Bagels, water and an urban legend
September 29th, 2011
12:10 PM ET
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There’s a saying in Brooklyn, New York – Brooklyn bagels are the best because of the water. Connoisseurs of New York bagels will tell you it’s the local water that gives Brooklyn bagels their unique taste.

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“That is true,” said Ameen Hamin, a manager at Terrace Bagels, a Brooklyn bagel shop at the top of several lists of the best bagel stores in New York. “We have the best water here so everything is made with water. That’s what makes the bagel taste good and gives it that texture.”

Ask the guys at Terrace Bagels about the possibility of recreating authentic Brooklyn bagels elsewhere and they’re likely to laugh in your face. “I don’t think that’s going to happen, “said Eddie Eysha from behind the counter. “Never, not in a million years, it will never be the same. Not unless they are taking our water straight down there.”

Frustrated by their inability to find what they considered a decent bagel outside of their home town some former Brooklynites went on a mission, “To basically bring Brooklyn bagels to the rest of the world,” said Howard Sackel, one of the founders of Brookyn Water Bagels. The company makes bagels using water that has the same molecular properties of Brooklyn water.

“A Brooklyn bagel is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside,” Sackel said. “The qualities of the Brooklyn bagel come from the water.”

The water that flows through the pipes in Brooklyn originates in giant reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains. As it filters through many layers of rock and soil before making the journey to New York City it picks up a number of different minerals and other elements. The challenge for the founders of Brooklyn Water Bagels was to figure out exactly what is in Brooklyn water and come up with a process to recreate it using any water source in the world.

“There is science behind it and I believe in it enough to prove that science,” said Steven Fassberg, another of Brooklyn Water Bagels’ founders. He’s now the company’s CEO. “It wasn’t about six and a half months into the testing process where we actually had the right formula and recipe to figure out what actually made the difference in the baking of this product.”

They opened their first store in Delray, Florida just north of Ft. Lauderdale in 2009 to satisfy the tastes of the former New Yorkers who relocated to the Sunshine State. Two years later the store is selling 10,000 authentic Brooklyn bagels each day. Each store uses water that goes through their proprietary water processing system before it’s mixed with flour and other ingredients to make the bagel dough.

Fassberg swears they are the real deal. “Every New Yorker that ever walked in here walked in here with that smug arrogance, which I love, and said to me yeah, sure, sure… it’s all about the water. Give me a bagel, ok? Invariably, 99 times out of a hundred that person will get back in line and… they apologize, they get it, they can’t believe it.”

They’ve opened several stores in Florida and native Brooklynite Larry King, who signed on to be the company’s spokesperson, brought the franchise to Los Angeles. Brooklyn Water Bagels has plans to expand to twelve states. And soon, they’ll bring the Brooklyn bagel to China and India.

“Clearly this product has got global appeal,” Fassberg said.

In 2012 the Brooklyn Water Bagel will come full circle. Fassberg plans to open a 24 hour store on Flatbush Avenue at the Brooklyn Nets’ new basketball arena in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.

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soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. big 5 discount coupon

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  2. Tonja Sperlich

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    December 16, 2013 at 4:16 am |
  3. newyorkjsw

    Utopia Bagels in Whitestone Queens, beats ANY NYC or Brooklyn bagle!

    count on it

    November 25, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  4. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    New York Bagels Rule

    October 4, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  5. Guido

    I've been to Italy......Texas. Best Dang Pizza in the World.We are not snobby like you Yankees 'cuz our water comes from the under ground wells. We gotz the dough.

    October 1, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  6. anna morena

    It's the process not the water we've brought Bagels to Ga. and I'll put them against ANY bagel ANYWHERE !

    October 1, 2011 at 4:39 am |
    • thenewsjunkie

      Good luck with that! I've never gotten a decent bagel outside in New York in all of my 43 years.

      October 3, 2011 at 9:53 am |
      • intheknow

        NY Bagel & Bialy
        4714 W Touhy Ave
        Lincolnwood, IL 60712
        (847) 677-9388

        This place, edwardo's spinch pizza, and italian beef sandwiches are the only things I miss about Chicago.

