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Just Curious: Do any non-Montrealers love Montreal bagels?

There's a little battle going on on the Toronto/Ontario board, the usual bickering about whose bagels are better - Montreal's or Toronto's. As a former Montrealer now living in Toronto, my vote goes to the slightly chewy bagels of Montreal, which nourished not only me, but the likes of Mordecai Richler, Leonard Cohen, and William Shatner.

Is there anyone out there who did not grow up in Montreal, yet has tried a real Montreal bagel and fallen in love?

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  1. I'd say I enjoy them, but.... not quite a love affair. We visit Montreal often, and Fairmount or St. Viature are always on the travel route.

    1. Yes, for a very long time I preferred the Montreal style bagels baked by Bagel House on Bayview as opposed to all others I had had in Toronto. On summer trips to la belle provence I loved Montreal bagels from St. Viateur.

      Then I went to NYC last summer and our hotel was around the corner from Ess-a-Bagel. I have never so enjoyed a bagel in my life. Sure, it is a totally different bagel -- salty, not sweet, and chewy all the way through without any crust -- but, my heart was swayed none-the-less.

      Now, back in T.O., I find myself wanting better non-Montreal bagels rather than going back to my old preference. Gryfe's is way too far from where I live and still not as good as Ess-a.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Atahualpa

        I live in CALGARY and Gryfe's isn't too far for me!

      2. I've had a couple in my lifetime and really didn't like them. Way too chewy and doughy.


        1. I enjoy Montreal bagels from St. Viateur very much when they are freshly made. I bring them home and freeze them, but they don't taste fresh when they defrost, like my local bagels do.
          That won't stop me from buying them whenever I visit.

          1. Grew up in Toronto, went to McGill, now back in Toronto. Yes, definitely love, in a way that makes me want TO TYPE IN ALL CAPS OMG LUV LUV LUV!
            I don't even eat Toronto bagels. I've never tried Gryfe's though. I understand a great New York bagel is a different thing entirely - from fellow McGill students from New York who loved both, but in different ways. Does bagel love have to be monogamous?
            Have you tried your Montreal bagel spread with avocado and a sprinkle of salt?

            Oh and I have to add, with Liberte cream cheese! So much better than Philly. Why do we have Liberte yoghurt etc in Toronto but not the cream cheese?

            2 Replies
            1. re: julesrules

              YIPPEE! Thanks for your post, julesrules! I just knew there was at least one person out there who'd understand.

              As for Liberty cream cheese - you're right, it is the best - old-fashioned, no gucky gums, just pure ingredients. Western cream cheese in Toronto comes in a close second.

              1. re: FlavoursGal

                It's actually been discussed on CH in the past and there are Americans out there who love the Montreal bagel too.

                I have seen the Western cream cheese, I would say that I'll try it but really there's no point without the bagels ;)

            2. I'm your girl! Born and raised in Toronto, I used to think there was nothing finer than a Bagel World bagel (a twister, to boot!). When I first tried Montreal bagels (in Montreal), I thought they were inferior - sweet pastries more than bread. I'm not sure what happened over the years but about 4 years ago, I officially switched teams. In Toronto, I love going to Bagel House on Bayview for an "everything" (or whatever they call it there) - I love the combination of a bit of sweet mixed with the spice. And more than anything, I've come to love the size and the fact that they're less doughy/filling. And of course, no trip to Montreal is complete without bring back a dozen or so bagels (not all of which survive the journey).

              For comparison sake, I went back to Bagel World a couple of months ago (still a classic spot in the city) - I hadn't been there in years. The bagel was just so-so, not sure if they've gone downhill somewhat or my tastes have just changed that much. I also like the flavour of Ess-A-Bagel bagels in New York but they are WAY too big/doughy - honestly, one bagel is like eating a loaf of bread (but they're tasty).

              So there you go - a non-Montrealer who prefers Montreal bagels!

