10 Best Bagels in Los Angeles

Bueller's everything bagel with chive cream cheeseEXPAND
Bueller's everything bagel with chive cream cheese
Rachael Narins

The Western-style bagel we have in Los Angeles gradually morphed from its original form to appeal to the tastes and trends of this city. Since most people in L.A. aren't from traditional bagel-eating cultures - i.e., not from New York - and therefore don't have specific allegiance to a particular type of bagel, local bakers have had the freedom to make their bagels their own.

What is a Western-style bagel, anyway? It's a bagel that's typically 4 inches in diameter and up to 2 inches tall, with a somewhat chewy exterior and a lightly fluffy interior. This is opposed to a New York-style bagel, which is smaller and denser, and a Montreal-style bagel, which is boiled in a honey solution.

To pick 10 of the best bagels in this town, we sampled breads that were boiled - which is what makes a bagel a bagel - and then pan- or hearth-baked.  We avoided national chains, such as Einstein's and the (very, very good) Original Brooklyn Water Bagel, and at each stop, we tried one plain, one everything, a poppy seed and a wild card. (No fruit, seasonal or novelty bagels.)

We were looking for the perfect balance of crispy outside and flavorful, well-textured interior. What we were not looking for was the best imitation of a bagel from another city. If you miss your Polish obwarzanek, or your East Coast edition, we understand your plight, but this is not the list to help on your quest. If you want a great local bagel, here are 10 you might truly love.

Milo and Olive sesame seed bagel
Milo and Olive sesame seed bagel
Rachael Narins

10. Milo and Olive
If appellation d'origine contrôlée designations were required in the United States, this bagel would be pinned securely to the Santa Monica map. It's a modern and unencumbered interpretation. Made daily, in small batches, the wide bagel comes in plain, sesame and poppy seed. It has a light gamboge exterior, and a pale, whole wheat - flecked interior. As the folks here are bread baking artists, it's no surprise that the bagel has an interior of loose, not quite even holes, creating an airy, toothsome crumb that is utterly satisfying when toasted. Our only qualm is that they charge $1.50 to add a single pat of  ultra-rich Plugra butter to the $2 item. Go for the cream cheese instead. Available at Milo and Olive and, in extremely limited quantities, at the Mid-City and Pico Boulevard Sweet Rose Creamery locations. 2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 453-6776.

Sam's garlic bagelEXPAND
Sam's garlic bagel
Rachael Narins

9. Sam's Bagels
For more than 35 years, the folks at Sam's Bagels have been serving their large, twisty bagels to a grateful public. Thanks to the excellent foot traffic in the area (and despite or maybe because of the spin class and yoga studio attendees), they sell out of almost everything, daily. What the Sam's bakers make is at once a hearty - due to the size - and a light, handmade bagel. The bread is chewy without being tough, but what distinguishes the bagels here is the terrific overall flavor, whether plain or embellished. (The dark garlic version in particular is worth seeking out.) 150 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 469-1249.

New York Bagels' everything with cream cheese
New York Bagels' everything with cream cheese
Rachael Narins

8. New York Bagel
Since they took over the Frank Gehry-designed bakery in 2003, owners Patra Kittichanthira and Ted Cichowski have added plenty of appealing, health-conscious food to their burgeoning menu. What they didn't change are the bagels (or the people baking them - points for creating long-term jobs!) that have been coming out of the oven since 1991. Appealing to East Coasters and locals alike, the bagels have a  crackly crust and bone-colored interior that is soft, subtle and satisfying. Reflecting the neighborhood, the prices are a bit higher than elsewhere, but they also have free parking and a great space with cool photography and a family-friendly vibe. 11640 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 820-1050.

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