Best Salt Bagel

Best: Bagel City
12119 Rockville Pike, Rockville (301) 231-8080
2nd Best: Georgetown Bagelry
5227 River Road, Bethesda, (301) 657-4442
Sorry, competitors, but the hard workers up at Bagel City haven’t done anything to lose their spot atop the pivotal Salt Bagel Ranking Chart. Reasonable price (80 cents per), traditional, kettle-boiled preparation, even distribution of salt, and a fine crusty-chewy dynamic are there for you on every visit. Those fundamentals have withstood more than 20 taste tests over the course of the year—frequent visits designed to puncture Bagel City’s reputation as a model of bagelular consistency. On each occasion, the store has acquitted itself admirably. Bagel City’s continued excellence over the course of the 2008–09 Best-of season set off a starchy scramble for the nearly-as-critical No. 2 designation. Though one of D.C.’s great local traditions is bemoaning the absence of great bagels, hey, try moving to Tampa: Around here, there’s a healthy number of outfits cranking out old-world bagels. Pumpernickels in Chevy Chase, D.C., and Brooklyn Bagel Bakery in Clarendon, for starters, both produce fine specimens day in and day out. A year ago, too, a new-to-D.C. chain entered the fray. With outposts in Penn Quarter and downtown/West End, Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery is trudging through the paces that make a bagel feel and taste authentic. The product is kettle-boiled and full of high-protein unbleached wheat flour. You get a tough exterior—perhaps a touch too—and a nice, soft, and chewy inner. Toppings come in gobs; the salt may overwhelm you to the point of scraping off a bit of excess. With a bit more work, Bruegger’s could knock off the winner of this year’s runner-up salt bagel contest, and that’s Georgetown Bagelry. The bargain-conscious will have to get by the $1.20 price tag on this bad boy. The big price, however, fetches a bagel that’s reliably fresh, with a great contrast between exterior hardness and interior softness. The Georgetown product has worked up a faithful following over the years, a base that experienced heartbreak this time last year, when the Georgetown branch of Georgetown Bagelry closed down, forcing salties to hike out to the “original” Georgetown Bagelry—on River Road in Bethesda.