In the early 20th century, Kraft was looking for a way to sell a new product, “cream cheese”. They looked to the bagel, which was rapidly gaining popularity in New York City, and marketed their product as the its perfect condiment. Adapting traditional recipes, Jewish immigrants in New York City added to this new type of sandwich with smoked salmon (also known as “lox”), tomato, red onion and capers to create a meal that was both tasty and kosher. Thus the iconic bagel and lox, also known as the “nova sandwich”, was born.
While you can get a bagel and lox on nearly every street corner in New York City, only a few select spots can say that they serve the very best bagel and lox in Gotham. Yet what are they? I recently came across an article that features what customers consider the 8 best bagel and lox in New York, listed below:
1. Russ and Daughters: Even though its days as New York’s main Jewish neighborhood are long gone, the Lower East Side is still home to a handful of institutions that have stood the test of time and serve as reminders of an era gone past: Sammy’s Roumanian, Katz’s Deli, Yonah Schimmel, Kossar’s Bialys and of course Russ & Daughters. Since Joel Russ first founded it over 100 years ago, it’s become a temple of smoked fish. The shop gets hand-rolled bagels from Park Slope, cream cheese from upstate New York and lox from a rotating roster of supplies hand-picked for quality.
2. Mile End: Founded by husband-wife team Noah Bernamoff and Rae Cohen in 2010 to emulate the delis of their native Montreal, Mile End is more of a newcomer to the New York deli scene. Their riff on the bagel and lox, known as the “Beauty”, is an homage to “Beauty’s Luncheonette” from their hometown. They use salmon cured for a whole week, grassy cream cheese and local tomatoes, yet most notably eschew the bagel in favor of the bialy.
3. Barney Greengrass: Since it first opened in 1908, little has changed here, but if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Although it’s hailed as the “Sturgeon King”, Barney Greengrass’s bagel and lox is something to write home about. They take malty bagels from Queens’ Davidovich Bakery and pile them with rich cream cheese, sweet red onion, tomato, Acme lox and capers to create something truly unique.
4. Absolute Bagels: After honing his craft at such spots as Ess-a-Bagel and Bagel Nosh, Thai immigrant Samak Thongkrieng opened this no-frills gem 25 years ago in the Upper West Side. While the cream cheeses are good, it’s the bagels that make this place so standout, proportionately layered with tangy cream cheese, Acme lox, tomato and hearty slices of onion.
5. Murray’s Bagels: In 1996, Merrill Lynch VP Adam Pomerantz decided to leave the world of finance and focused his attention on re-creating the Lower East Side bagel shops that his father, Murray, used to take him. After learning about good bagels through eating tours and overnight shifts at a New Jersey bakery, Pomerantz opened Murray’s in the West Village. He’s so proud of his bagels that his shop has a strict “no toasting” policy, but to be honest they don’t need it, especially when topped with lox from an upscale wholesale purveyor in Mamaroneck called “The Smokehouse”, tangy cream cheese, fresh onion and red tomatoes.
6. Zabar’s: Since founded in 1934 by Ukrainian immigrant Louis Zabar, Zabar’s has gone from an appetizing counter into one of New York’s beacons of gourmet food, and has even had the unique honor of being featured in an Al Hirschfeld drawing. Yet true to its roots, the smoked fish remains the heart and soul of this business. Pick up a bagel from the bakery counter, then bring it over to the fish counter and watch them fillet the fish. However, pass on tomato, especially in the winter, when it gets more orange than red.
7. Shelsky’s Smoked Fish: In 2011, professional restaurateur Peter Shelsky opened an homage to the Lower East Side icons of days gone past in Carroll Gardens. While the throwback decor is plenty of fun, it’s the cured seafood selection that’s the real draw. The nova sandwich, dubbed a “Member of the Tribe”, puts buttery lox, peppery red onion, crimson tomato and airy cream cheese on yeasty bagels from Mill Basin Bagel Cafe.
8. Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish: Following in the footsteps of his brother Adam, Matt Pomerantz quit the finance industry to open his own bagel spot in 2007. The flagship location in Tribeca, characterized by pressed tin ceiling, subway-tiled wall and wire baskets, has seen massive success ever since.