them a visit, but don’t look for any bagels here. Note: they also had a nice dog.  

Final Rankings

Tess

  1. Rosenfeld’s
  2. Kupel’s
  3. Pavement
  4. Breugger’s
  5. Bagel Table
  6. Sultana — honorable mention

Travis

  1. Rosenfeld’s
  2. Pavement
  3. Kupel’s
  4. Breugger’s
  5. Sultana — honorable mention
  6. ***Bagel Table (unranked)

Travis Salters and Tess Halpern are president and vice president of the Impact blog–and they love good bagels! Stay tuned for more food reviews from them.

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