On March 8, The New York Times wrote a story titled, “The Best Bagels Are in California (Sorry, New York).” A highly debatable, controversial statement. Now, I would argue that the best bagels are in Louisville. Granted, I’ve never tried the bagels in California, let alone been there. Nevertheless, I still believe you can’t find a better bagel than those in Louisville.
Personally, I find bagels a rather practical food. You can have them for breakfast or lunch, pick one up on the way to school or pack them in a picnic. Not to mention, it’s a food that suits everyone: picky eaters, vegetarians, people who like all the fixings and more.
So, after learning The New York Times’ stance on bagels, I felt moved to write an article showcasing Louisville’s bagel shops. I decided to highlight three bagel places in the Louisville area and give them each a brief review: BreadWorks, Payne Street BakeHouse and Cold Smoke Bagels. Each review also covers the atmosphere, pricing, the bagels themself and of course, the cream cheese (because what’s a bagel without the cream cheese?).
BreadWorks now has three different locations since its opening in 1995 and serves a variety of baked goods. They feature homemade bagels, pastries, artisan breads and organic fair trade coffee to pair.
Atmosphere: Overall, the servers were great, the workers were kind and the service was fast. However, neither of the two locations I visited had outside dining and their inside dining was either roped off or nonexistent. This is more of a grab-and-go place, rather than a sit-down cafe.
Pricing: BreadWorks was the most affordable option out of the three shops. Two bagels with cream cheese cost roughly six dollars.
Cream Cheese: I believe BreadWorks has the best cream cheese (especially if you like lox). I love the way their service operates when it comes to the cream cheese as well. After you select your bagel, you get to go to a fridge and grab which cream cheese you desire. This is my preferred method because you get to physically look at the options before deciding, plus you get to spread it on yourself. This way you get to add the amount of cream cheese that’s preferable.
Bagel: The bagel itself was decent, nothing too remarkable about it. Your everyday, average, fresh tasting bagel. Compared to the other two shops, it was rather small.
Payne Street BakeHouse
Many locals still refer to Payne Street BakeHouse as Nancy’s Bagel Grounds, which was the shop’s original name until its 2017 rebranding. Since 1996, this shop has been pumping out quality baked goods, serving coffee, espressos and a whole variety of bagels (and cream cheeses!).
Atmosphere: COVID-19 restrictions have limited the BakeHouse to curbside pick up only, meaning you text them your order and they run it out to your car. While indoor seating is temporarily closed, they do have picnic tables open for outside use. Overall, Payne Street BakeHouse has done a good job of maintaining a customer friendly atmosphere during the pandemic.
Price: The pricing depends on what you order, as they have a plethora of options and available add-ons. However, the bagels and cream cheese are a good price for what you get. I would say that it’s more expensive than BeadWorks, but you do get a larger bagel and more cream cheese, making it more of a full, satisfying meal. The bagels are a little over a dollar each, with seven possible add-ons that each have their own additional pricing.
Cream Cheese: They do not mess around with their cream cheese. If you’re someone who loves a ton of cream cheese on their bagel, then you’re going to be a fan of Paynes Street BakeHouse. Otherwise, I would make sure to ask for it on the side, because they are very generous with the spread. The cream cheese itself is great and they have the biggest variety, with eight different flavors such as honey walnut and herb.
Bagel: In terms of the actual bagel, I would say Payne Street BakeHouse makes the best. For starters, they are huge bagels and definitely qualify as a meal. The only complaint I’ve heard from other people is that the bagels are so big that it’s difficult to fit in a toaster. The bagels are well seasoned and overall of amazing quality.
Cold Smokes Bagels
Cold Smoke Bagels is located in Logan Street Market, which is a marketplace composed of local businesses. Cold Smokes draws inspiration from both traditional Jewish recipes and New York style bagels.
Atmosphere: Out of the three shops, Cold Smokes has the best dining atmosphere. You can shop around and check out the various other stores in Logan Street Market while you wait. Once you get your food, there’s seating on both the first and second floor and also seating outside. Cold Smokes is more of an experience, meaning that you don’t really go just to pick up a bagel. It’s a time to take a friend and spend a couple hours in good company with good food, maybe poke around the market too.
Price: Like Payne Street Bakehouse, the price depends on what you get and any add-ons. Overall, Cold Smokes Bagels is the most expensive out of the three shops. Their menu is more deli styled compared to BreadWorks or Payne Street BakeHouse, as they’re more of a lunch place rather than a bakery or casual breakfast spot.
Cream Cheese: The cream cheese was interesting and they had the most unique selection of cream cheese. If you’re looking to try some new flavors or have adventurous taste buds, this place is for you.
Bagel: I’ve only ever sampled their everything bagels, so I can’t speak much about any of the other varieties. However, the bagels were a decent size, not too big or small. They too were enough to be a meal, especially if you order it as a sandwich.
Overall I think it is clear that Louisville has the best bagels, Sorry California and New York, but Louisville clearly has superior bagels. Our local spots feature handmade goods packed full of flavor, love and pure satisfaction. Not to mention some stellar homemade cream cheeses to go along. If you’re looking for a new spot to try, I recommend any of these local shops.