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The Battle of the Bagels - Taste-Off in Montreal Gazette

Just spent a few days in Montreal (my hometown), and read an article by Bill Brownstein in the Wednesday Food section of The Gazette which announces a face-off between St-Urbain and Bagel House bagels from Toronto, and St-Viateur and Fairmount bagels from Montreal. This should be pretty interesting. The results will be printed in the December 9th issues of both The Montreal Gazette and the National Post.


May the best bagel win.

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  1. I love St.V's in MTL. And Ottawa Bagel Shop in Ottawa. GTA has nothing to compare to these two unfortunately.

    1 Reply
    1. re: to_frankie

      And you've been to which Toronto shops, TOF?

    2. I have to second previous posts. I reealy like the Ottawa bagel shop bagels. Toronto bagels are not on par.

      1 Reply
      1. re: 88GK

        Yeah, I so' dont get why Ottawa Bagel doesn't open a store in Toronto..even a small shopfront like Cobs on Bloor St (Annex) could CLEAN UP..big time.

      2. It should be added, for those who didn't read the Bill Brownstein column in the Montreal Gazette, or the write-ups in the National Post, that this a battle of the Montreal-style bagels. That's why St-Urbain & Bagel House bagels in Toronto were chosen. I'm not in Toronto, are these two bagel establishments using a wood-burning oven?

        Here in Montreal, I like both St-Viateur & Fairmount bagels, but given a choice I probably prefer Fairmount bagels(need to taste them side-by-side to be sure, which is better). I understand the way Fairmount makes their bagels are different than that of St-Viateur(now sure how is it differently made).

        3 Replies
        1. re: BLM

          I think that they both use wood for fuel. I know that the St. Urbain location on Bathurst north of Steeles does. I was just there yesterday. The bagels at Bagel House's two locations are definitely superior, however.

          1. re: Yongeman

            The St. Urbain location at the St. Lawrence Market uses a wood buringin oven, and are my favourite. HOwever, I have never beeen out to the bagel places on Bathurst.

          2. re: BLM

            I meant to say, "not" sure how is it differently made(between Fairmount & St-Viateur bagels).

          3. I prefer Fairmount bagels to St. Viateur, as well. I also like R.E.A.L. Bagels (Queen Mary Rd. branch only - the ones at the Cote St-Luc Rd. branch aren't as good).

            Bagel House in Toronto comes pretty close to Fairmount. St-Urbain bagels have good flavour, but lack the "chew" of a good Montreal bagel.

            1 Reply
            1. re: FlavoursGal

              I also agree that R.E.A.L. Bagels on Queen Mary Rd is pretty good.

            2. Here in Richmond Hill, we find "Whattabagel" on Yonge, just south of Major Mackenzie, a very satisfying spot. They make excellent bagels, and we often come over early just to get them hot out of the oven. In addition, they make great breads, pastries, etc. I'm an ex-Montrealer, and enjoy both styles of bagel. Why all the hostility? If we were discussing filet mignon, I'd say I enjoy it all by itself, but have no objection at all to dressing it with a nice maitre d'hotel butter or a bearnaise. So why can't we enjoy different styles of bagel without endless debate on which is "better"?

              1 Reply
              1. re: KevinB

                Because it's kind of fun to have this sort of rivalry - who has the better bagels, the better smoked meat/pastrami, the better hockey team, the better restaurants. The list is endless.

                As a former Montrealer who's lived in Toronto for the past 10 years, I still side with everything Montreal. And I know people who've been here a lot longer who do the same. There's something about Montreal that gets into the bloodstream of someone who's been born and raised there; it's impossible to take the Montreal out of the former Montrealer, wherever she/he may be.

                That's not to say that we don't, like yourself, enjoy a Toronto bagel now and then, or a corned beef sandwich. Of course we do! It's a rivalry that's innocent and harmless.

                Go, Fairmount, Go!!!

              2. Playing catch-up. The results of the bagel taste-test which came out Saturday in the 2 papers, was Fairmount Bagel #1, followed by St-Viateur & coming in way down were St-Urbain & Bagel House. Between the bagels in Montreal & bagels in Toronto, it was no contest, the bagels in Montreal were much better. Of the six panelists(3 from Montreal, & 3 from Toronto), 5 of them put Fairmount Bagel #1(the other one gave St-Viateur the top spot). Not surprised that Fairmount Bagel came up on top, as I think they're better than St-Viateur.

