Bagel expert weighs in on the 8 best bagels in Dallas right now
Editor's Note: Lila Levy has earned her bagel expertise the hard way: by diligently eating bagels nearly every week. Bagels are in her DNA dating back to her childhood. For this story, she's hit all the local shops to come up with the eight top bagels in Dallas.
If you're someone who likes bagels, then Dallas is the place to be right now. Thanks to a wave of bagel shops that have opened in the past few years, we get to be fussy about our bagels again, something we haven't been able to do since the untimely demise of Bagelstein's, RIP.
A New Yorker friend said that a real New York bagel should have a slightly crunchy, toothsome exterior, with an inside that is dense but soft and chewy. Also: A New York bagel fanatic would never describe a bagel in terms of toasting it. Nothing wrong with a toasted bagel, but the true test is the bagel as is.
Taking that advice to heart, I visited new bagel shops and old classics, rating them from great to good. I regret I wasn't able to hit The Bagel Lady in Rockwall or Bāgelolōgy in Frisco, both serious contenders. There's only so many carbs a person can handle — and still more bagels are on the way, including a shop opening in East Dallas this spring.
For now, here's my list, starting with the best and working down:
Small startup debuted in Lewisville in 2021, and is now making big waves with a spinoff location in downtown Dallas. Owner Oren Salomon is an artisan who takes a craft approach, with gourmet ingredients and items like fermented jalapeño cream cheese as well as vegan cream cheese options. You can even specify the "grade" of toasting you prefer (lightly toasted, medium, or heavy). Their bagels are squatty and compact, running smaller than your average bagel, which results in a bagel that has a nice balance of crisp-firm exterior and chewy center. (It also means you can indulge in two bagels instead of one.) Rating: 1.
Sclafani's New York Bagels & Sandwiches
Chris Sclafani opened this cheerful namesake shop in Preston Center in early 2022. Their bagels are generous in size and excellent quality, good enough to eat untoasted and unadorned. The Plain had the crisp, glazed sheen that let you know it had been boiled, but with a crusty bottom from the oven bake. Inside was moist but not doughy, with a sweet malty flavor offset by a slightly sour tang. I liked the toasted poppyseed with mayo, lettuce, scrambled egg, avocado, and hot sauce. They're also known for sub sandwiches like meatball and chicken parm. Rating: 2.
Sclafani's bagels - good with toppings, good on their own.Sclafani's
Shop across from SMU is from young SMU grad Justin Shugrue, who is also opening a location in the former Great American Hero space on Lemmon Avenue. They're into "extreme" bagel sandwiches such as the jalapeno-cheddar bagel with scrambled eggs, American cheese, and hot sauce that I ordered. The bagel was somewhat Kaiser-roll-ish, with a good taste though not particularly a bagel texture — it was better toasted. They do have the New York attitude with staff that seemed impatient, and they forgot an ingredient on my friend's order. Rating: 3.
Bagel Cafe 21
Richardson shop opened in February 2021 by Lisa & Kyriakos Kouzoukas, who previously owned Bagel Fresh Deli in The Colony, and Kyriakos once owned doughnut shops and gyro spots in the Northeast. They follow the traditional boil-and-bake method, with the resulting bagels being softer and fluffier than some others, with a rather subtle crust. They offer 21 varieties (thus the name), including a gimmicky-if-fun rainbow bagel, available weekends only. I got it with egg, made on a griddle literally behind the register, for a sandwich that felt lighter than the usual bagel bomb. Rating: 4.
One of Shug's Bagels' "extreme" sandwiches.Lila Levy
Flashy Highland Park spinoff from New York opened in 2022, and exists almost like a movie version of a deli, with an emphasis on pretty presentations — lots of towers like the one we ordered with egg salad on top, cucumbers and tomatoes sliced thin and fanned out for maximum visual effect, and a toasted everything bagel on the bottom. Their bagels are medium in size and compact. The everything bagel was a good choice since its thick coat of seasoning provided loads of crunch; a plain bagel we ordered on the side was less impressive. Rating: 5.
Benny's was once a chain; now the remaining locations — McKinney, Richardson, Frankford Ave/Dallas, and Lakewood — are independently owned, although they still all get their dough from the same California supplier. Each location has its following; Frankford, for example, is the only location that's vegetarian and kosher. I go to Lakewood, because I love their honey almond apricot cream cheese topping, which I get on my default order: a toasted poppy seed bagel. Their bagels tend to be irregularly shaped, with a little more crust than interior, for a good solid chew. Rating: 6.
One of Dallas' classic remaining old-time delis, this North Dallas spot is better known for its stacked sandwiches, and draws big crowds at lunch. Bagels are but one part of their New York magic, and therefore their selection can be limited. On my visit for this roundup, I didn't get there until lunch and missed out on their acclaimed Everything Bagel, ideally topped with lox they cure in-house. All they had left were raisin bagels, and I usually veer towards savory, but I dove in and got it toasted and topped with strawberry cream cheese. These guys were doing decent bagels in Dallas back when decent bagels were hard to find. Rating: 7.
Cindi's NY Deli & Restaurant
Small local chain with four locations is owned by Anh Vo, a philanthropic businesswoman with strong ties to Dallas' Jewish population; her busiest location is around the corner from the Jewish Community Center. Cindi's strong point is its amazing bakeshop with Northeast-style favorites such as black & white cookies, Danish, and bear claws, plus bagels in 15 varieties as well as white fish and lox spreads. I ordered a toasted onion bagel which on its own was a little white-bread dull in flavor, but which makes a great vessel for their amazing chunky vegetable cream cheese. Rating: 8.
Fun rainbow-colored bagels from Bagel Cafe 21.Lila Levy