Bakery Chain Bagels Ranked Worst To Best

Bagels aren't just another breakfast option — they carry some serious cultural significance. They are traditionally considered a quintessential Jewish food, despite their origin story being a little murky. Generally speaking, bagels' roots lay in 14th-century Poland and were brought to North America by Eastern European immigrants a few centuries later. On this continent, two East Coast cities claim to have the best bagels: New York City and Montréal.

Both regions have birthed some excellent and wholly authentic bagelries, while other, more mainstream cafés struggle to keep up. Most bakery chains either boast a New York-style bagel or a Montréal-style one — never both. The difference? A good New York-style bagel must be boiled in water (and sometimes malt) before baking, but not just any water — New York water. It's been alleged that New York's soft water contains low levels of calcium and magnesium, making it a perfectly neutral element in the bagel-making process.

Montréal-style bagels take a slightly different approach — the rings of dough are traditionally boiled in water, sweetened with a little bit of honey, then baked in a wood-fired oven. While both New York and Montréal-style bagels have their own delicious qualities, it's up to the bakery chains to really deliver. Want to know which chains are rolling out amazing bagels and which ones have some work to do? This is our list of bakery chain bagels ranked from worst to best.


Let's face it: Food has never been the focus at Starbucks. When its flagship store opened in Seattle in 1971, it sold coffee and tea only. By the early 2000s, fast food chains were improving their coffee game, putting Starbucks in direct competition with McDonald's and the like. This prompted Starbucks to jump on the hot breakfast food wagon, offering a small selection of items that included pastries, egg sandwiches, and bagels.

Starbucks' online menu describes its bagels as "New York-style," but they're really underwhelming. The bagels are not baked on-site at the café — they arrive at the store wrapped in plastic, and the nothing-special cream cheese is served on the side. Starbucks does not prioritize the quality of its bagels, and it shows. In the mid-2010s, Starbucks got a little more creative and brought in bagel bites from Bantam Bagels, but the little stuffed bread morsels proved to be another fleeting fad in Starbucks' pastry case and were discontinued.

The mega-chain continues to sell its generic, bland bagels in very limited flavors (plain, everything, multigrain, and cinnamon raisin). In December 2022, two customers filed a lawsuit against the Starbucks corporation for deliberately misleading consumers about the ingredients of its sprouted grain bagel. Starbucks sold the sprouted grain bagel at a "premium price" due to its "health benefits," despite the fact that it contained a minimal amount of the coveted sprouted grain. In response, Starbucks removed the controversial bagel from its menu.

Au Bon Pain

This French-inspired bakery chain, whose name translates as "from good bread," has been serving fast casual food since the early 1980s. Au Bon Pain's breakfast menu has many quick-grab options like parfaits, baguette sandwiches, and croissants, but there are a handful of bagels to choose from as well. Although the company website assures that its products are fresh-baked each morning, Au Bon Pain's bagels just aren't up to the same standards set by other bakery chains.

Au Bon Pain has more flavor choices on its bagel menu than Starbucks does, but if you order one with cream cheese, you'll get the same pre-packaged Philadelphia brand that you could buy in almost any grocery store. What's more, when made-to-order bagels were considered a food trend in the mid-to-late 1990s, Au Bon Pain was criticized by The Washington Post for selling a sourdough Dutch apple bagel topped with a streusel that didn't even have a hole in the middle.

It was yet another instance of bagel "purists" dismissing bakery chains for churning out inauthentic bagels for profit. After the bagel gimmicks died down, Au Bon Pain's troubles continued. The business has been struggling financially for quite some time, giving rise to suspicions that its bagels — and much of the other food on the menu — are not drawing in enough customers.


Whether you're a Dunkin' devotee or not, it's impossible to deny the widespread success of the franchise formerly known as Dunkin' Donuts — there are over 11,300 locations throughout the world. Does this mean that Dunkin's bagels are good? No.

It may not have come as that big of a shock when a Dunkin' employee disclosed via TikTok that the bakery chain's baked goods are not prepared in-house. Instead, all locations receive shipments of "naked" donuts and bagels that are finished with designated fillings and toppings. In 2012, Dunkin' was lashed with criticism that its "artisanal bagel" line was false advertising. One actual artisan sued Dunkin', saying that the fast food titan had no right to describe its mass-produced bagels that way.

