The Reader's Tal Rosenberg cites New York Bagel & Bialy as the "only place in the Chicagoland area that makes a bagel that ranks with anything that comes out of New York City." I am on record as saying the same. New York Bagel was our 2011 Best of Chicago choice, and I wrote, "The bagels here aren't merely authentic—they're delicious. This is an establishment that's accustomed to acclaim and deserves it."
But last year our bagel world was turned on its ear with the opening of Reno in Logan Square. Our Mike Sula reported that pastry chef Katie Wyer "has created a brand-new breed of bagel—one heavily inspired by the skinny, crispy, wood-fired bagels of Montreal, the very existence of which is a dire threat to New Yorkers' entrenched sense of superiority." Elsewhere in his review, Sula called Wyer's bagels "unprecedented" and "miraculous."
On Easter Day we put Reno to the test. Our rapidly expanding family came over to partake of lox, cream cheese, sliced tomato, red onion, and capers—and platters of bagels from both New York Bagel & Bialy and Reno. There was no mistaking one kind of bagel from the other. The Reno bagel is flatter and firmer. This is the Montreal school of bagel making, I said airily, hoping this would impress my son-in-law Dan from Connecticut, who knows bagels and was heretofore dismissive of everything Chicago had to offer aside from the New York Bagel bagel. We all dug in.
The results? Dan hailed the familiar chewy texture of the New York bagel. But as for flavor—he gave Reno the edge. And everyone else agreed: Reno had conjured up a formidable challenger.
My daughter Joanna, Dan's wife, reminds me that neither batch of bagels was fresh out of the oven—which in her view makes our bagel-off all but meaningless—and adds that a Reno bagel costs $2! So the jury is out, the jury being the two of them: "We both take this very seriously," she says.