        October 26, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  7. EarlGrayHot

    New York water the best? I doubt it.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  8. r.ortiz

    hey canada, maybe you should eat more chef boyardee they are getting better every day, new york still number one.

    September 30, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  9. r.ortiz

    thats why i miss new york, they have the best bagels and pizza in the planet, i live in florida and they are not as good as the new york brand.

    September 30, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • RachelM

      Sorry–I've had NY pizza and it sucks. I've been to Italy from Cecine to Messina and traveled throughout Sicily and NY pizza tastes like crap compared to the real deal. You can keep your cardboard coated with canned sauce. I know how to make pizza like an Italian from the old country and no, I won't tell you the secret.

      October 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
      • newyorkjsw

        you had the WRONG Pizza in NYC.

        Queens has the best Pizza, maybe in america. Not directly in NYC, but the the borough of Queens.
        Amore Pizza Flushing- New Park Pizza Howard Beach- and for Sicilian out of the oven only VIPizza in Bayside!!

        November 25, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  10. sorry NY

    Sorry NY, your bagels are ok, and better than anywhere else I have had them in the USA. But Montreal, Quebec has the best bagels, BAR NONE. It is like comparing Chef Ramsey to Chef Boyardee

    September 30, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • joel

      nah i do not believe it for a second. just cause u are in a french area ect. Not happening.
      Utopia will blow them away.

      sounds nice in a posting but is not a bit the case.

      September 30, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Chef Boyardee@joel

      Meh. Everyone knows canucks have no taste. That's why they like me so much!

      September 30, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • JR

      It's not even a question. Montreal definitely has the best bagels, bar none. This coming from a resident of Brooklyn

      September 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • workerdrone

      i'm sure you frenchies also think you have the best pizza too. nope. not pizza, not bagels. crepes maybe, but i know a few crepe places in NYC that would give you a run for your money.

      September 30, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Em

      I know Canada tries to be cooler than the US (and sometimes is), but dragging Brooklyn bagels into it? Shameful. There is NOTHING like a true Brooklyn bagel. You can keep the maple syrup, Johnny Canuck.

      September 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • kd

      Purists will debate whether it's St. Viateur or Farimount, but Montreal vs. New York is not even up for discussion.

      October 1, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • thenewsjunkie

      Holy crap, you have no idea what you're talking about. I've gone to those places in Montreal that make bagels with their wood fired ovens. It's a nice product. But it's not a bagel. It doesn't even taste like a real bagel. Remember, NYC is the home of the bagel. All other pretenders to the throne are measured against our bagels and I'm afraid yours in Montreal don't match up. I'm not even sure what to call it... a pastry with a hole in the middle perhaps?

      October 3, 2011 at 9:56 am |

    it is NOT the water but totally other factors. brooklyn are not the best bagels. the best bagels very possibly
    are from Utopia Bagels in Whitestone NY! trust me i know a lot about it. no Manhatten or Brooklyn bagle place has the taste and texture of a hot Utopia Bagel. Not even close.
    brooklyn please..

    NYC water which does include whitestone gets thier water from the catskills, which is very pure.
    But unless filtered it has iron from the pipes (110 mile travel distance) other metals as well the the human added floride!
    It is simply not the water. If water plays a factor at all it may be a small one.

    September 30, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  12. chickadee

    Has anyone realized that almost all water (except for heavy water, which has hydrogen with an extra neutron) has the same molecular properties? Hydrogen and Water. It's the impurities that change the flavor and chemical make up. Apparently the editors at CNN don't have time for basic chemistry.

    September 30, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • some dude

      water is a polar solvent. as nyc water travels over 110 miles from its source, it picks up a ton of ions on the way here (I live uptown nyc) which is what CNN and the owner of Brooklyn Water Bagels are asserting that gives the water is unique characteristic.

      i do wonder if tritium laced water would make some tasty bagels though, lol

      September 30, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Amy

      I think you mean hydrogen and oxygen, not hydrogen and water. Some Dude is right: there are minerals dissolved in a water that can vary by location. Tritium is hydrogen with two extra neutrons and deuterium is hydrogen with one extra neutron, and neither would affect the taste of the water.