The less-than-savory reactions prompted Dunkin' to release a statement, writing in part, "The word 'artisan,' which has been used by numerous other retailers in the food and restaurant industry, is a common term used to describe quality food and authentic, traditional ingredients and taste. We therefore believe it is a fair and appropriate word to describe the line of bagels featuring our new bagel recipe." (via Forbes). Insert eye roll here.

Noah's New York Bagels

Due to New York being the undisputed bagel hotspot in the U.S., many bakery chains sell "New York-style bagels" as a way to boost the appeal of the product. Some bagel chains even incorporate "New York" into their brand name, which is exactly what Noah's New York Bagels did. The original Noah's New York Bagels was opened in Berkeley, California in 1989 by Jewish-American businessman Noah Alper, but it isn't an authentically New York establishment.

Noah's bagel empire has expanded into 55 locations, but all of them are in California. The company website implies that Alper wanted to bring a taste of his native New York to the Golden State, but he is actually from Massachusetts. And the bagels? Reviews range from decent to disappointing. Noah's New York Bagels has been praised for being a slice above the rest of California's far-from-stellar bagel scene, but there are plenty of poor reviews out there.

Noah's New York Bagels was unique in that it introduced kosher bagels to Californians, but reviewers have called out the lack of resemblance Noah's Bagels have to those served in Jewish bagelries in New York. The company's dubious business practices have also hurt its image. In January 2022, a video showing all 15 employees of Noah's New York Bagels in Vacaville, California, quitting at once went viral, calling the company's treatment of its staff into question.

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Founded in 1995, Einstein Bros. Bagels entered the fast-casual sector with the goal of bringing oven-to-table bagels and hot coffee to the masses. As time went by, Einstein Bros. became the unofficial college campus bagel shop throughout the U.S. And why not? Einstein was a professor, after all. As of 2021, Einstein Bros. Bagels has been owned by Panera Bread, but its bagels fall slightly short of Panera's.

Einstein Bros. offers non-traditional bagel flavors like chocolate chip, plus a handful of self-described "gourmet" options like spinach florentine, jalepeño cheddar, and apple cinnamon. Rather than use the traditional method of boiling the bagels before baking them, Einstein Bros. steams them for about 30 seconds before popping them in the oven. Some bagel aficionados might be skeptical of the company's less-than-authentic offerings, but that's not the only gripe about this bakery chain.

Customer complaints have criticized Einstein Bros. Bagels' lack of freshness, its tendency to run out of bagels, or other declines in service. The company has had a fair share of financial hurdles in the past and closed many of its locations in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite dips in positive feedback, Einstein Bros. Bagels has managed to maintain a solid enough reputation. There are currently hundreds of outputs still open across the country.

Panera Bread

Though Panera Bread has been in existence since 1987, in more recent times, it has become a huge bakery chain boasting more than two thousand store locations in the United States and raking in billions of dollars in revenue each year. Panera Bread has a sprawling menu that includes all kinds of lunch options, coffee and tea beverages, sweet treats, and of course, bagels and cream cheese.

Considering that each Panera location is expected to put out so many different menu items, the overall quality of its bagels is pretty good. There are several different flavors, including cinnamon, chocolate chip, blueberry, and asiago, which have been longtime customer favorites. The most prominent weakness in Panera Bread's bagel game is that it doesn't sell freshly made bagels the way other bakery chains do.

Also, they don't boil the rings of dough before baking, which in bagel culture is kind of a sacrilege. Crafting from scratch bagels on such a massive scale would be near-impossible to pull off, and Panera fans seem to understand. The bagel dough is delivered to the store frozen and baked in ovens on the premises, but this doesn't dissuade people from frequenting Panera Bread and grabbing their favorite flavor bagel with cream cheese. 

The Bagel House

This bakery chain is exclusive to Toronto, Canada, but it's been churning out true Montréal-style bagels for over 20 years. Founders Sat Chouhan and Jessie Sahdra honed their craft in some of Montréal's most respected bagelries and took the operation to Toronto at the turn of the 21st century. Bagel House offers traditional bagels, specialty flavors, twist bagels, and mini bagels. All bagels are boiled in honey water for a few minutes before baking in a wood-fired oven so that the outside has a shine and is crunchy while the inside is slightly sweet and chewy.

