I was in New York over the weekend, and stayed on the UWS. For breakfast on three of the days, I ate bagels and lox and cream cheese.
Back in the old days, my normal routine was to buy nova from Zabar's, cream cheese from Zabar's (their old version included sour cream, so it was a bit airy and rich), and bagels from H&H. Now that there's no more H&H, I had to change plans.
Day 1: Bought nova at Zabar's (same as ever), bought cream cheese at Zabar's (no longer contains sour cream. when did this change?). Bought bagels at Absolute Bagels on Broadway @ 108th. We ate all of this at home, so we lightly toasted the bagels. I thought they were good, but nothing too special. If anything, I found them a little bit dry.
Day 2: Bought bagels from Zabar's, and used the same cream cheese and nova that I already had. I found these slightly worse than Absolute Bagels, but not by a lot. They were quite similar. They were also a bit dry. The everything bagel had a slightly off taste, like the sesame seeds or poppy seeds had been slightly burned? I tasted this off-taste before I did any toasting myself.
Day 3: Went to Barney Greengrass, and ordered an onion bagel w/ nova and cream cheese. I had it toasted. Lox was good, tasted about the same as what I got at Zabar's. Cream cheese was about on par too. Bagel was probably my favorite....it wasn't dry, was chewy, and tasted fresh.
Overall, I would say that all three of these options were pretty good, and to be honest, if you gave me a blind taste-test of all three, I might not be able to tell the difference between the bagels. I do miss H&H a bit, since I liked the sweetness and almost-cakiness of the bagels. I also think that the bagels I tried at these three places aren't as good as bagels I've eaten in Great Neck, LI (not sure where those were from, though). I imagine there might be even better places elsewhere in Manhattan, and certainly elsewhere in the other Boroughs.
Don't know when my next visit will be, but would love any advice about bagels and lox in the UWS for the future!
Photo of the table w/ is from Day #1, and photo of the bagel and lox sandwich is from Barney Greengrass on Day #3