When it comes to breakfast cravings, the classic bagel is a crowd favorite. Whether covered in schmear, in sandwich form, or just by itself paired with a cup of coffee, it's hard to go wrong with this morning meal choice. And yet, finding a really delicious bagel is not always the easiest feat. We may traditionally think of New York as the best city for bagels, but don't sleep on Chicago here.
Now, what defines a Chicago-style bagel is up for debate. Some Windy City bakers insist that bagels should be steamed, while others say proper Chicago bagels are leavened with sourdough starter. There's one thing we know for sure about Chicago's bagels — no matter the preparation style, they are delicious. And if New York bagels are still your favorite, don't worry. Chicago has plenty of Big Apple-inspired options as well.
As a professional baker from Chicago, I always love visiting bagel spots to see how each place makes their own signature offerings. From the fresh dough (you really can tell!) to the fun flavors and perfect sandwich combos, there are so many good places to pop by in Chicago for all that bagel goodness. Let's take a look!
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Located in Lakeview, Steingold's is a great option for all your bagel cravings. You can dine in, enjoying the old-school deli ambience. A wide-ranging delicatessen section makes Steingold's an ideal spot to grab breakfast and then pick up any must-have foodstuffs, like their meats, cheeses, and pastries. They even sell wine and beer, featuring suds from some favorite Chicago breweries. Walking the dog in the morning and can't take the time to sit inside? Don't worry, Steingold's has a very convenient pick-up window, where you can either order on the spot or pick up an online order. This is also the perfect neighborhood street to walk with your breakfast, as Southport Avenue has plenty of stores that offer great window shopping.
Steingold's takes it a step further and has a fun bagel flavor each month that they post on their Instagram page. Some of their recent specialty bagels included Hot Cocoa, Cranberry and Candied Orange, and Pumpkin Chip. And it's worth grabbing one of their bagel-based breakfast sandwiches, like the oversized Egg on a Roll.
3737 N. Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
Schneider Deli just opened in August of 2023, but has already made a name for itself when it comes to good food and cool ambience. Chicago Magazine recently featured this place on its "10 Hottest Restaurants in Chicago" list. Situated in the old Ohio Street Motel, you feel transported through time when you walk in the door. From the tiled floor to the retro signage, this location gives off a comfortable vibe and offers food that gives you the warm-feels.
You can dine in, sitting at the counter or at one of the smaller tables, soaking in the decor of yesteryear. Bagels can be topped with gravlax- or nova-style salmon, or even with smoked whitefish salad. Keeping with the retro theme, if you have a sweet tooth, you can even order a freshly made egg cream to go with your meal.
Schneider Deli also offers catering, if you're looking for the perfect breakfast for a big group. The deli sells assorted bagel platters with optional lox, depending on your guests' preferences.
600 N. La Salle Dr, Chicago, IL 60654
Chicago Bagel Authority
Chicago Bagel Authority (aka CBA) brings a new spin to the bagel sandwich with their "steamwiches" — steaming all of their bagel sandwiches to make them softer. This highlight is inventive while combining a variety of flavors together, and CBA offers dozens of steamwich varieties that can satisfy any craving.
An homage to a neighborhood avenue by one CBA location, the Belmont steamwich combines maple sausage, smoked ham, jalapeños, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel. If you are looking for the perfect remedy after a late night, the Hangover Helper — with its egg, ham, and smoked cheddar cheese on an egg bagel — could be the perfect cure. Half the fun of ordering here is deciding which steamwich name you want to go with. From the Egg McMahon to the Eggosaurus to the Lincoln Pork, visiting CBA is a cool experience from start to finish.
Bagel Miller may sound vaguely familiar to many Chicagoans, even though this is a newer spot. That's because the same owners of Baker Miller, a bakery that had served Chicago since 2014, have changed the establishment's name and now focus on making bagels.
Baker Miller did offer bagels, but only amongst other baked goods. Even then, the Chicago Tribune listed Baker Miller's bagels as among the city's 10 best in 2021. Now, bagels are the main star here. You can still come grab a seat and dine in; they even have a fabulous pink patio out back, so you can enjoy your bagel in the sun when it's warm outside. Here you'll find all your favorite bagel types with a variety of schmears, including vegan cream cheese.
