Mon-Fri, 6am-9pm; Sat-Sun, 6am-5pm
6 at 51st St.; E, M at Lexington Ave.-53rd St.
American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
In the long lines that form at Ess-a-Bagel's counter, you're likely to see surgeons in scrubs from the neighboring hospitals alongside backpack-wearing schoolchildren. All wait anxiously—and endure playfully gruff service—during this multigenerational morning ritual. Opened in 1976 (and later expanded from 21st Street to a second midtown shop), the store prides itself at producing bagels that rank among the city's best: a flavorful gnaw-worthy crust with a pillow-soft inside. The spreads are creative. In addition to the usual low-fat and tofu cream cheeses, apple cinnamon and fragrant herbed versions are ready to meet your plastic knife. The fish selection impresses moreso—sable, salmon, sturgeon, chubs, herring, trout and lox, all in various smoked, baked and pickled incarnations. The shop also serves a full deli selection and dessert menu so that long lines can continue throughout the day.