      October 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  13. Nunya

    We badly need some good real bagels in the Kansas City area...

    September 30, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  14. python, monty

    I'll have spam spam spam spam spam and some spam

    September 30, 2011 at 5:45 am |
  15. schaz

    Bake it Again Sam in Toluca Lake/Burbank did this about 15 or 20 years ago.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  16. krm1007

    Hey guys, try using the water from the Ganges river in India and see your color turn green! the funeral home first just in case you go toes up!!!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  17. DMB, Atlanta, Ga

    They need to come to Atlanta, Georgia, not only should they bring the bagels, but biallys and kiser rolls too. this way I don't have to keep shipping those items down here. And don't forget the knishes. That way this Brooklyn baby will be in bliss. Katz's and Ben's Best will not be happy with me but my wallet will breath a sigh of relief.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Anita

      Hey, at least you have THAT in the Atlanta area! Raleigh-Durham-CHapel Hill has bupkis! Mmmm... Kasha or potato knishes with spicy brown mustard...

      September 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  18. TT in Hooville

    Nice typo: The company makes bagels using water hat has the same molecular properties of Brooklyn water.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Jackwhole


      Where would we be without losers like yourself. Go out and get some sun for cripesakes.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  19. scir91onYouTube

    a bagel a day adds pounds hooray! bagels, rice, pasta. the trio of worst belly fatteners you can eat with the lowest amount of nutritional content. awful.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Jackwhole

      Thank YOU Richard Simmons.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  20. SB

    I have a recipe for bagels that results in a substantial crust and a chewy middle. They're delicious. Yes, you boil them first. It's a pain, but not nearly as big a pain as visiting New York City. You can argue that I can't know that they're as good as Brooklyn bagels, but I'd argue back that you can't know that they're not. They're delicious, and I'm happy. Isn't that the goal? (Btw, the water in my midwestern college town comes from a deep underground aquifer and has won national taste tests - yeah, they really do have those. It's not like NYC is the only place with tasty water, believe it or not.)

    September 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  21. JJ

    I'm not one for bagels but I do like cupcakes!

    September 29, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Jackwhole

      OK terrific.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  22. JoePub

    Sorry, but there is an edit mistake:

    The company makes bagels using water hat has the same molecular properties of Brooklyn water. This should actually read: The company makes bagels using water that has the same molecular properties of Brooklyn water.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Very helpful

      hanks for the nformation...

      September 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
      • hahahfunnyguy


        September 29, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Jackwhole

      Spank you very much capt. spell checker.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  23. LESartiste

    Brooklyn has the best water?!?! HAHAHA! Laughable! Try Washington states water, then everyone will think differently. And the best bagels come from Grateful Bread in seattle. Hands down better than any bagel you will ever have.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • qanerd

      You obviously have never been in Brooklyn. I live in the Northwest and have had both. Brooklyn hands down. I doesn't originate in Brooklyn but winds up there and it's great.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Get real...

      Yeah. Seattle has long been known for it's bagels...

      September 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • keef

      never had one huh?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  24. TommiGI

    I don't know about NYC bagels but there is a cafe in California that has a breakfast bagel (egg style) toasted with an egg, cheddar cheese, smoked ham and a smear of mayo that is so darn good sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night looking forward to stopping there to get one and a cup of dark roasted Lavazza coffee. It is funny how the simple things sometimes make life worth living.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Jules

      I believe you. I don't believe or disbelieve the article, but I know that food enjoyment is completely subjective.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  25. Jon

    Being down here in Delray – and having been to the store- will say the bagels are pretty good. Not sure if they compare to the bread and bagels of NY and Philly , but not bad. Heh, if you can make money and a national franchise off some flour, egg, water and baking powder... good for you.

