Once every year or so, someone (or an entire state) west of the Hudson River adorably tries to claim they have better bagels than New York City. Locals are very sensitive whenever this happens, because bagels are the common love language of New Yorkers of all ages. So naturally, the city was in a bit of a tizzy this week when NY Times writer Tejal Rao, a former Brooklyn resident, declared that California is home to "some of the finest New York-style bagels I’ve ever tasted." The headline of the piece was even more provocative: "The Best Bagels Are in California (Sorry, New York)."
Hopefully, New Yorkers are flattered that so many around the country are furiously trying to reverse-engineer a New York delicacy, and feel secure in the fact that a cross-country imitation could never live up the regional original, no matter how much you experiment with fermentation.
So while there's no need for New Yorkers to get defensive over incendiary claims about our signature bread products, that doesn't mean we don't want a mayoral representative willing to wage war over such assertions.
It is essential for New York politicians to have strong opinions about these kinds of things. That's why outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been a staunch New York bagel advocate despite having a tortured relationship with toasted bagels, was quick to respond to the California mishegas by tweeting the article and declaring, "Yeah, absolutely not." And we also know that bagels can be a make-or-break issue for local political candidates—just ask Cynthia Nixon and her infamous cinnamon raisin bagel with lox, red onions, capers, tomato, and plain cream cheese.
So instead of asking what the mayoral candidates think about the future of transportation and housing in a post-pandemic city, maybe the most important question voters should be asking when choosing between the many varied candidates is: which one would most vigorously defend the NYC bagel? [Editor's Note: this is not the most important question they should be asking.]
Since there's no bagel forum on the schedule, we asked each of the 10 leading democratic candidates for their takes on California vs NY bagels, their go-to bagel orders, and any other bagel opinions–and we sure hope that this is the thing that helps you make a final decision about which candidate to support come June. Here they are in no particular order.
"That Times article was as wrong as lox on a raisin bagel," Stringer told Gothamist, a reference to Cynthia Nixon's bagel faux pas in 2018. He said his favorite bagel is an everything with cream cheese, lox and tomato, and his favorite place to get them is Leo's Bagels in the Financial District. There's no denying that Stringer, the current City Comptroller, has made bagels a central part of his campaign—he tweeted about the Times article, he's kvetched about people ordering bagels at Katz's, and last week, he even made a campaign video at Bagel Hole in Park Slope (see below).
As for how he'd support NYC delicacies if elected, he added, "As mayor, I'll support New York City delicacies by ensuring the establishments that sell them get a fair shot to reopen, stay open, and succeed long into the future."
"As one of the most iconic New York institutions, the Times interestingly has a disconnect with where the best bagels can be found. Because we all know that place is New York City," Morales told Gothamist. "The reality is you can wander into just about any deli or bagel spot here and get a really, really good bagel. Whether it's an everything bagel with lox and lots of cream cheese (which is my go-to) or a plain bagel and butter, you'll find the best ones in NYC. We have a lot to be proud of as New Yorkers and our food is definitely high on the list."
Also in Morales' favor, we can't ignore the fact that she has her own very passionate fan-run bagel Twitter account:
Eric Adams, the current Borough President of Brooklyn, pointed to a tweet he posted on Monday in response to the Times' story, writing, "I may not eat many bagels myself these days, but trust me: THE. BEST. BAGELS. ARE. IN. BROOKLYN. Stop the madness, NY Times." He added that his favorite bagel order was cinnamon raisin with cream cheese, but he now makes his flaxseed bread with vegan cheese.
A spokesperson for Garcia, the former Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation, told Gothamist the candidate was a "hard disagree" with the California hot take: "The best bagels in the world are in New York City. Full stop." Garcia regularly orders bagels from her favorite spots around her Park Slope neighborhood. That includes Brownstone Bagels, which sells the “Kathryn Garcia Bagel,” which is of course her favorite bagel: an everything bagel with cream cheese, a slice of tomato, capers, lox, and onion.
(When it comes to her favorite order and place, she is even more specific: "An everything bagel—open face—with cream cheese, a slice of tomato, capers, lox, and onion, from Bagel Hole in Brooklyn.")
Suffice to say, Garcia is incredibly passionate about bagels and other local delicacies: "She’s a born-and-bred Brooklynite and would be a true hometown mayor, defending NYC’s titles to the best bagels, pizza, bacon-egg-and-cheeses... the list goes on."
Besides having a bagel named after her, she has other bagel bonafides, including the fact she received an early endorsement from Brooklyn Bagel Blog’s founder Sam Silverman for her expert taste in bagels in this TikTok video.
And as for how she'll defend the honor of local foods, her spokesperson said, "Kathryn knows that New York is the greatest city in the world because of our 'only-in-my-neighborhood' shops, our bodega cats, our hole-in-the-wall places with the best ramen, and our world famous restaurants. As mayor, she would fiercely protect and uplift those businesses and do everything she can to empower restaurant owners and workers."
Wiley told Gothamist, "I can’t resist an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox from Catskill Bagel on Cortelyou."
Unlike just about all the other candidates, Donovan's press secretary Jeremy Edwards told Gothamist that Donovan saw the upside of other cities trying to replicate New York's unique bagel flavors and textures: "Shaun knows that New York City has the best bagels bar none. But he is encouraged to see that folks outside the greatest city in the world are finally starting to step up their game."
Donovan's favorite bagel order is an "onion (not toasted!) with smoked salmon and chive cream cheese."
Edwards added this about Donovan's commitment to uplifting local industries: "NYC's small businesses, including those that are responsible for some of the world's most prized delicacies, have been hit incredibly hard by this pandemic. That's why Shaun is committed to supporting small businesses and New York entrepreneurs by establishing a NYC Entrepreneurship Financing Fund, deploying capital to small businesses in neighborhood commercial areas, and strengthening minority and women-owned business enterprises."
“I have not tried these West Coast bagels," Yang told Gothamist. "But I highly doubt that they’d improve on the magic that is New York bagels.“ He adds that his standard order is a whole wheat bagel with scallion cream cheese.
McGuire was not available to comment about his go-to bagel order, but he previously told the Jewish Forward that he enjoys a "Zucker’s everything bagel with light cream cheese and lox."
A spokesperson for Menchaca told Gothamist, "Carlos knows New York has better bagels than LA, period." He previously told the Jewish Forward he prefers a "sesame bagel with plain cream cheese."
Sutton also did not respond to inquiries about her bagel preferences, but at a New York Jewish Agenda mayoral forum in February, she said she liked an everything bagel "with a schmear." (Update: Sutton announced that she is dropping out of the race on Wednesday.)