                1 Reply
                1. re: BLM

                  I read the Gazette articles. Any idea how they ensured equal freshness of bagels, given that they are several hours apart?

                2. Yeah Fairmont - my favourite for decades. Survived on them in my McGill dorm days. Nothing else was edible.....

                  I heard someone explain the bagel difference by the characteristics of the local water used. I don't know if it's true for bagels, it is true for beer :-)

                  1. Fairmount is my favourite, too. It tastes more like the bagels I remember from childhood, which we used to buy straight from the oven at Van Horne Bagel Bakery (no longer in existence) in Montreal.

                    Now that my Montreal-born daughter is attending McGill (we moved to Toronto 10 years ago), I get to visit more often and take home lots of bagels. Dorm food is still pretty bad (she was in Molson Hall last year)...

                    They do claim that there is something in the water (just like there's something in the water in Paris that turns out great baguettes).

                    1. Hands down Fairmont is the best

                      1. I may have to visit Montreal now just to discover these bagels.

                        I have only recently discovered Bagel House after years of St. Urbain. I cannot get enough of Bagel House. Their choice of cream cheeses and sandwich options combined with the taste and choice in bagels (onion is my favourite) is just spectacular each time!

                        1. I agree that Bagel House is superior to St. Urbain. For Montrealers (I will always consider myself one, although I've been in Toronto for 10 years), however, I think that the quintessential bagel still comes in only two "real" varieties: sesame and poppy (or "white seed" and "black seed", as Montrealers would say).

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: FlavoursGal

                            Completely agree, FlavoursGal, (although many Jewish Torontonians also use the black and white lingo too).

                            1. re: FlavoursGal

                              HA! I was just about to say that. There is no need for anything other than poppy or sesame. Anything else just seems wrong :-)

                              1. re: FlavoursGal

                                without a doubt, St urbain is just a toronto bagel trying to be something else (and that is not a good thing) While the bagel house is not Fairmount, its the best we have, and that isn't such a bad thing.

                                i guess you have never tried the bonzo bagel from fairmount? bagels come in all shapes and sizes, and that isn't a bad thing either

                                1. re: galambo

                                  I think they're called 'bozo' bagels(these are Montreal bagels on steroids). I do like them. I also like cinnamon raisin bagels on occasion.

                                2. re: FlavoursGal

                                  The best thing about Bagel House is that you can walk in and ask for a 1/2 dozen 'white' and get what you want without having to explain yourself.

                                  1. re: Atahualpa

                                    I've done the same thing at St. Urbain. The owner, Bernie, has obviously trained his staff.

                                3. I disagree that St-Urbain is "...just a Toronto bagel trying to be something else..." It is far from a Toronto bagel and, in my opinion, is totally acceptable as a Montreal-style bagel (outside of Montreal, that is).

                                  Yes, the bagels at Bagel House are better but, having lived within walking distance of the St-Urbain on Eglinton for the 10 years since I moved here from Montreal, I can vouch for their Montreal-esque flavour. As far as I'm concerned, it's the texture, not the flavour, that's a little off.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: FlavoursGal

                                    Agreed again FG. St. Urbain isn't as good as Bagel House, but neither is even close to being a 'Toronto' bagel.

                                  2. I noticed now, that the Fairmount Bagel commercials airing on Montreal radio, include a blurb mentioning the recent Montreal Gazette/National Post bagel taste test & that they came out #1.

                                    1. We just returned from being in Montreal over the Christmas holiday. We tried both Viateur and Fairmount bagels while we were there. I would say that St. Viateur wins out hands down. They are so so good. The morning we were there the tiny place was packed with people waiting in line. It wasn't a long wait, though, and the anticipation grew and grew as we saw customers leaving with large brown paper bags filled to the brim with fresh tantalizing bagels. The white or black bagels( seseme or poppy seed) were $5.50 a dozen ( I think). anyways we bought 2 dozen to take back on our flight the next day to Halifax. There is definetly nothing like those bagels in Cape Breton!