There comes a time in everyone’s life when they need to determine their city’s tastiest bagel. When they must stuff themselves silly with dough to be able to declare, without hesitation or fear of causing offence, that this is, indeed, Denver’s Very Best Bagel. My time for this carby quest was in late March.

With a few new faces on our dining scene that produce their bagels in-house—Rich Spirit Bagels and Call Your Mother Deli—this very well could be Denver’s peak bagel era. So I gathered friends and family to help me determine which bagel would outbagel the rest.

Our esteemed tasting panel included, among others, myself; my New York native, Jewish, bagel snob husband; my food-obsessed BFF, who can sniff out an overproofed bagel from a mile away; and my 10-year-old son who says that bread is sometimes his favorite food.

We went in blind, sampling the specimens without knowing which restaurants they were from, to remove any preconceived notions, fondness, or prejudice we may have possessed about the bagels. And we scampered to and fro the Denver metro area, collecting both plain and everything bagels from five selected spots.

The Contenders

Plain bagels from Denver bagel shops
The plain bagel contenders. Photo by Greg McBoat

Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen: Long the darling of East Coast transplants, Rosenberg’s uses reverse osmosis to transform Denver tap water into the same mineral blend you’d find in NYC, thus—at least in theory—perfectly replicating the city’s iconic crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside bagel texture. 725 E. 26th Ave.; 2501 Dallas St., Aurora; 942 S. Monaco Parkway (Rosenberg’s Kosher)

Zaidy’s Deli & Bakery: A classic since 1985, Zaidy’s might have had a bit of a pandemic upheaval (it closed its Cherry Creek location and moved to Washington Virginia Vale in summer 2021), but the Jewish community staple very much continues. 600 S. Holly St.

Rich Spirit Bagels: This little shop may be new—it just opened in March—but it has an amazing pedigree. From the team behind Bakery Four, Rich Spirit’s bagels are made in a neo-New York style: naturally leavened but still boiled in water, with barley malt added for that mild sweetness and golden crust. 10081 W. 26th Ave.

Call Your Mother Deli: The out of towners, this Washington, D.C.–based deli made a splash on the Mile High City bagel scene when it opened on Tennyson Street last summer. (Two more locations have already followed.) The bright, cheery deli brings both honey and playfulness to our bagel wars, and people have responded with enthusiasm—lines rival Snooze circa 2010. 3880 Tennyson St.; 1291 Pearl St.; 217 S. Holly St.

Moe’s Broadway Bagel: Named for its flagship Boulder location on Broadway, Moe’s has since expanded to seven locations over 30 years, stretching up to Longmont and down to Denver. Straight up New York–style, Moe’s bagels are boiled and baked using non-GMO flour and Boulder water. Various locations

The Definitive Ranking

Without further ado, the results of our highly scientific, blind bagel taste test.

5. Zaidy’s

Pale, dense, and chewy in the wrong way, Zaidy’s plain bagel didn’t have any character. Tasters felt it both looked and tasted like a store-bought Lender’s bagel. The everything variation was similarly unenjoyable.

4. Rosenberg’s

I know. We were shocked, too. Maybe we got an overproofed batch, but Rosenberg’s was flatter and denser than we wanted, and it also lacked flavor. Its everything bagels featured the least amount of seasoning by far (boo) but went heavier on the garlic (yay).

3. Moe’s

Light in color and texture, Moe’s had nice air pockets in its chewy interior and the slightly crisp crust we were looking for. Overall, though, the plain bagel was underseasoned and nondescript. If you’re looking for a blank-canvas bagel to go into a sandwich or with a flavored cream cheese, this could be it. The everything was loaded up with caraway seeds, which could be your thing depending on your feelings about caraway.

2. Call Your Mother

Call Your Mother’s plain bagel, the sweetest one we tried, had a good crunch on the first bite. The chewy interior had more flavor than the others, and we appreciated its heft and honey notes. Its everything bagel was sesame-heavy and hit the Goldilocks level of seasoning. (Also don’t sleep on Call Your Mother’s signature maple-salt-and-pepper bagel.)

1. Rich Spirit

A beautiful bagel from Rich Spirit
A plain bagel from Rich Spirit. Photo by Greg McBoat

It wasn’t even close: Just one look at these dark, puffy rings of dough, you could tell that they’re something special. The crust was so crispy that there was a bit of separation between it and its almost creamy interior when you bit in. Rich Spirit makes bagels with the same stone-milled flour used by California’s famous Tartine Bakery. That resulted in a product with an earthy, wheat-forward flavor and a hint of sourness from a long fermentation stage. My only complaint was that the seed-heavy everything bagel was a little oversalted. Overall, though, these newcomer bagels are in a class of their own.

Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy
Allyson Reedy is a freelance writer and ice cream fanatic living in Broomfield.