Tompkins Square Bagels- East Village, NYC
Lox Deluxe $11.50
An Onion bagel with lox, cream cheese, red onion, tomatoes & capers.
The Stuto $8.50
A Gluten Free bagel with bacon, avocado, tomato & chipotle chicken salad.
I’m gonna jump right in with a bold statement: Tompkins Square Bagels is without doubt the best bagel place I’ve been to in NYC. *Sharp intakes of breathe* That is quite the statement! Bagels to New Yorker’s are what a cup of tea is to the English, what a croissant is to the French, what pasta is to the Italians. It’s an essential part of daily life, a cultural symbol and a never-ending source of debate. How to make it, who makes it, where to find the best of it’s kind.
Tompkins Square Bagels was established in 2011 in the East Village neighbourhood. A diverse area known for it’s multiculturalism, thriving arts scene and acclaimed speakeasy cocktail bars. It was my first time in this part of the city but I instantly knew It was going to one of my favourites. Quiet, with a residential feel, where children play in playgrounds and old lady’s feed the pigeons on Sundays. Small independent stores sat alongside typical New York brownstones. String lights swayed in the leafless trees, the alleyways were an artists canvas.
I’ve had a really hard time finding out who we need to thank for opening TSB in the first place. All I managed to dig up was what was already on their website ‘about page’. This someone began their ‘bagel apprenticeship’ at the age of 15 by working alongside hand rolling, kettle boiling and oven baking magicians in Brooklyn. When opening TSB they wanted to recreate the neighbourly atmosphere that they had experienced whilst frequenting the steamy bagel shops of their youth. This, they have certainly achieved. Not only were the bagels out of this world, but the staff were genuinely welcoming and the good vibes might as well have been visible.
Ordering was a breeze at 11 am on a Friday morning, they even brought our food to our table with a flourish and a wide smile. I had requested a ‘surprise’ bagel and ended up with one of the onion variety. Gem went down the gluten free route which was the main reason for bringing her to this particular bagel spot, I had been assured by a celiac that TSB had the best GF bagels in the city. They lived up to and exceeded both our expectations, tasting like and resembling an actual bagel. You may think that a strange observation but I’ll never forget seeing GF bread for the first time in Australia and wondering why the loaf was the size of a postage stamp.
Coincidence has it that we both took our very first bite at the same time. We made eye contact and with our mouths full, both began pronouncing how delicious it was. Gem doesn’t like cream cheese (she claims not to like cheese but LOVES cheesecake, isn’t averse to melted cheese & is a huge fan of pizza..) Sorry Gem, I had to get it in there! She went down the less traditional bagel route and opted for chipotle chicken with bacon and avocado with the tomato stealthy removed like she’s been doing it all her life. I, of course went for my usual Lox and cream cheese, I had briefly (briefly) considered trying something different but when I saw all the different types of fish on display, it would have been a wasted opportunity. Then there was the cream cheese varieties, 29 to choose from! Some of the more unique ones were; pear, espresso, wasabi, peanut butter dip and birthday cake. The latter made them an Instagram sensation overnight a few year’s ago. Then we have the stars of the show: yup, you guessed it, the bagels. I tried a bite of Gem’s but having nothing to compare it to, I can’t really comment. However since she basically inhaled the damn thing, I’d say she enjoyed it. Mine, was outstanding. The perfect balance of chewy and toasty, unbeatably fresh and it even had personality in the fact it wasn’t perfectly round.
So to round it all off, this place is the bomb. Great staff, phenomenal bagels and a relaxed ‘living room’ atmosphere with communal seating and local artists work on the walls. If you’re in NYC and have ‘get a bagel’ jotted down on your to do list, this is the place to come to cross it off!
165 Avenue A, New York, NY, 10009