Bagel Miller's catering menu provides a variety of bagel platter options, from the Meatza (featuring pepperoni, salami, and ham) to a platter offering both pastrami and smoked lox. Be sure to check out the bagel sandwiches, too. If you're struggling to decide whether to order the pastrami-topped Southsider or the Northsider with smoked turkey, relax; you really can't go wrong. Or there's the pho bagel sandwich made with spicy beef, chive cream cheese, basil, and onion. Yes, please.
4655 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
Wheat's End Café
And now, for our gluten-free friends, welcome to Wheat's End Café. Finding a really great gluten-free bagel is not the easiest task in Chicago, but that's where Wheat's End comes in. This eatery offers a variety of breakfast foods, but the bagel is a customer favorite. On Yelp, Wheat's End guests have shared rave reviews for the everything bagel, but other bagel options include blueberry and cinnamon raisin.
If you end up trying the bagels from Wheat's End and want to take some home, the eatery features an impressive frozen section with bags of six bagels available in all varieties, sold alongside gluten-free English muffins and pizza crusts. It's worth visiting the store to see what they offer and pick your favorites, but keep in mind that Wheat's End offers takeout and delivery only, with no dine-in facilities. Take your order to go and stroll to the nearby lakefront green space of Lincoln Park for a perfect warm-weather weekend picnic.
543 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614
Tilly Bagel Shop
Savory bagel fans, rejoice. Tilly Bagel Shop offers a variety of unique bagel flavors that make a visit well worthwhile, especially since it's centrally located in Chicago's Loop. French onion, cacio e pepe, and garlic rosemary are among the intriguing bagel varieties served here, and you can combine them with cream cheese flavors such as caramelized onion, jalapeño, or chive and bacon.
Tilly's bagels are made fresh daily in small batches that are leavened with sourdough starter and left to rise overnight before being boiled and baked. Gluten-free bagels are sold on Saturdays and Sundays, and the shop also offers vegan cream cheese. In addition, you'll find bagel sandwiches on the menu.
Tilly Bagel Shop started out as a pop-up business during the pandemic, enjoying such success that the proprietors just recently opened their brick-and-mortar location. This site is already very popular, to the extent that customers have shared woes on Yelp about not making it in time before the shop sold out for the day.
34 E Balbo Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
New York Bagel & Bialy
Operating since the mid-1960s, New York Bagel & Bialy Corporation has two locations in the Chicago suburbs of Lincolnwood and Skokie. While visiting either site may require a drive for downtown dwellers, just start up your latest podcast in the car and you'll be there before you know it. Many spots on this list focus on offering Chicago-style bagels, but New York Bagel & Bialy lives up to its name, bringing the true New York-style bagel to the Chicagoland area for decades.
Here you'll find plain and egg bagels, but also more unique varieties like garlic, pumpernickel-rye, and their signature "mish mosh" (similar to an everything bagel). Mini-bagels are also offered in four flavors, if you are looking for a lighter option. To go with your bagel, flavored cream cheeses include cinnamon raisin, jalapeño, strawberry, and sun-dried tomato.
While not a sit-down restaurant, this establishment's deli counter offers a lot of options when you are on the go, including sandwiches and pizza bagels. There can be a line, but customers say it moves quickly.
The Bagelers Coffeehouse
The Bagelers Coffeehouse has been creating kettle-boiled bagels in Chicago since 2014. The signature breakfast sandwich here — The Bageler — includes a fried egg, Muenster cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, and their made-from-scratch chipotle mayo. For vegans, The Gardener sandwich features garlic-lemon hummus, red peppers, cucumber, and red onions. Meanwhile, meat lovers will consider The Butcher as a go-to order, topping a bagel with salami, mortadella, and hot coppa. And if you've never had a pretzel bagel before, try The Woodsman with Black Forest ham.
If you have a little time after selecting your bagel of choice, be sure to dine in. This is a great location for a study session or to read that book you've been carrying around while you enjoy your meal. If you have to run, this shop opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends, giving you time to stop in before starting your day.
2461 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
R&A Sourdough is another spot that originated during the pandemic. Located in Ravenswood, this shop specializes in baked goods made with a sourdough starter. The result? A very tasty bagel. On DoorDash, multiple customers comment that this is the best bagel they've ever had in Chicago.
