“MMMMMM!” was the exclamation of pleasure from a life-long New Yorker when first sampling Montreal bagels. This was high praise indeed. This Long-Islander went on to concede that these bagels even rivaled New York’s otherwise unrivaled bagels. Montrealers have known for some time that their bagels were world class. In fact, beyond smoked meat and poutine, perhaps no food characterizes Montreal more than its bagels. Like their smoked meat brethren, Montreal bagels are originally a contribution of the city’s sizeable Jewish community. And just as debate might wage between smoked meat at Shwartz’s or The Main, a similar competition exists between Montreal’s top bagel bakeries, Fairmount and St Viateur.
Both bagel emporiums follow a specific formula to give their circular gold a winning composition. Though the specific recipes remain behind bakery walls, Montreal bagels are cooked with honey water, to give them a hint of sweetness. Both bagel shops remain open twenty four hours a day, thus satisfying the munchies of late night revelers and suitably stuffing early risers on their way to work. An assortment of flavors are available, however sesame and poppy seed bagels are the resounding favorites.
Though any lineup flows efficiently, the brief time inside the bagel shop treats the senses with its sights and smells of the bagel process. You might first notice how warm it is; this comes from the enormous brick ovens. Rounded dough is placed upon huge wooden paddles and stuffed into the fires before your eyes. Before long, the bagels are finished and the staff heaves the contents upon the paddle into giant bins. Time your arrival right and you can get your bagels fresh out of the oven; because of great demand, they are constantly making more. The chance of getting still-warm bagels is relatively high.
These bagels remain among the most economical dietary selections available. A single poppy or sesame bagel is only sixty cents. A dozen costs five fifty. Due to their density, one bagel, and at most two, is a sufficient meal. Cream cheese, hummus and jam are also available as toppings, though many find their bagel delicious enough to consume right away, especially when it is warm out of the oven.
Fairmount bagel shop is located on Fairmount Street, the main St Viateur shop a couple of blocks north on St Viateur street, both between Parc and St Laurent. St Viateur also has two other shops. If you can’t make it to the bakeries, both bagel shops package up some of their stock and sell them in groceries around the city. In fact, bagels are routinely shipped across the country to meet demand in other provinces.
Determining which bagel is better is simply a matter of preference in this case, and is ultimately up to the palette of the reader and not this reviewer. So take the challenge, try both, and enjoy.
74 avenue Fairmount Ouest
263 avenue St-Viateur Ouest