The 2018 Great Minnesota Bagel Showdown

Six years ago, TC Jewfolk set out on a mission to crown the best bagel in the Twin Cities. Out of seven bagels tested, the best Twin Cities bagel of 2012 belonged to… Bruegger’s! Wait, what? There’s never been anything wrong with Bruegger’s – but the best in the TC? Frankly, it was an embarrassment then, and even more so now; and by not immediately retesting the following year… I mean, that’s just journalistic malpractice.

I blame the editor.*

But that ends now! The TC bagel game has changed in six years, and TC Jewfolk knew they could only trust two people (plus two) for this job: the Jews behind the “wildly popular” Instagram @fancydinnerclub. We’re Jews, we like food, so that makes us… just like every other M.O.T. But we braved the #classic mid-October snowstorm for a new seven bagel lineup.

We ordered two bagels from each place: a plain bagel with plain cream cheese, and a “Dealer’s Choice” combo: either their best seller, a seasonal bagel, or when all else failed, the “OK whatever, just give me an everything bagel with the [oniony] shmear.”

We graded the bagels on the following criteria:

  • Look (out of 5): Do your eyes say, “I need this?”
  • Crust (5): Firm, not crunchy, and distinct from the guts of the bagel
  • Fluffiness/Chew (5): Soft and pliable, but not “chewy.”
  • Taste (10): Nothing else matters if it tastes bad, so this is worth double points.
  • Intangibles (5): Any special shout outs that didn’t otherwise get their due.

We chose seven places that make their own bagels. We acknowledge there might be more (looking at you CariEinstein’sbou), so if we left off your favorite, let us know about it in the comments!

Without further ado, the contenders:

  • Bruegger’s
  • Cecil’s Deli
  • Common Roots
  • Meyvn
  • Panera
  • Rise Bagel Co.
  • St. Paul Bagelry

To the results:

#7: Panera

Total Score: 75

With four judges, a perfect overall score per bagel is 120. With two bagels judged, each place could earn a possible 240 points. Panera scored 75, only 31% of the possible points. I gave the plain bagel 1s across the board. It had no flavor, no texture, and a giant hole. I’m actually mad. Panera doesn’t serve bagels – they serve “bagels.” The everything “bagel” with reduced fat chive and onion cream cheese scored a bit better, but it still sucked. Takeaway: don’t get Panera for bagels.

#6: Cecil’s Deli

Total Score: 95

Cecil’s gets my eternal respect for keeping the old school Jewish deli alive in the TC. Unfortunately, their bagels just aren’t great. We liked the taste of the plain bagel well enough, and both the plain and egg bagels got solid marks for their chew, but that’s it. They were oval-shaped, and the egg bagel was more “bagel” than bagel. Listen. Go to Cecil’s. Maybe even get that egg bagel with some pastrami and/or other big, acidic flavors. Just don’t eat them alone with shmear.

#5: Bruegger’s

Total Score: 117

You knew it wasn’t going to win again. You figured how could it? But when you saw it wasn’t seventh, or even sixth, I know you started thinking, “Maybe…” But no. We actually liked the dealer’s choice bagel, and Bruegger’s alone among the seven got the New York Hole correct. Overall, if you’re in a pinch and need something quick, you won’t go wrong here. But best bagel in the Twin Cities? Nah.

#4: St. Paul Bagelry

Total Score: 130

St. Paul Bagelry got average scores across the board, earning them middle position. Nothing was noticeably wrong, yet nothing stood out. The boring plain combo was, understandably, boring. I also thought the seasonal pumpkin bagel was awful, but my fellow testers did like it. They have a billion bagel/shmear combos to try, and I’m sure some are worth getting – I would like to go back and find my favorite.

#3: Common Roots Cafe

Total Score: 161

Common Roots divided the group. Its plain combo is the first on this list we’d consider ordering again. The everything bagel we got was pale, misshapen, and looked (in my best Paul Hollywood voice) underbaked. It got the lowest Look score of any bagel (not including “bagels”). Yet one of us really liked that look, it tasted fine, and CR’s garlic, dill and chive shmear easily took the Cream Cheese Crown. Deeply, deeply flavorful shmear. Buy a baker’s dozen of your favorite bagels, a tub of that special sauce, and call it a weekend. You will not be disappointed.

#2: Meyvn

Total Score: 184

Meyvn’s plain bagel looked (in my best Mary Berry voice) most enticing. But Meyvn lost enough ground on its everything bagel with jalapeño cream cheese that ended up Sham to the winner’s Secretariat. It was just a bit misshapen, just a bit unevenly seasoned, and the jalapeño shmear just was not very good. That plain bagel tho. The crust bubbled and crunched without being overbaked, the inside was tender without being chewy, and tasted smokey from that wood-fired oven. We got plain-on-plain from each place because we wanted their purest expression of Bagel – no frills, nowhere to hide, no masking poor technique. Meyvn won that contest, and really, only one other bagel came close.

#1: Rise Bagel Co.

Total Score: 207

That place is Rise. The best bagel place in the Twin Cities! We loved the taste of both bagels we ordered, and their everything bagel with scallion cream cheese actually beat out Meyvn’s plain as top individual bagel. We loved how Rise’s bake got a Maillard reaction, giving it a crunchy, almost caramelized flavor. It maybe isn’t a purist’s ideal, but it packed a ton of flavor without detracting from anything. Both bagels had a nearly flawless crust-to-chew ratio, earning top marks in both categories. Plus, they looked enticing – golden brown, with the everything seasoning spread evenly and deliberately over the whole top half of the bagel. Two nearly perfect bagels give Rise the title.

That’s a wrap (or a bagel) on the Bagel Showdown! Agree with our list? Disagree? Let us know with a comment. Happy noshing!

Bradley Machov used to be the editor of TC Jewfolk. When he’s not eating, he’s thinking about eating, cooking something he’ll soon be eating, or answering his Jewish mother about whether he’d like to be eating. He also sometimes Instagrams and writes about what he’s eating on a blog that’s not this one.