    September 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Anita

      Next time in the Boca area, try Nestor's Bageland – OMG, their pastrami sandwiches, latkes and kishke are to die for (perhaps literally, given the high fat content! :-))

      September 29, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  26. Mystic American

    Interesting story. I'd think that they filtered out all the minerals and impurities and New York's water supply was the same quality, down to a few microns here or there of some impurity or another, as Cincinnati, Austin, Boston, San Diego, or Omaha's. Really, the line saying "New York smugness" says it all. The recipe can be the same as Boston or Timbuktu, but a New Yorker will swear to his dying day that his is better, even if it is exactly the same.

    September 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  27. Garnet69

    As a former East Coaster now living in can't get a good bagel out here. They don't boil them first, they are just round rolls. When I have family out here to visit, I always have them bring Baltimore bagels (not as good as NY bagels, but a whole lot better than our local).

    September 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • MAX

      just like florida if we had a hockey team they's use them for pucks

      September 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Anon_e_mouse

      We know the drill... our daughter and her husband always have us bring at least six dozen – sometimes more, if their friends want some too – to Virginia when we come down to visit from New Jersey. So we buy them fresh that morning at a local place (not some chain bagel shop where profit takes precedence over taste) and, five hours later, they are in our daughter's kitchen being individually vacuum-sealed and frozen.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Miep36

      I'm from the Poconos PA and I also currently live in the Phx area. I would try Chompie's. They boil their bagels first and are the best bagels I've had here in Phoenix. Much better than Einsteins.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Diane

      I, too, am in a bagel-drought. There isn't a decent bagel to be found anywhere in Australia. I'm originally from upstate NY, and would daily grab a bagel on my way to class or work. After 11 years now, I would just about kill for a decent bagel.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • qanerd

      Amen. They think a bagel is a doughnut in disguise

      September 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  28. sumdumphuk

    I'm not afraid to show my ignorance but having been born and raised in Queens, working in all boroughs of NYC for 30 years I always understood that ALL of NYC water came from the same place. Does Brooklyn really have its own water supply, or could it be that they were settled a bit earlier and the water is travelling through older pipes picking up different mineral deposits or sludge along the way?

    After moving away, I'd say that in addition to bagels, you can add pizza or more specifically tomatoe sauces, and Chinese food especially the soups, wonton noodles or anything boiled!

    The water is definitely the issue. Thanks for a nostalgic mouth watering article.

    September 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  29. Ernie G

    Boiling the uncooked bagels in water is important, but so is making the water alkaline first, with lye or some other substance. I don't know the science behind it, but more than one baker has said this to me.

    Another factor is the time elapsed from when the bagels come out of the oven. The first 30-45 minutes are key. I'd rather have a bagel from an average place 30 minutes out of the oven than an H&H that's 6 hours old. It should steam when you cut it open, and NO TOASTING A FRESH BAGEL. Toasting is fine to salvage one that has some hours on it, but fresh bagels don't need it. (IMHO)

    Just some salted butter on mine, please.

    September 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  30. Tom

    Ha, another "New York water" myth. If anything is giving New York food a special flavor, it is the pollution in the water.

    September 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  31. gurgle

    Panera makes the best bagels HANDS DOWN. Theres no way some bums in NY know how to make a better bagel, what do they know? Panera has a million stores and they have one.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Citation

      Have you tried anyone else's bagels? Einstein Bros is better than Panera by a landslide – IMO.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Louis

      Ahh, yes, because being mass produced around the country by a bunch of part time college kids means it's better than when made by a guy who's spent his entire life perfecting bagels. Makes perfect sense. Panera bagels are sheeeeeeeeeet.

      September 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • dtcpr

      are you f**king kidding me? When my family moved from the bronx to the burbs there were no good bagel places and whenever my uncle used to come up and visit he's bring bagels from the city (so good, hard outside soft inside just the way they are supposed to be) now we actually have a really good place right in town, I'm not sure if I buy the water thing but my dad who works for the NYC DEP id a die hard on that theory on everything from bagels to pizza. There is nothing like a NYC bagel...I've never had a Brooklyn one but I've had Bronx and little bagel places in Manhattan (not overproduced, bottom line hungry mass production monsters, like Panera)

      September 30, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  32. jillmarie

    I never knew Brooklyn itself was known for their bagels cuz of their water- interesting. NY does have the best bagels, and living in NJ we have some great ones here, too. Anytime I've traveled, the bagels, and pizza for that matter, are nowwhere near as good. I've never been to Chicago, however, and I'm sure I'd love their pizza.
    Although I have good bagel shops near me, I'd love it if this Brooklyn Water shop opened near me. I agree the rest of the country deserves to have great bagels as well. I wonder where they are opening up.

