When I moved back to Boston after seven years in New York, I was excited about many things. Bagels were not one of them. In fact, I was anticipating a major letdown. What I hadn’t realized was this: Over the last couple of years, from JP to Somerville, the Boston area has been quietly undergoing a bagel renaissance.
I sampled five of the area’s proud new wave of bagel bakeries. Each pumps out outstanding bagels that I’d stack up against almost anything New York has to offer. From light and bready to dense and chewy, there is a style here for everyone.
How do they compare? Here is a tasting breakdown, based on sesame, poppy, plain, everything, and pumpernickel varieties. Sorry, fans of blueberry and jalapeno-cheddar. Those aren’t bagels. They are, well, something else. Something that you probably also like to dip in ranch dressing.
Ideal audience: The true sourdough fan.
Crust, crumb, and seeding: Delightfully salty, chewy crumb encased in a light, crackling crust. Moderate seeding.
High point: An everything bagel that allows the poppy seeds to stand out.
Low point: A pumpernickel bagel that contains an overpowering amount of caraway.
1796 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, Cambridge, 857-285-6103, www.bagelsaurus.com
Ideal audience: Those who like smaller, snackier bagels that won’t weigh you down.
Crust, crumb, and seeding: Moderate seeding. A light crust gives way to a super soft, velvety crumb. Bonus points for making bagels that retain terrific flavor and texture even when cool.
High point: The plain is particularly delectable, with an almost buttery aftertaste.
Low point: These bagels are a bit too small for a proper sandwich.
7ate9 Bakery, 199C Highland Ave., Somerville, and other locations. For more information, go to www.betterbagelsboston.com.
Ideal audience: Those who steer clear of dense bagels and prefer a lighter, breadier experience.
Crust, crumb, and seeding: A gently chewy crust yields to an almost feather-light crumb with just a hint of salt. Moderate seeding.
High point: Throwing caraway into the mix of an everything bagel to achieve a wonderfully unique flavor.
Low point: Puzzling smattering of cornmeal on the bottom of the bagels.
Egleston Farmers’ Market, 31 Germania St. (The Brewery), Jamaica Plain, and other locations. For more information, go to www.exodusbagels.com.
Ideal audience: Devotees of large, pungent, and dense bagels.
Crust, crumb, and seeding: Heavy, flavorful seeding. Medium crust and chewy crumb. The plain is surprisingly tasty as well, with a strong hint of sourdough.
High point: A shiny crust that crackles delightfully each time you take a bite.
Low point: When cool they become so chewy they offer a vigorous jaw workout.
Boston Public Market, 100 Hanover St., Boston, 617-945-6123, www.levendbagelry.com
Ideal audience: Pilgrims to the Manhattan appetizing temples of Russ & Daughters and Barney Greengrass, which offer a similar style of bagel.
Crust, crumb, and seeding: Light seeding and crust. Pleasantly salty crumb. Smaller and pleasantly chewy, with a slightly toned-down flavor that makes them a perfect vessel for Mamaleh’s schmears and smoked fish.
High point: Gloriously sour and musty pumpernickel bagel.
Low point: Plain bagel fans will find little distinct flavor in Mamaleh’s.
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-958-3354, www.mamalehs.comSteven Groopman can be reached at email@example.com.
The caption previously reversed the identification of bagels from Exodus and Better Bagels.