When the New York Times includes you in a story about the best bagels in the US, the bar is set high.
Debating who has the best bagels with New Yorkers is like debating the best pizza with Napoletanos — meaning there are as many opinions as bagel places. Now add to this debate that a place outside of New York might have a decent bagel, and you enter the octagon for a death match. For the New York Times to come out and say that a bunch of bagel places out in Los Angeles (where the weather is always nice) could have bagels rivaling, if not topping, some of the best New York bagels, now that is outright blasphemy. But maybe, just maybe, the New York Times is correct. Courage Bagels on Virgil Ave (a street in-between East Hollywood and Silver Lake — or just a bit south of the Silver Lake Erewhon) is part of a set of newish Los Angeles bagel places which are not just hip but which are backing up the hype with bagels that make your mouth water.
So, like with many things in LA, if it is good, there is a line … and there will be a line. From my experience, try to get there about 30 to 40 minutes after they open (they open at 7 am); that way, the first rush is gone. But there will still be a line. If it is a sunny and warm day, bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen because there is little to no shade.
What makes Courage Bagels so mind-altering is that they combine the best of bagels (and yes, the plain bagel can easily keep up with the best of New York — though think of them a bit more like Montreal bagels) with the best of West Coast ingredients (think freshest tomatoes). My recommendation is to pick simple — the cream cheese and tomato (when tomatoes are in season, there couldn’t be anything better), the hand-sliced smoked salmon (which has a bit of olive oil drizzled over it and makes all the difference), and then the divine Run it Through the Garden with cucumbers. Each of these celebrates both the bagel as well as the freshest and most delicious ingredients.
My last recommendation: Courage offers halves, so ordering two different halves to make it one full makes for an amazing breakfast — one half smoked salmon and one half run it through the garden, and you will be in heaven.