Cream cheese, Nutella, and a bounty of sandwich fillings are available day and night at this 24-hour bakery chain. The Bagel House prides itself on using ingredients that are local to Ontario and maintains a focus on eco-friendly sustainability. There's usually a line, and customer reviews note that the service could use some improvement, but there is no denying that the Bagel House knows how to make a delicious bagel that keeps people coming back.

Bruegger's Bagels

The larger a bakery chain is, the more challenging it is to consistently craft a quality, scratch-made bagel, but Bruegger's Bagels does an excellent job. Bruegger's Bagels opened in 1983, and after all these years, it still honors the baking practices learned from landmark bagel shops in New York City. All of the bagels at Brugger's are kettle-boiled and baked in a stone hearth.

No preservatives or artificial colors are added; instead, Bruegger's informs on its website that just five ingredients are used in the bagel baking process: flour, water, malt, yeast, and salt. Its cream cheese is made in Vermont and blended with ingredients like garden vegetables, smoked salmon, strawberries, or bacon and scallion.

There are nearly 200 Bruegger's Bagels locations spread across 22 states, so it's a lot more convenient to visit than other regional bagel chains — not to mention Bruegerr's caters and delivers. Customer satisfaction is strong, with many reviewers giving the thumbs up to Bruegger's bagel sandwiches.

Brooklyn Water Bagel

If you assume that Florida is a bagel desert of sorts, then we've got good news: Brooklyn Water Bagels is a bakery chain based in The Sunshine State that takes the art of the New York-style bagel to a whole new (water) level. As we mentioned earlier, there is a widespread belief that New York City water does not contain as much calcium and magnesium — two minerals that characterize hard tap water — thereby making it ideal for boiling bagel dough prior to baking.

Enter "Brooklynized" water, what Brooklyn Water Bagels' website describes as "a proprietary water treatment system known as "Brooklyn Water Works," which can "successfully replicate the natural composition of the water that flows through the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York into the homes of Brooklyn residents."

Every bagel made in Brooklyn Water Bagels' Florida locations is kettle-boiled in Brooklynized water, and the results are a hit among the locals. The malty flavor and chew of these bagels are really close to the ones you can get in Brooklyn — but close isn't exactly the real deal. As one Tripadvisor reviewer put it, "It's not quite the standard of a bagel in Brooklyn, but it's the closest you're gonna get outside of the City."

Yeastie Boys Bagels

It turns out that New York and Montréal have a little competition from the West Coast by way of Yeastie Boys Bagels, a food truck fleet based in Los Angeles. The company name itself is a fun nod to Brooklyn's own Beastie Boys, but the hand-rolled bagels served from its six trucks also draw major inspiration from the borough. Founded in 2014, Yeastie Boys Bagels' trucks have lured a steady crowd of fans who can't get enough of the chain's one-of-a-kind sandwiches.

Sure, you can get your traditional bagel and schmear at Yeasite Boys, but its curated selection of cleverly named bagel sandwiches sounds seriously appetizing. There's the Reubenstien, a pit-smoked pastrami and Swiss sandwich with sauerkraut and Russian dressing served on an everything bagel. Or maybe you'd like to go vegan and order the Mishka, which includes vegan roasted bell pepper spread topped with tomato, onion, and sprouts.

Thrillist named Yeastie Boys Bagels as one of the top 10 bagel shops in Los Angeles. In 2023, Yeastie Boys collaborated with Taco Bell on some unique breakfast items. The publicity is well earned. Yeastie Boys Bagels counts legendary actor Diane Keaton and (Brooklyn-born) Jerry Seinfeld as fans.

Bergen Bagels

Okay, you've waited long enough. It's time to get into the actual New York bagel chains that rank among the best on the planet. These chains are small, but they are mighty. One such chain is Bergen Bagels. Since the start, Bergen Bagels — which opened in 1999 on Bergen Street in Downtown Brooklyn — has carved out an esteemed reputation for its fresh, scratch-made bagels. Founder Yitzhak Saadi has managed to stand out in a highly saturated market filled with Jewish bakers who treat bagel baking as a ceremonial experience.