              1. I live here in Brooklyn, NY - perhaps the epicenter for bageldom, and I have to admit that I love Fairmount's everything bagel. Hands down the best bagel I've ever eaten - just the right amount of coating, the inclusion of fennel seeds, the texture, the sweetness. My wife and I got them with cream cheese and lox - ridiculously good. As a whole, I'm not that big of a fan of Montreal-style bagels - the one's I've had at St. Viateur (both at the retail location and Beauty's) have been massive let downs. But I will always make a trip to Fairmount when I'm in town.

                1. Didn't have a Montreal bagel until I was in my 20s. After a first few disbelieving encounters -- so scrawny, so bready, so chewy -- I became a convert. These days, they represent the pinnacle of bageldom to me. Not surprising that food historians claim they're the closest thing to the original Old World bagels.

                  lambretta76 is entitled to his opinion, even if it is wrong. ;o) St-Viateur bagels are superior to Fairmount's -- lighter, less sweet and less encrusted -- though their recent trend toward fatter bagels, some of them with holes so small you can't thread them on your finger, is worrisome. And the only true bagels are plain, sesame seed or poppy seed; all others are abominations (granted that fennel is less abominable than, say, wholewheat cinnamon raisin).

                  1. While I've always held Manhattan/Brooklyn bagels as the only "real bagel" for my personal use, I certainly enjoyed St Viature and others on my Montreal trip. I doubt it's because I'm prejudiced out of my admiration for certain famous Montreal Jews mentioned above. Chewy is never a bad thing. I've never been to T.O. so can't compare.

                    1. Born and raised in Ottawa (albeit from Montreal parents) - love the Mtl bagels. So glad a Mtl-style bakery is right next to my house...

                      And though I recognize that the new yuppie bagel flavours aren't authentic, I do occasionally love a nice mueslix (or cinnamon raisin) bagel.

                      1. Blecchhh. Just give me a salt, poppy, garlic, or sesame and I'll be in bagel heaven.

                        1. Bless you, Montreal bagel lovers! We are kindred spirits.

                          1. I guess my love of the everything bagel certainly takes away from my bagel cred, however, I take it to be the sign of a competent bagel maker. The ratios and amounts of the "everything" can really make or break the deal.

                            As for St. Viateur, I found their bagels to be watery - almost metallic tasting - and perhaps a tad too sweet.

                            As for size - I am a big fan of the Montreal bagel - I dislike it when the hole gets filled with cream cheese, leaving a huge blob of the stuff sitting there. I like my schmear as much as the next person, but a huge wad of cream cheese in the middle is not my thing.

                            1. I've never even been to Montreal and I love Montreal bagels, procured for me by frequent poster Candy. Wish I had one now.

                              1. Born in Toronto, lived in Mtl, back in TO. I LOVE Mtl bagels and cannot bear the non-Mtl kind. In TO, I like the Bagel House on Bayview - not quite as good as Mtl but the closest I've found and divine when fresh & still warm,

                                Favourite memory is being in Mtl during the big ice storm, all power was out for days but St. Viateur Bagel was open and working by candelight (since they don't need electricity), with lineups like crazy. My friend went and brought back a fresh, warm bag of them for those of us staying together through the power outage. Those were the best bagels I ever had.

                                1. We just visited Montréal over New Years (first time for me and I want to know how anyone can leave a city that offers smoked meat like that...not to mention snow!) and filled the car's trunk with bagels. We may become bagel shaped.

                                  That said, the "Montréal style" bagels sold at Fortinos out here in the Hamilton area are, at least to this untrained bagel palate, a moderately acceptable substitute.

                                  1. as a born Montrealer and having spent 5 yrs. in TO, this is my opinion:

                                    a Montreal St. Viateur bagel, fresh from the store or toasted, with butter, or cream cheese, cream cheese and tomato, cream cheese and red pepper, peanut butter and jam, butter and creamed honey, hummus... Is the PINNACLE of bagel eating. And that's without the smoked salmon.

                                    In TO, I adored Gryfe's. SO SO different from what I knew, with that crusty bottom, yet so, so satisfying with a shmear of butter, or more.

                                    They are two completely different things and I'm glad that, in a way, they bear different names.

