Ess-a-Bagel is one of the – if not the – best-known bagel shop in NYC, and for good reason. The bagels are always big, fresh, fluffy, and delicious. The shop’s incredible bagels, long history, and gritty character make Ess-a-Bagel an iconic New York bagel shop.
Established in 1976, Ess-a has been a family-run business for multiple generations and know what they’re doing. OG’s will remember the original Ess-a location on 21st and 1st. This location is where we first fell in love with NYC Bagels, and to this day is the gold standard by which we judge all other bagels against.
Today, there are three Ess-a-Bagel locations to choose from. This one on 1st Ave opened in 2016 after the original Ess-a-Bagel couldn’t come to an agreement with the landlord to renew the lease.
For those lucky enough to have visited the original location, it’s impossible to judge the new shop without comparing it to the old one.
The original location was perfect.
What made the original Ess-a so special?
- Bagels were huge, fluffy, and always hot and fresh.
- Shop was run like a well oiled-machine. Super efficient. Despite long lines, it was never too long a wait. And although a small seating area, there was always a seat.
- Despite its popularity, the shop was totally unassuming. Small, no frills, roll-up-your-sleeve and get to work kind of vibe that embodies the best of the bagel community.
- Having been open since 1976, the place was steeped in history and tradition. The huge windows, wood pannelled walls, and gaudy chandeliers tied the vibe together. The place oozed character.
To summarize: the original Ess-a-Bagel was the ultimate quintessential New York City bagel experience.
With all that in mind, the new shop is a bit of a letdown. Don’t get us wrong, the bagels are still top-notch quality, but it simply doesn’t have the same old school charm that the original location (as well as the Midtown East shop) managed to cultivate. Just compare the old slatted menu with tape all over it vs. the new, electronic one, and tell us which one screams old-school NYC:
This new location is still a top teir bagel shop and absolutely worth the visit. Same goes for the newest location in Chelsea, which opened in 2019. But no matter what, some things will never be as good as they were in the good ol’ days. Nonetheless, if you’re visiting NYC and can only go to one shop, Ess-a-Bagel is the spot to go to.