When visiting, be sure to check out the exciting sandwich selection on the menu, such as their Deep Dish Bagel Pie (a bagel-based version of Chicago-style pizza) or The Youngster, which has plain schmear, cheddar, egg, hot sauce, and hot honey bacon. They also created the Frittata & Schmear; bring on those cheesy eggs.
For creatively unique takes on bagel artistry, try one of R&A Sourdough's Bagel Nots — knot-shaped bagel bites filled with sweet ingredients like chocolate chips — or their Daisy Dogs, a bagel dog that can be ordered with cheddar, Chicago sauce, and/or mustard. We're in.
1938 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
Beans & Bagels
You'll find Beans & Bagels on a leafy corner of the Lincoln Square neighborhood. Primarily known as a coffee shop, you may not initially think to order bagels here, but that would be a mistake. From the Ballad of El Goodo breakfast sandwich (featuring scrambled egg, applewood smoked bacon, New York-style nova lox, and cheese on a bagel) to their pumpernickel bagel with Welsh Red Dragon cream cheese, you really can't go wrong. Other fun cream cheese flavors on offer include Holy Jalapeño and French Strawberry. And finally, pair your breakfast with one of the Beans & Bagels tea or coffee offerings, like their house-made chai or maple latte.
While Beans & Bagels doesn't have a website, you can find links through their Instagram page for ordering. You'll also find that they are certified by the Green Restaurant Association, showing a clear focus on sustainability.
2601 W Leland Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
It's a family affair over at Brobagel. The Jacobs brothers have been baking bagels since 1983, making this a great spot to visit in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. When you walk up to the store, open each day of the week, you'll see a brick building that feels like a location from another era. You'll most likely also see a line out the door, a sign that these bagels are worth waiting for. Order in advance for pick up or delivery, or stop by the store to order on-site.
The selection of bagel toppings is where Brobagel stands out. Along with plain, chive, veggie, and sriracha schmears, a whipped-tofu vegan spread is available, as well as a pesto cream cheese that goes perfectly with a breakfast sandwich. We dare you to order the Atomic Bagel Sandwich, made with scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, and Hot Doug's Atomic Sausage — a spicy type of link from the people behind Chicago's legendary Hot Doug's eatery, one of the restaurants that Anthony Bourdain practically worshipped.
1931 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Brought to the Windy City by a New Yorker on a quest to give Chicagoans a solid NYC-style bagel, Gotham Bagels has been around since 2006. These bagels are hand-rolled, boiled, and then baked, giving them the true New York experience. From salt bagels to the Honey Whole Wheat Everything to Asiago, you have plenty of options for breakfast here.
With more than 20 sandwiches to pick from, Gotham Bagels has so much variety. Don't miss The OMFG, loaded with bacon, Nashville fried chicken, spicy aioli, a fried egg, and cheddar. Many of these sandwiches are named after East Coast destinations, like The Long Island, The Williamsburg, or The Montauk Lobster Salad.
If you're looking for catering, Gotham offers a variety of bagel platters, and add a latke platter and a cookie tray if you want to provide a full meal. You can grab Gotham's goods on-the-go. Spending a weekend up north in Wisconsin? They also have a location in Madison.
Taste Of New York Bagels
Okay, we had to mention another New York-inspired Chicago bagel spot. The slogan for Taste of New York Bagels is "Made in New York. Baked in Chicago." You'll discover many different bagel types here, but the standout for customers is the rainbow bagel. This perfect choice to eat (but only after taking a photo for social media) can be bought as a single bagel or as a baker's dozen, if you want to bring this colorful breakfast to others.
Now, we have to talk about the cream cheese flavors at Taste of New York Bagels. Bacon Cheddar, Berry Blast, Fig, Rainbow, Vanilla Walnut; we could go on and on. Whether you're in the mood for savory or sweet, this spot has every option for you. There are plenty of breakfast sandwiches as well, if you are craving some eggs with your bagel. A rainbow bagel with egg and cheese? Dreams! Sorry, but we can't get over this rainbow bagel.
3268 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657
This list is based on my visits to some locations, along with reviews for restaurants and bakeries with a clear focus on their best-of-the-best bagels. We selected these eateries based on their overall quality as shared through customer reviews and local publications. By analyzing reviews that highlighted bagels that are well-loved by Chicago customers, we featured these on our list.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.