Battle Bagel pits an established Houston food landmark in New York Bagel Shop & Deli against behemoth chain Einstein Bros. To keep it a fair fight, all bagels were fresh and eaten with cream cheese. Only samples of poppy and sesame seed bagels were reviewed.
New York Bagel Shop & Deli (9724 Hilcroft) For many native Houstonians, walking into NY Bagel is like walking into your childhood. I've gone a few times each year for most of my life, and I can tell you virtually nothing has changed about the place. That includes the quality of bagels. They boil their bagels as the first step in the overall cooking process, a must for an authentic bagel. The dense poppy seed bagel had a chewy, almost tough exterior, but a soft interior--all characteristics you look for in a traditional bagel. My one complaint was that it needed an extra minute in the oven for browning.
The sesame seed bagel shared the same characteristics but was flawless--browned a bit more, and thus yielding a perfect bite. Both bagels were topped with a generous sprinkling of seeds. Warning, if you suffer from any type of jaw ailment, such as TMJ, be prepared for possible soreness after one NY bagel. But that's more of a compliment than anything. A baker's dozen costs $9.90, but don't expect them to be sliced. NY Bagel won't do it.
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Einstein Bros Bagels (5525 W. Weslayan) This particular Einstein Bros was bustling on a Saturday morning. The Weslayan location was chosen for its close proximity to NY Bagel. Although crowded, service was fast and friendly--and they even sliced the bagels for me. Einstein was off to a good start. But with the arrival of the actual product, things got a little rough, or should I say soft--very soft, too soft.
Both the poppy and sesame bagels were loaded with seeds and quite flavorful. But the soft outside texture of each reminded me more of a nice roll than a bagel. Unlike NY Bagel, Einstein Bros does not boil their bagels, they just bake them. That's a strike in my book, and the cause of the soft exterior. I did enjoy the extra seeds and the ease of eating both bagels. It's worth noting that due to the extreme freshness and positioning in the box, some of my bagels were smashed in transport. A baker's dozen ran $9.19.
Winner Both places offered a quality product, but the winner was NY Bagel Shop & Deli. They had the better-tasting, more traditional bagels. Although New York Bagel doesn't quite measure up to an authentic New York bagel, they're the best we've got in Houston. And that isn't changing anytime soon. But Einstein's hasn't seen the last of me, in large part because of their numerous locations. Also, Einstein's is better suited for children or adults with either dentures or teeth issues. The bagels are just easier to consume.
Oh, and as for the battle within the battle: NY's sesame seed was the best of the four bagels.