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Bagel Tasting

Schmear Campaign: 20 bagels, 1 clear winner.

If you’ve ever tried to satisfy the breakfast cravings of a New Yorker, you’ve probably heard “You call this a bagel?”

Yes, finding a good bagel in this town can be tough. But with the arrival of two contenders—Goldberg Bagels in Rockville and a branch of Chutzpah deli, in McLean—the competition’s heating up. Are any worthy of a schmear? We tasted poppy-seed and plain bagels from 20 places to find out.

The Best

Bagels and . . . in Annapolis. Great, yeasty flavor with a superb crust and an airy, slightly chewy texture inside. 75 cents each, $7.60 for a baker’s dozen.

Very Good

H&H bagels at Arrowine in Arlington. H&H dough, imported from New York and baked here, results in terrific flavor. But the texture can be uneven: Some were moist and airy, others dry and crumbly. 75 cents each, $7.50 a dozen.

Chesapeake Bagel Bakery, three locations in Virginia. Perfectly baked crust, dark, with a beautiful coat of poppy seeds. Flavor could be more assertive. 85 cents each, $8.50 a baker’s dozen.

Not Bad

Bethesda Bagels in Bethesda and Whatsa Bagel in Cleveland Park (same owner and recipe). Attractive, with a glossy exterior, worthy air holes, and an almost caramelized flavor thanks to a heavy crusting of poppy seeds. Would be even better if the inside weren’t a bit underdone. 75 cents each, $7.49 a baker’s dozen.

Einstein Bros., 16 area locations. Nice scattering of poppy seeds and good air holes, though not all that flavorful. 89 cents each, $8.30 a baker’s dozen.

Goldberg in Rockville. Good bagel flavor and aroma but underbaked with a too-thin crust and with a bready interior. 75 cents each, $8 a baker’s dozen.

Georgetown Bagelry in Georgetown. Decent crust, but the texture is more like a kaiser roll than a bagel, and the whole thing is a bit salty. 99 cents each, $11.50 a baker’s dozen.

Bagel City Explosion in Rockville. Flavorful but with a disappointing crust and underbaked insides. 60 cents each, $7.20 a baker’s dozen, which here is 14.

Wegmans in Sterling and Fairfax. Best of the supermarket bagels, crusty and moist, but not a lot of bagel flavor. 60 cents each, $7.20 a baker’s dozen, which here is 14.

Don’t Waste the Schmear

Au Bon Pain, Bagel Place in College Park, Balducci’s, Chutzpah in Fairfax, Cosi, Corner Bakery, Dean & DeLuca, Giant, Pumpernickel’s in Northwest DC, Safeway, and Whole Foods.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.