I just tried my first New Jersey bagel. Here’s my honest review.

by admin

The other day, I mentioned offhandedly to a coworker that I’d not yet tried a New Jersey bagel. He looked like he’d seen a ghost.

Hey, cut me some slack! I’ve only lived in the Garden State for five months now (relocated from Alabama), and I have indeed tried several other iconic New Jersey foods like pork roll/Taylor ham (I include both names, as an equal opportunity eater). I’ve also sampled disco fries beside a colorful diner owner and performed my first Jersey diner visit at the Tick Tock Diner; a momentous occasion with yummy food and hilarious regulars’ chitchat.

The everything bagel with cream cheese was not your typical bagel affair.Karim Shamsi-Basha

Back to my incredulous colleague: “You mean to tell me that you’ve lived here for five months and still haven’t had a bagel?”

I get it, New Jersey loves its bagels. But how different can a bagel be from place to place? It’s a circle of bread topped with different seasonings. Oh yeah, and there’s a hole in the middle. What’s the big deal? In Alabama where I lived for three decades, I had many bagels that were fine, so let’s not get carried away.

My friend continued talking, now waving his arms: “Dude, we have to do this together, like tomorrow.”

I agreed to meet him the next morning at Sunrise Bagel in Montclair, which he swore is one of the best bagel places in the entire state. Yeah, yeah.

I ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese and a sesame bagel with Taylor ham. We took our bagels outside under a gorgeous November sun, a bit of nip in the air, and we sat down on a picnic table.

I unwrapped the everything bagel first. Upon glancing at the wheel of dough, I noticed the inside was fluffy, airy even with tiny pockets everywhere — not dense like those bagels I had in Alabama or bought from the supermarket. Also, the bagel was thick — huge, actually.

A bagel at sunrise

Sunrise Bagels in Montclair is an established bagel restaurant in New Jersey.Karim Shamsi-Basha

I took my first bite.

Oh. My. God.

Was I eating a … bagel? It tasted heavenly. I heard angels sing. Wait, that was the radio from a car nearby, but close enough!

Beyond my theatrics, the bagel really was delicious, easily the best I’d ever had. The dough was light and soft, the inside was supple and the outside almost crispy. The everything seasoning was not over-sprinkled with salt like all the everything bagels I’ve had before. There was just the right amount, as though it was paying respect to the glorious dough and bowing to its majesty.

My friend was recording my reaction and laughing. I looked at him and nodded in approval, then I devoured the entire thing. I couldn’t put it down. You win again, Jersey eats!

Bagel stack

My first bagel in the Garden State stacked up for sure.Karim Shamsi-Basha

Next, I eyed the Taylor ham bagel. It was stuffed solid, loaded with pork roll with eggs and cheese spilling out. I took a bite.

Double OMG! The angels sang again — nope, another car drove by.

The sandwich was greasy breakfast bliss, of course, but the bagel — oh, the bagel — was somehow even fluffier and airier than the first. I continued chowing down, happy as a clam — and soon ready for a nap.

There you have it my new New Jersey friends: Y’all (excuse me, “you guys”) make a mean bagel. As I contemplated what a life of three square bagel meals a day might look like for me, I had another thought, which tends to follow each of these awesome discoveries: What should I try next?!

Karim Shamsi-Basha may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter & Instagram. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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