Food & Drink

Six reasons why Montreal bagels are better than all other bagels

Published On 07/26/2013 Published On 07/26/2013
Montreal sesame bagels with cream cheese and avocado
Katherine Sehl

Let's be clear: this is not a schmear campaign against the other cities famed for their boiled bread (we're looking at you New York, and sort of glancing sideways at you, Chicago), but rather a championing of Montreal's own amazingly well-crafted dough-rings, and the reasons why they're so good. So why are La Belle Ville's bagels so superior? Ahem:

Katherine Sehl

1. Standards
It's more than mere geography, and there are actually some pretty rigorous rules concerning what can and cannot be called a Montreal style bagel. As such, there are only two consistent, stalwart contenders for the title of Montreal's finest: Fairmount Bagel and St. Viateur.

Katherine Sehl

2. They're ALL hand-made
In order to be considered "Montreal style", they have to be hand-made, while those NY bagels can be (and are) made by soulless, and probably quite aggressive, machines.

Katherine Sehl

3. Wood-burning ovens
Another stipulation? Montreal bagels are baked in special wood-fired ovens, where the flames gently lick each bagel a little differently, and they all come out blushing in their own special hue. It also means that, as with vaunted newcomer Brossard Bagel, they're crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. Like You. See? Montreal bagels get you.

Katherine Sehl

4. Honey-sweeteened water
Yup, honey-infused water. Montreal bagels are all poached in it before being sent off to the ovens. Beauty Bagels use 1 1/2 cups in each of their small-batch pots. And there’s no salt in 'em!

Katherine Sehl

5. Often imitated, never bettered
In 2010, New York Magazine named Brooklyn resto Mile End the best deli in their “Best of New York” feature. The deli, named after the Montreal neighborhood, serves up Montreal-style bagels.

Katherine Sehl

6. No frills
The standard has become so high that customers generally don't want anything other than the classic recipe (St. Viateur sell 90% sesame bagels), though if you do want something slightly Wonka'd, then Bagels on Greene will likely provide it, and Bagel, Etc. will give you a bagel Eggs Benedict, or Huevos Rancheros.

Katherine Sehl

Bonus: Montreal bagels have been in freaking space
When Gregory Chamitoff took off as a crewmember on Expedition 17 in 2008, he brought three bags of Fairmount’s sesame bagels with him into space, meaning there are now some new rings around Saturn.

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1. Fairmount Bagel 74 Ave. Fairmount Ouest, Montréal, H2T 2M2 (Mile End)

Welcome to the best (and first!) bagel bakery in Montreal (just don't say that in front of nearby St. Viateur Bagel): open since 1919, Mile End's Fairmount has seduced locals and tourists with its slightly sweet, wood-fired bagels. When you enter, you see bakers sliding the hot dough discs out of the oven with a wooden slat, adding a visual to the fresh-baked smell that fills the place. Sesame and poppy seed are the local favorites, but those craving a bit more umph should go for the "all dressed," a close approximation to an everything bagel, rolled in coarse salt, garlic, caraway, and onion.

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2. St. Viateur Bagel 263 rue Saint-Viateur Ouest, Montréal, H2V 1Y1 (Mile End)

Open since 1957, St. Viateur has become famous for its Montreal-style bagels that are sweeter, smaller, and less doughy than their brash New York brethren. The secret? The hand-rolled bagels are boiled in honey water before baking in a wood-fired oven. The bakery is in lifelong competition with nearby Fairmount Bagel, and the two share a history worthy of Shakespearean drama: the man who opened St. Viateur partnered with Fairmount's owner's son to do so. Carb-fueled feud aside, St. Viateur's bagels have a distinct flavor that doesn't restrict them simply to breakfast -- the flagship Mile End location is open 24 hours, seven days a week.

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3. Brossard Bagel 286 Gladstone, Greenfield Park, J4V

Crush breakfast at this local favorite slinging shamelessly-better-than-a-doughnut bagels like banana chocolate chip and coconut topped with homemade pineapple cream cheese.

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4. Beauty's Bagel Shop 3838 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Montreal-style bagels are hand-rolled, boiled in honey water, and served hot right out of the wood-burning oven. Get your Montreal-style bagel-n-schmear breakfast right here in Cali!

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5. Bagel Etc. 4320 boul. Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2W 1Z3

Bagel Etc. is a diner/cafe that's known for its brunch specials, and the bagels are all hand-rolled, Montreal-style. Grab a seat and admire the funky decor while you dig into your meal.



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