Montrealers who write about bagels walk a fine line, especially when catering to an audience that reaches many New Yorkers. The rivalry between these two cities and their respective bagel addicts has been going on for many years, with each side sticking to their guns as to which doughy treat is best. Things can get quite vicious: the Montreal Gazette’s food critic Lesley Chesterman called New York bagels buns with holes in the middle and said that New Yorkers should be ashamed to call them bagels. During the taping of an episode of No Reservations about Quebec, TV personality and bagel purist Anthony Bourdain was forced to try a Montreal bagel. Under much pressure from his hosts he had to admit that Montreal’s sweeter, chewier version of the doughnut shaped roll was quite scrumptious. The judges are still out on this one and everyone seems to be enjoying the taste tests. It’s all in good fun!
Where to try the best ones:
Montreal’s bagels don’t only have to rival New York’s, they must deal with constant infighting between two local bakeries: St-Viateur bagel and Fairmount bagel. Both of these shops and their golden brown crusted treats have been continually pitted against each other during the past four decades. In 1957, Fairmount bagels was already a well established address in the Mile End neighborhood when Myer Lewkowicz decided to start his own bagel shop, St-Viateur bakery, just a few streets over. Ever since then, each location has garnered it’s own army of loyal fans.
If all this fighting has got you tired and you just want a good, chewy bagel to fill your craving for carbs, head to Beaubien Bagel, in the Rosemont Petite-Patrie neighborhood, Mount-Royal Bakery in Ville-Mont-Royal, or DAD’s bagels in Notre-Dame-de-Grace. These shops doesn’t quite have the aura and charm of the two others, but their bagels are also very good, especially if you go in early in the morning when the ovens have just been fired up.
Bagels have become a major part of the city’s culinary identity. Each shop has their own particular recipe but real Montreal style bagels have at least one point in common: they are all poached in honey water before being thrown in the wood-fired oven, which is what gives them that slight sweetness that makes them so unique and hard to resist.
Just one tip: if you find yourself being unable to stop eating the whole half dozen you couldn’t resist buying at the shop, make sure you walk a mile or two right afterwards (perhaps around the lovely Mile End neighborhood where the Fairmount and Saint-Viateur bakeries are located).
Here are the specific addresses of each of the shops mentioned in this article:
Fairmount Bagels: 74, Fairmount Avenue West, Montreal
St-Viateur bakery (multiple locations around the city but the original one is the best): 263, Saint-Viateur West, Montreal
Beaubien bagels: 828, Beaubien street East, Montreal
DAD’s bagels: 5732, Sherbrooke street West, Montreal
Mount-Royal Bakery: 709, chemin Lucerne, Ville-Mont-Royal
Stay tuned for more on Montreal’s obsession with food. Here’s a handy guide to the difference between Montreal and NYC bagels. Get in touch with the author @ModStoryteller.