As any New Yorker knows, the beauty of the city's bagel culture is that everyone is allowed to have their own opinion of which shop does it best. But it's impossible to count Bergen Bagels out. The simple, pure way it creates a no-frills, quality product is exemplary — Food & Wine named Bergen one of "the best bagels in America." All three Brooklyn locations offer straightforward, classic flavors like egg, rye, salt, pumpernickel, and poppy that can be paired with indulgent sandwich ingredients like corned beef, hot chicken cutlet, or sablefish. Bergen Bagels' cream cheese selections are also plentiful; there's dill, raspberry, walnut raisin, and avocado, just to name a few.

Russ & Daughters

If you're looking for a great bagel with a side of New York City heritage, you'll find that in Russ & Daughters. Polish immigrant Joel Russ began his business in 1907, selling herring out of a pushcart in Manhattan's Lower East Side. From there, Russ & Daughters grew into a brick-and-mortar location and solidified itself as a true New York City institution. It has remained one of the most viable Jewish bakeries out there for over 100 years — largely in part for its bagels. One of its most famous menu items is aptly named "The Classic," a bagel with cream cheese and hand-sliced smoked salmon.

In 2019, Russ & Daughters expanded beyond its Lower East Side and Midtown outputs and established a third location in Brooklyn. The facility in Brooklyn Navy Yard serves as both a bagel shop and factory where Russ & Daughters' bagels are baked in the company of some of the finest rye bread, bialys, knishes, and babkas you will find in the city. The Russ & Daughters in Brooklyn bakes between 300 to 800 dozen fresh bagels every day — a testament to just how loved this bagel chain is.

Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

There's a big buzz surrounding Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company, but what do you expect from the bakery chain that makes "the best bagels in NYC," according to Food Network? Weirdly enough, you will not find any Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company shops in Brooklyn, so don't let the name lead you onto the wrong subway platform. Three locations are in Queens, and two are in Manhattan.

The large, hand-rolled bagels are expertly kettle-boiled to ensure they have the perfect, crisp, bubbly skin that distinguishes bagels from being just another bread roll. Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company also specializes in making gluten-free bagels and spelt flour bagels so that those with grain sensitivities can still indulge in the goodness. Every classic bagel flavor is present, from blueberry to everything, with some seasonal specials tossed in. Every bagel is just the right amount of fluffy. Cream cheese is taken seriously here too.

Sweet and savory flavors are equally inventive, with offerings like cannoli being displayed alongside jalepeño asiago and honey bacon sriracha. Non-dairy and tofu cream cheeses are also on the menu. The devoted team of bakers at Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company knows how to strike a perfect balance between variety, inclusivity, and exemplary craftsmanship, a noble feat for any bakery chain.

St-Viateur Bagel

We could go on about all the things we love about Montréal, Québec: charming neighborhoods, cool shops, people speaking French. But we're here to talk about the best bagel bakery chain of all — St-Viateur Bagel. Montréal's first St-Viateur location opened in 1957 and has been the golden standard of bagel chains ever since. Together with fellow Québécois bakery Fairmount Bagel, St-Viateur put the Montréal-style bagel on the international map, introducing a subtly sweet, smaller bagel to the masses.

On the wave of that success, St-Viateur Bagel grew into a small chain. Today, there are six locations in Québec, but the flagship bakery is on rue St-Viateur Ouest, which is arguably the most special. St-Viateur was founded by a Polish immigrant and Holocaust survivor named Myer Lewkowicz. Now, the historic chain is owned by Joe Morena, who has worked at St-Viateur since he was 15 and upholds the same small-batch bagel-making practices Lewkowicz taught him decades ago.

St-Viatuer is known to bake over 1,000 dozen honey-water boiled bagels per day at the original location alone, which is a straightforward, cash-only operation where the bagels — not cream cheese — are the star of the show. If you'd prefer a more restaurant-like experience, head to St-Viatuer in the Plateau Mont-Royal district. This location is both a bakery and a café, so you can sit and order a bagel with cream cheese or a bagel sandwich made by artisans who are truly at the top of their game.