It can be annoying to move (or even just visit) Chicago when you’re used to getting some good bagels at Bruegger’s Bagels. While Bruegger’s has locations in 22 states, Illinois isn’t one of them. So, while you can get terrific bagels and bagel sandwiches at Bruegger’s (you only pay nearly $10 for a bagel sandwich), their bagels are out of the question.
The good news is that Chicago is home to several excellent bagel shops. If you’re used to starting your morning right with a fantastic bagel, then you better make sure you wake up near the following shops:
BroBagel in Wicker Park
The owners of BroBagel are the same owners of Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, so they know what they’re doing. Like any good bagel maker, they make their bagels from scratch. Then they offer a nice range of spread options, including caramelized onion, Sriracha, and garlic confit.
If you really want to go all out, then as for their Atomic Bagel Sandwich. This is one of the best breakfast sandwiches in all of Chicago. It features Hot Doug’s Atomic Sausage with scrambled eggs, and then topped off with some pepper jack cheese. This will clear your sinuses, so to speak.
NYC Bagel Deli
Here you have 3 locations to pick from. You can go to the original shop at 1001 West North Avenue, or you can visit 515 North Dearborn or 1626 W. Lake Street. Whichever place you go, you’ll find that same quality of bagel made by with the genuine, traditional NYC process.
So, how does that go? They start with getting the bagels to a proper boil inside an 80-gallon kettle of hot water. What you get in the end is a proper kettle-boiled bagel that soothes the soul. It’s crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside, and it’s just perfect.
Once Upon a Bagel
This brand also has several locations, so you should find one near you. Just get there early, since the place opens at 6am and they have lots of fans. That way, you can get yourself some of their best oven-fresh offers. Try the blueberry or pumpernickel bagels to make sure you’re getting a terrific bagel. Better yet, add a raisin stix bialy as well.
Once you have your homemade bagels, fill them up with either spinach carrot or walnut-raisin cream cheese. And then thank your lucky stars that you live near Once Upon a Bagel, where you can get a bagel for less than $1.50.
The Bagelers Coffee House at Lincoln Park
Yes, these bagels are all boiled New York-style. But since you’re in Chicago, the bagels here are just a bit sweeter, which makes them great accompaniments for your black and bitter coffee.
Of course, you can just order what you want here, and you won’t be sorry. But you absolutely have to try the Bageler Sandwich. This is one magnificent mess, with bacon and egg, and then you add your pick among their house-made sauces and spreads. This is the flagship bagel sandwich you’re looking for.
New York Bagel & Bialy
There’s one location at Lincolnwood, and another in Skokie. This place is so good that it’s the actual source of bagels for plenty of other bagel shops in Chicago. This is where the iconic Chicago Bagel Authority gets their bagels, and it’s the same for that hipster haven Humboldt Park’s Jeff & Judes.
So why go to those places when you can go straight to the source? Try these bagels, and you’ll realize why so many bagel shops offer them. They’re really that good.
Reno on Milwaukee Avenue
Yes, it’s true that Reno bills itself as an Italian restaurant, and they’re very proud of their pizzas. But they don’t just offer wood-fired pizzas. They also offer wood-fired bagels, and some of them are even vegan. They offer excellent coffee as well, and with the relaxed vibes in the place, this is one super-comfy bagel shop.
They offer an everything bagel, but you should try the olive & herb, poppy seed, and Old Bay bagels. Then you might want to experiment and go with some schmear options like berry cream cheese, whipped feta, or artichoke.
If you’re a vegan, go with the vegan tofu ricotta, sweet potato spread, or the garlic hummus. The mixed berry and raspberry house jams are vegans as well.
The Daly Bagel at Oak Park
This is a very new addition to the Chicago bagel community, as it opened only in 2020. Yet it has gained such a level of popularity that it’s very rare not to find a line of customers out front. That’s an obvious sign that the bagels here are just terrific.
That’s literally true, as you can order any bagel here and you won’t regret it. But you owe it to yourself to try their Ultimate. This bagel features whitefish pate, cucumbers, and either raw or pickled cucumbers. Try it with their coffee, and it’s just about perfect.