A bagel is nothing more than a dense ring of flour, water, yeast and salt - simple. But in my opinion, there is no better compliment to a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper than a good, hot bagel. Judging by the long lines outside bagel shops on weekend mornings, I’m not alone in this conviction.
At the request of a reader, I endeavored to find the best bagel in Montclair – only to determine it’s actually in Bloomfield. I purchased one everything style bagel from nine different bagel shops and delis across Montclair, and at the insistence of several Montclair residents, one shop in Bloomfield. I tasted each everything style bagel without butter or spreads, and evaluated each bagel based on texture, flavor, how well each bagel was cooked, and to a lesser consideration, price.
Here are my findings:
Coming in at clear number 1, is Hot Bagels Abroad (HBA), 1129 Broad Street, Bloomfield, where I bumped into several Montclair residents, who all confirmed that HBA Bloomfield is without a doubt the best bagel around.
The bagel at HBA Bloomfiled costs $0.90, which seems to be the going rate for a bagel without any butter, cream cheese, etc. A great bagel should be light and fluffy, but never bready. It’s a result that is difficult to achieve, but one that HBA Bloomfield has perfected. The bagel at HBA Bloomfield was crisp on the outside, expertly toasted and golden. On the inside, it was soft, and light. There was a plentiful crust of seeds and seasoning, the onion and garlic toasted to the perfect extraction of flavor. It was, the bomb!
Tied for second place are Sunrise Bagel, in Watchung Plaza ($0.90) and Hot Bagels Abroad (also HBA) ($0.99) 150 Valley Road, Montclair. The Sunrise bagel was big and delightfully light. However it lacked the supreme flavor extraction of HBA Bloomfield. HBA Montclair, which is separately owned from the location in Bloomfield by the same name, was also light, and had particularly flavorful toasted garlic, but lacked a quantity of seeds and the divine, crisp, crust of HBA Bloomfield.
At number three, Beyond the Bagel, 219 Bellevue Ave., Montclair, which offers a soft, but somewhat dense and heavy bagel.
There are other delis where bagels are available, but not baked on premises, and most, with the exception of Park St. Gourmet, 7 Parks St., Montclair, who gets their bagels from HBA Bloomfield, were not desirable. Most are not fresh, sometimes wrapped in plastic wrap, not well cooked, underdone, over-priced, and want for flavor – something that should never be lacking in an everything style bagel.
If you happen to be a bagel enthusiast, visit there are many books of the topic, including, The Bagel Bible for Bagel Lovers, and The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread, all available at Amazon.com.