It was a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions: In 2011, when Portland’s Kettleman Bagels sold to Einstein Bros. Bagels, the heavens cracked asunder. Gone were Kettleman’s perfectly boiled, masterfully topped offerings; wobbling in their place were corporate-approved lumps of steamed Wonder Bread. Riots erupted, fires raged, goats were flayed. Earth split open in rage, vomiting forth slime-slick demons and banshees weeping blood.
Thankfully, we recovered, and now Portland has a bunch of excellent spots that serve actual bagels. Since bagels make up 98.9 percent of Portland Mercury staffers’ diets, it was thus our sacred duty to find the best ones in town. Despite stiff competition (we see you, Bowery Bagels and Eisenhower Bagel House), here are our winners.
Bagel Land knows there are newer, hipper bagel joints in town catering to newer, hipper Portlanders. Bagel Land does not care. Because Bagel Land is good, and Bagel Land knows it. A well-worn grab-and-go spot on Fremont, Bagel Land has the basics down (particularly their pumpernickel), plus no fewer than 10 breakfast bagel sandwiches and the much-appreciated option to schmear guacamole or Tofutti in addition to cream cheese varietals. Grab a $3 sleeve of six day-olds on your way out to celebrate your voyage to Bagel Land, the finest land of all. (4118 NE Fremont, Tues-Fri 6:30 am-3 pm, Sat 7 am-3 pm, Sun 7 am-1 pm, bagelsnschmears.com) ERIK HENRIKSEN
If you’re lucky enough to live within walking distance of Bernstein’s, the journey is an ideal morning activity. I’m not sure about the health trade-off of walking a few blocks when measured against the might of Bernstein’s Breakfast Popper (Mama Lil’s schmear, avocado, eggs, sweet onion), which wraps you up in a tangy bear hug of savory, but it feels good spiritually. Bernstein’s boils then bakes their bagels thick, ideal for their masterful sandwich creations, and they have an indulgent approach to the schmear/bagel ratio, should you desire the only marriage God truly approves of. (816 N Russell, daily 8 am-1 pm, bernsteinsbagels.com) SUZETTE SMITH
Henry Higgins Boiled Bagels
In some ways, Henry Higgins Boiled Bagels is an unapologetically Portland bagel shop: Yes, you can get lox, or a toasted everything with scallion cream cheese (a personal favorite, bad breath be damned), but you can also have a vegan bagel dog with Field Roast sausage, or swap out your cream cheese for Tofutti. But the shops themselves—particularly the Southeast Foster location—retain some of that East Coast, hustle-and-bustle, random-clanking-and-clattering-sounds vibe. It’s a caffeinating feeling you won’t get from a laconic Portland barista, and it’ll make your brunch even better. (6420 SE Foster, 7 am-3 pm; 523 NE 19th, 7 am-3 pm; 1325 SE Tacoma, 7 am-3 pm, hhboiledbagels.com) BLAIR STENVICK
Spielman Bagels & Coffee
There are no words to describe the unadulterated joy that comes from biting into a freshly toasted bagel from Spielman’s. The geniuses behind these kettle-boiled sourdough wonders offer a heaping list of toppings and allow you apply your own layer of their house-made cream cheese (which should be universal bagel law). The Southeast Division shop serves up the best bagel experience in town: Stop by on a weekend morning and catch strangers sharing a crossword, dogs basking on the patio, and agreeable jams flowing from the stereo. Their coffee doesn’t quit, either; I suggest enjoying a cup in one of Spielman’s delightfully odd thrift-store mugs. (2111 SE Division, daily 7 am-3 pm; 2314 NW Lovejoy, daily 7 am-2 pm; 2200 NE Broadway, daily7 am-2 pm; 7713 SW Capitol Hwy, daily 7 am-2 pm spielmanbagels.com) ALEX ZIELINSKI