                                    1. Not to throw a cold shower on this Montreal bagel love-in, but I have to say that I've had both, and if I had to pick an "everyday" bagel, I would go with Gryfe's! Perfectly crunchy crust, soft and moist inside, and not too sweet like the Montreal bagel. Also, the Montreal bagels stick to my teeth and it drives me NUTS!

                                      If it wasn't for the insane line-ups, I would make the trip up to Gryfe's to buy a bag every Saturday. So chalk one up for Toronto.

                                      But I do have to agree with most posters - the bagels are completely different. Almost polar opposites in the bagel spectrum.

                                      1. Being from Toronto I am not ashamed to admit that I love Montreal bagels, and not a week goes by without a Bagel World/Kiva's twister with cream cheese, lox, onions and heartburn. But I have never really "got" Gryfe's bagels, it's like there sitting the fence between a Toronto style and a Montreal bagel, but to me as good as neither.

                                        Being the good CH that I am, I guess I owe it to myself to grab a dozen or so hot bagels and reevaluate.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jonnybee

                                          Sorry to burst your bubble, jonny, but Bagel World and Kiva's bagels are NOT Montreal-style bagels. They're as Toronto as you can get.

                                          1. re: FlavoursGal

                                            Sorry if I was unclear, I consider the Kiva's/Bagel World bagel to be a "Toronto style" and we all know what a Montreal bagel is. I was just saying that Toronto and Montreal bagels seem to be polar opposites as far as bagels go, while Gryfe's seems to straddle the middle, but I prefer either one of the extremes.

                                            1. re: jonnybee

                                              Gothcha. I'll agree, although to me, Gryfe's bagels are rolls with holes in the middle.

                                        2. I've never been to Montreal but I've always respected their bagels ever since reading years ago that some are baked in wood-burning ovens. According to the NY Times, Fairmount does this, and cooking the bagel is "an act of baking that becomes almost performance art when practiced by the quick-wristed chefs"

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Brian S

                                            it is. they're cutting and hand-rolling each bagel right in front of you. a quick bath in simmering water, a generous sesame or poppy seed covering, and they're loaded onto a long, slender plank to put into the wood-burning oven. It truly is a sight to behold.

                                          2. In my travels, NYC and Montreal are the only places I've ever been with excellent bagels.

                                            Where I live in New Hampshire, we have bagels in the way that Taco Bell is Mexican food. ;)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: GeoffD

                                              Ottawa has good Montreal/New York style bagels at the Ottawa Bagel Shop and several Kettleman's.

                                              But for sheer bagel style, in one of the Mtl malls , Le Fauburge I think, there's a wood-fired oven bagel place, with about 50 feet of stovepipe up to the glass atrium roof!

                                              If you can't see the bagel boiled and smell the smoke and see the oven, feel the heat - it's not the real thing.

                                              No cake bagels for me! Boiled hard bagels are my thing. I bought a dozen once, and ate three on the way home. Fresh from the oven!

                                            2. You've got to respect a bagel bakery that is open 24/7 and has line-ups on a Saturday night at 2 a.m.

                                              Both Fairmount and St-Viateur roll, soak (the rolled bagels are soaked in a hot honeyed water bath before baking) and bake their bagels in wood-burning ovens right before your eyes. It fascinates me as much at age 48 as it did at age 8, to watch the making of a bagel.

                                              Living in Toronto for 10 years now, every trip to Montreal involves purchasing bagels, either at Fairmount or REAL Bagel (Queen Mary location, NOT Cote St Luc; there's a huge difference).

                                              1. I have converted my boyfriend...a trueblood Torontonian! I am originally from Montreal and remember eating those nice soft chewy bagels (piece of heaven when straight out of the fire oven). I especially loved the cheese bagels from the bagel shop in Le Faubourg (so good but so bad for you).
                                                Initially, he didn't believe me about the MTL bagels...he wasn't much of a bagel eater since bagels in TO are basically bread with a hole in the middle.
                                                Then, of course, I took him to St-Viateur on our first vacation there. He fell in love :) We always bring back about 6 dozen bagel...some for us and some for his converted friends.
                                                Now...which one do you prefer? St-Viateur or Fairmount? We tried both and I think I prefer St-Viateur...

