Zingerman’s Bakehouse and Bruegger’s seem to be on different ends of the bagel spectrum. The bagels are boiled and hearth-baked to delicious perfection on different ends of Ann Arbor — Zingerman’s in a sprawling bakery nearish the Briarwood Mall and Bruegger’s in the heart of Central Campus. Bruegger’s offers a wide variety of sandwiches and sweet bagels, and Zingerman’s serves deli classics with cutesy names (like “Sesame Street” and “Amazin’ Raisin”).

The bagels themselves are also entirely different in texture and taste. Bruegger’s bagels are soft and light, like eating pillows (if pillows were made of bread and brushed with rosemary and olive oil). Zingerman’s are a little tougher, crusty like the Bakehouse’s famous farm bread and even chewier after a minute in the toaster. Zing’s bagels make the perfect companion to their cream-of-the-crop cream cheese. It’s surprisingly tangy and fluffy, unlike any schmear I’ve ever had — do yourself a favor and buy a tub for home at the Bakehouse, and you’ll never buy Philadelphia again.

But despite all their differences, Bruegger’s and Zingerman’s have two core qualities in common: They believe in the sanctity of their breakfast staples. Both bakeries boast of their commitment to boiling and baking their bagels in a stone hearth, the same methods they used in New York in the 1940s that the other guys today just don’t do. The classic crunch is what sets Bruegger’s and Zingerman’s apart from the rest — and what makes them the best of Ann Arbor.

Between Bruegger’s and Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Ann Arbor has some stellar options all across the bagel board. Wherever you are in Tree Town, whether you’re feeling up for fluffy and puffy sweetness or dense deliciosity, there’s a carefully crafted bagel for you baking in the hearth.

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