    September 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • denim

      Chicago pizza is a completely different beast from New York or New Haven pizza. It's based on a pastry dough rather than a proper pizza dough. They're good, but not the same product.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
      • LilCoffinHunter

        thank you for being a conniseur and knowing that New Haven pizza is elite. I lived in Milford for years and we always went to New Haven for pizza, and I have Never had one better than from there, even in New York.

        September 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
      • qanerd

        Oh there's a little pizza shop in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey you would not believe...................

        September 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  33. aubrie

    Mmmmm.... A Brooklyn bagel with cream cheese, lox and purple onion....maybe a sprinkle of capers.... I live in Texas now.... and it ain't happening here..... :(

    September 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Lauren

      Oh yeah...that's the best! Capers are mandatory though.

      September 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Kimmy

      Which part of Texas? In Houston, we have the Hot Bagel Shop on Shepherd Dr. Its a great bagel and the shop has a strong local following.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  34. Bill - NYC

    It isn't only the water, though the water is part of it (for the pizza too.) A good bagel is first boiled and then baked. This is what gives a bagel a good portion of it's unique texture.

    September 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  35. paradoX187

    Cool story. Never knew Brooklyn bagels were supposedly so good.

    September 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  36. @brhau

    This is a wonderful ad for Brooklyn Water Bagels, but I really hate it when people use the word "science" without presenting any scientific data. Make bagels with their water, NYC water, and CA water. Show statistically whether people can tell the difference in a blinded experiment. Will never happen, but I'd love to know the actual answer.

    September 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Tony

      Actually it has been done with pizza dough. They compared dough, same recipe, same atmospheric conditions made with water from NY, CA & Chicago. In a blind test taste NY dough won!

      September 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
      • AleeD@Tony

        I concur about the pizza. Same situation as the bagels post below.

        September 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
      • Clover

        Citation please.

        September 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
      • Citation@Clover,r:4,s:0

        September 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
      • Mike

        Yes Tony – Who are 'they' and where and when was the taste test? (for the record I agree that NY has the best dough)

        September 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  37. coliee1289

    H&H Bagels in Manhatten are by far the best bagels I have ever had in my life. So sad when they closed :(

    September 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Ben Frankly

      Must not have been that great! You've got odd taste buds.

      September 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
      • damn good playa

        fuk tard

        September 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • BagelMoshe

      Davidovich Bagels are the best bagel on the market today. They are much tastier.

      September 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
      • joel

        well Utopia Bagles in Whitestone, does indeed trump them.

        long line and must get them warm, but THEY are the best bagles in NYC!

        September 30, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • joel


      September 30, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  38. AleeD

    Always thought this was hogwash 'til I visited NYC and had a bagel some hole-in-the wall in Manhattan. Big difference.

    September 29, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  39. The Witty One

    Come to Virginia!!!!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Queen of Everything@TWO


      September 29, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
      • The Witty One@QOE

        Cause I'm from NY and I miss the bagels. Now that my grandparents have passed away, I don't really have much reason to go back and visit.

        September 29, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
      • Queen of Everything@TWO

        Ahhh, it all makes sense now. I thought you were calling for all of us to go to Virginia to experience the bagels and I didn't think that Virginia was a hot-bed of bagelly goodness. As you know, I'm easily confused so I'm sure you will excuse this lapse in comprehension.

        September 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
      • The Witty One@QOE

        It's all good my dear! There is a little bagel shop in Norfolk, can't remember the name right now, but they had/have the best bagels i've had outside of new york :)

        September 29, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • HockeyMinny

      ... Come to Butthead...

      September 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
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