7 Must-Try DC Bagels (That You Won’t Find at a Bagel Shop)

Think outside the bagel box.

A veggie bagel sandwich at Mercy Me with jalapeno-cilantro cream cheese, crunchy cabbage, and pickled carrots. Photograph courtesy of Mercy Me

It’s hard to beat a great bagel shop—so yes, cue the weekend morning lines at Call Your Mother, Bullfrog, and beyond (this New Yorker cartoon really sums it up). But there’s a hack: bagel specialists aren’t your only option. And those shops, we’ll argue, don’t always make the best bagels. We’ve found delicious, sometimes superior versions at bakeries and restaurants around DC—no line standing required (at least most of the time).

Wood-fired bagels at Big Bear Cafe. Photograph courtesy of Big Bear

Baked by Yael
3000 Connecticut Ave., NW; multiple farmers market locations
This nut-free and allergy-friendly bakery hand-rolls and boils Kosher bagels in several flavors, including poppy, sesame, onion, salt, and everything. In addition to the Woodley Park shop, bagels and cream cheeses are sold at five farmers markets in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

Big Bear Cafe
1700 First St., NW
There’s a reason Sunday morning bagels often sell out from this Bloomingdale cafe—the rustic rounds are made with Castle Valley Mill stone-ground flour and roasted on red-oak planks in the wood-burning oven, giving them a uniquely delicious flavor. You can pre-order them individually with cream cheese and/or house gin-cured smoked salmon. 

Lox bagel at Bread Furst. Photograph courtesy of Bread Furst

Bread Furst
4434 Connecticut Ave., NW
Leave it to James Beard award-winning baker Mark Furstenberg to nail the classic bagel. His cafe’s offerings are hand-rolled, boiled in malt-sweetened water, and baked at the Van Ness shop. They can be ordered individually or fashioned into sandwiches with gravlax, arugula, and pickled onions, or hummus and veggies. 

3221 Mt Pleasant St., NW
One of the best lox bagels in DC doesn’t come from a bagel shop—you’ll find it at this popular Mount Pleasant bakery/restaurant until 2:30 PM (unless they sell out before that). Sourdough bagels and homemade cream cheeses—both also sold individually—are topped with beet-cured salmon, capers, dill, and pickled veggies (Norwegians would be proud). You may also find a bagel riff on Elle’s rightly famous kimchee toast.  Pre-order online. 

Beet-cured salmon at Elle. Photograph courtesy of Elle

Glover Park Grill
2505 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Pastry talent Alex Levin is making delicious bagels again in Glover Park at this new Schlow Restaurant Group spot in the space that once housed Casolare. A cafe serves plain and everything flavors daily, while Sunday brunch (indoors and outdoors) is the place to find a homemade bagel with lox.

Mercy Me
1143 New Hampshire Ave., NW
Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat—bagel powerhouse Call Your Mother is behind the sandwiches at this “sorta South American” spinoff cafe. But you’ll find creations here that don’t exist at CYM—often without the long lines—like a delicious lox bagel with chimichurri cream cheese or a creation with jalapeño-cilantro spread, crunchy cabbage, and pickled carrots on a za’atar bagel.

Lox bagel at Glover Park Grill. Photograph courtesy of Schlow Restaurant Group

1346 Fourth St., SE
The pastry shop and cafe that adjoins Michael Rafidi’s Levantine restaurant Albi doesn’t always have bagels on the daily menu—but you should pounce when they do. Fun flavors like “urfa thing” bagels with sumac-scallion labne spread are worth it.

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.