                                                1. I love Montreal bagels! I live in Quebec, near Ottawa. I love the bagels from Fairmont in particular and also from St. Vaiteur. We have some pretty good Mtl stlyle bagels here too, Ottawa Bagel and Kettleman's and a more Toronto style bagel at Rideau Bakery.
                                                  I am actually from Toronto, where I have enjoyed Mtl style bagels from the Bagel House on Bayview and formerly from Kettleman's on Danforth.
                                                  My favourite bagels, though, are in New York. They have a delicious chewy bite and are softer on the outside. They can be kind of difficult to eat because they are so chewy and that is the quality I love in a bagel.
                                                  I do not enjoy Toronto bagels. I have tried ALL of them, and while I appreciate that some people love them and many people have sentimental and/or historical attachment to them, I do not like them. I do remember, many years ago, getting very good bagels in Toronto from Open Window Bakery on Eglinton west of Bathurst. They were delicious at that time but are no longer good. Many Open Window Bakeries have closed and the ones that still exist have changed.

                                                  1. I love Montreal bagels (read: Fairmount). Some bagels in Toronto are decent like Gryfe's (my favorite) and St. Urbain's. But bagels are a hit and miss affair in this city. Not considered an art form

                                                    1. My husband is Jewish from NYC, and so we are very orthodox about bagels. We live in the Chicago area, luckily near two of the only decent bagel stores in the area (otherwise we would never eat bagels). So-- I need to qualify my statement about Montreal bagels with a preface that actually, they really don't qualify as bagels [but remember we are very very strict, don't even try to mention those bagel-like objects with blueberries or sun-dried tomatoes, a total abomination and probably anti-Semitic too ;-) ] -- but with all those caveats, I love Montreals bagels. Yummmm. (Best if my husband doesn't see this...)

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Anne H

                                                        >>need to qualify my statement about Montreal bagels with a preface that actually, they really don't qualify as bagels<<

                                                        How so? Most food historians feel they are the bagels that most resemble the original Old World bagel, which long predates New York-style and other New World bagels. If you're going to be very, very strict, shouldn't you be shunning the new-fangled New World impostors along with the cinnamon blueberry nut abominations?

                                                        1. re: carswell

                                                          I think it's more a question of my husband being New York-centric (thank goodness, mostly only about Jewish food). I only meant it as a statement of family preferences/fetishes/customs, not as a statement of historical or culinary correctness... Plus, as I stated, I love Montreal bagels.

                                                      2. Moi. I live in San Francisco but go to (or at least through) Montreal at least once a year. I like St. Viateur, and it was a dark day when the Dorval (oops, Trudeau) Airport concessions stopped carrying St. V's bagels. It was great to be able to grab a dozen or two of freshly-made St. V's bagels at the Starbucks in the Air Canada departure lounge area before boarding the plane, and toss them in my freezer in San Francisco six or seven hours later.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Gary Soup

                                                          I hope you sliced them first.

                                                          1. re: C70

                                                            Yes, thanks to a tip from someone (you?) after I lamented the way they crumble if frozen first.

                                                        2. I live in Fredericton, N.B., and we have a booth at our Saturday market that flies in Montreal bagels every weekend: And, sells out before 10 am most weeks. (on Dec.23, we were there at 7 am and they were almost gone!)
                                                          Not sure what a "TO" bagel is, but the Montreal bagel is alive and well in the Maritimes!

                                                          1. I should hasten to add, for those of us with a need to know, is that Montreal Bagels (or at least the good ones) are reputedly made WITHOUT SALT, which is no small feat. I'm been trying to diligently follow my Doctor's advice and limit my sodium intake, and have discovered that breads generally are the Trojan horse of sodium.

                                                            1. I grew up in Washington DC, and I absolutely LOVE montreal bagels.