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The Absolute Best Bagels

Eliya Yehudai ’27

Any ring-shaped bread roll can be boiled and baked and called a bagel. However, for a bagel to be truly delectable, it must meet certain criteria. 

It all starts with the crust. A bagel crust should be thin, shiny, and crunchy. When a bagel lacks good crunch, there is no chance for it to be top-tier. Now, don’t get me wrong, a perfect crunch isn’t too extreme. Remember, this is a bagel, not a baguette. It should feel solid to the touch, but also give in with little effort when bitten into. 

The most crucial component of a bagel is its interior. It must be soft, but also dense. Chewy, but also tender. Most bagels meet a couple of these requirements, but finding one that meets all of them would be like finding the “Holey Grail.”

To find a prime example of a bagel that falls well short of these criteria, you need not look any further than our very own dining hall. Now, by no means do I intend this as a schmear campaign against cafeteria food. In fact, Heschel’s bagels are perfectly acceptable. However, they fall far short of the aforementioned requirements for the ideal bagel. 

Heschel bagels are doughy, mushy, and bland. They lack texture both inside and out. They also fall short in the shiny category. Try holding one up to a light today at lunch. I can guarantee that there will be absolutely zero reflection. Although it might seem purely aesthetic, a shine is a telltale sign of a quality bagel. The only way to achieve a dazzling exterior is through boiling and baking at high temperatures: the best way to cook a bagel. 

So is there a “Holey Grail” bagel? At this point, you might think the perfect bagel doesn’t exist, that there is no way one could meet all of these seemingly contradictory standards. I used to think that, too. That was before my quest for the perfect bagel took me to the uppermost reaches of the Upper West Side. 

Nestled between a hair salon and a supermarket which claims to be the “Garden of Eden” lies Absolute Bagels, the true “Holey Grail.” An “absolute bagel” is actually more similar to the Holy Grail than one might initially think, as obtaining one of these bagels can at times feel as difficult as a quest to find the legendary treasure. 

At Absolute Bagels, one is forced to endure poor customer service, a cash-only policy, questionable food hygiene, a dirty interior, and a line that tends to wrap around the corner–over one-hundred feet away on weekend mornings! But it’s all worth it, for you’re sure to be rewarded with the freshest, softest, densest, chewiest, crunchiest, shiniest, most tender, and truly astounding bagels New York City has to offer. 


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