Few quotidian foods fuel the kind of snobbery that bagels do. Blame the Bagel Bakers Local 338, the New York union of handmade bagel craftsmen in the first half of the 20th century. It was during that time that the idea of the “perfect” water-boiled bagel was codified, adapted from the Polish original. But outside the Northeast, it can still be difficult to find the rounds that taste and feel exactly right. These are a few that make the cut.
They’re slightly softer than a classic New York–style bagel, but there’s nowhere else to experience the sheer scope of flavors of chewy dough available here. Try the festively pink strawberry bagels, spread with matching cream cheese that’s dotted with real berries. Looking for something savorier? Get a sandwich on a sourdough bagel. 300 Elden St., Herndon
Rise up in the morning (or afternoon) for an appealing breakfast menu that lets the boiled-and-baked rings speak for themselves. The Elvis combines peanut butter, honey, banana, and bacon on a cinnamon bagel for a day launcher that would do The King proud. After all, legend has it that he was a Shabbos goy in his Memphis youth. 2307-A Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
This small chain has its roots in Maryland, but its soul is in New York. The Fleishman family has operated this edible paean to their Jewish heritage since 1982. Corned beef and roast beef are prepped in-house — get the former in a Reuben. The obvious pairing is a bowl of matzo ball soup. It’s what your bubbe would have wanted. 1851 N. Moore St., Arlington
The Clubhouse may not sound like much — turkey, bacon, mayo, lettuce, and tomato — but put it on one of this newbie’s warm, appealingly greasy jalapeño-cheddar bagels for a taste of alchemy. The Italiano is no slouch either, with its collection of cured meats and zippy pickled peppers. 105 S. King St., Leesburg; 130 Purcellville Gateway Dr., Purcellville
These water-boiled bagels are the real deal, as close as you’ll come to Brooklyn in NoVA. Brave the lines at the takeout-only locations and scoop up a bag filled with all seven flavors. Stuff an everything bagel with whitefish salad from Ivy City Smokehouse or pastrami from Maryland’s Saval Deli. The cinnamon-sugar bagel is a jaw-working dessert on its own. The King Street location is only open weekdays. 807 Pendleton St., Alexandria; 1640 King St., Alexandria
Main Street Bagel Deli
Nineteen flavors of traditional, smooth-skinned circles are just the beginning here. There are 62 types of sandwiches available, too. Have a calorie splurge with a Reuben on a deep, dark pumpernickel bagel that absorbs the fats of the corned beef and melted Swiss. If that’s not an ode to New York flavors, nothing is. 10268 Main St., Fairfax
Feature image by Alice Levitt
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