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Apr 22, 2007 09:28 AM

Montreal- vs New York-style bagels

I've seen shops advertising their bagels as either in the style of Montreal or New York.

I'm not a bagel expert. Could any 'hounds elaborate on the similarities and differences between the two styles?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Some answers are here. One thing not in that post is that wood-burning ovens are legal in Montreal and some of the very best bagelries use them.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Brian S

      Montreal style bagels are all over Canada and those wood-burning oven are used all over the country as well. We have two places in Calgary that make Montreal bagels in the pure laine wood burning ovens.

      Having said all that, I much prefer NY style bagels and my fave is Gryfe's in Toronto. Montreal style have no salt and get as hard as rocks after about a day and a half.

      1. re: John Manzo

        Gryfe's are what traditional NY bagels were like, once, until the too-dense foodcourt crap bastardized the concept. Another excellent traditional (let's just avoid the NY term altogether- Bagels are from the Middle East, not New York anyway) is at the Habord Bakery.

        1. re: John Manzo

          Sorry, but you could not possibly be more wrong. Although good New York style bagels are no longer easy to find in New York, Gryfe's bagels were concocted by Gryfe. There was no breadstuff of this type ever sold in New York.

          Although the history of the bagel is not really known with any scientific accuracy, there certainly never was a "Middle East bagel".

          I know Harbord made excellent bagels at one time in roughly the New York style, but I haven't had one recently, so cannot comment.

          1. re: John Manzo

            I thought bagels came from Belarus/Eastern Poland/Lithuania, depending on how old your map is, and that the larger rings associated with Israel and Palestine evolved from the same Polish ancestors.

        2. The only real similarity between Montreal and New York bagels is that they are both round breads with a hole in the middle. Montreal bagels are sweet and the taste imparted by the wood oven is characteristic.

          Gryfe's bagels are different from both Montreal and New York varieties. They are almost fluffy. Fine if you like it, but is this a bagel?

          The classic Toronto bagels come from Bagel World and Kivas.

          1. I live in New York but am from Montreal - and I just snuck a whole batch of bagels from there this weekend. IMO, both kinds are equally tasty, just different.

            I can't debate the finer points of what makes them different, but Montreal bagels are definitely chewier.

            I was struck by the difference in size this weekend: Mtl bagels were much smaller, about the size of a hamburger bun. The NY ones are about 1.5 times bigger. I have to say, I like the smaller size better - they don't weigh you down as much.

            6 Replies
            1. re: piccola

              I wonder, if you could go back in time (which would be cool!) and eat a New York bagel 70 years ago, if it would be a lot like a present-day Montreal bagel.

              1. re: Brian S

                I am in Montreal, I am loyal to the Montreal bagel. New York bagels are different but tasty. Most bagels I have had in the rest of Canada are bread with holes in it, not real bagels. (can't comment on Bagel world and Kivas in Toronto.

                A great way to freshen up a Montreal bagel: Very quickly run in under water from the tap (Just pass it through). Microwave for about 10-15 seconds. Split in half, and lightly toast.

                1. re: moh

                  Bagels I've had from Montreal's and, on a good day, Wayne's in Cowtown are just as good as your average one in Montreal. Bagels aren't rocket science (but then again neither is espresso, but that doesn's prevent the espresso in Montreal consistently being the worst on the planet).

                  1. re: John Manzo

                    "...but that doesn's prevent the espresso in Montreal consistently being the worst on the planet)."

                    Huh? Where have YOU been getting your espresso in Montreal? I can't recall ever having a bad espresso there. Paris, yes (the beans are burnt), but not Montreal.

                2. re: Brian S

                  As of 55 years ago, NO! A New York bagel never resembled a Montreal bagel.

                  1. re: embee

                    I can only go back 45 years in my memory of NY bagels, but I agree with you. The only resemblance was in size. NY bagels were harder and saltier. (MTL bagels, of course, are made with out salt, a fortunate thing for our age group ;-)

              2. Wikipedia has a pretty good description of the Montreal bagel.


                13 Replies
                1. re: FlavoursGal

                  Checking the Wikipedia entry on Montreal bagels, three things stood out. I had never heard before, that a baker named Engleman coming from Russia in 1919 introduced Montreal to bagels(his descendants continue to make bagels today). The person's name is actually Isadore Shlafman; There's even a Montreal bagel shop in Houston, Texas!; It's a falsehood that Montreal bagels are always baked in a wood-burning oven. It's true many of the Montreal bagel shops in Montreal use a wood-burning oven, but it not always the case(St-Viateur Bagel has a second location on St-Viateur street(that outlet mainly to produce product for their wholesale market), & it uses a gas-burning oven).

                  1. re: BLM

                    "(St-Viateur Bagel has a second location on St-Viateur street(that outlet mainly to produce product for their wholesale market), & it uses a gas-burning oven)."

                    Is it any wonder, then, that Fairmount seems to be the Montreal bagel of choice for so many, and that the Fairmount bagel won the Montreal/Toronto Montreal bagel taste-off? The flavour imparted by the wood-burning oven is no match for a gas-burning commercial oven!

                    1. re: BLM

                      If a bagel doesn't taste of wood smoke then, to me, it just isn't a "Montreal bagel". That smoky background and the bits of char are crucial. The gas oven version may be very tasty, but it will be noticeably different.

                      That said, the Kettleman's bagel franchise that lasted for about a year in Toronto did everything traditionally, but still made bagels that didn't do much for my taste buds.

                      I tend to treat all attempts to document the history of the bagel in North America with many grains of salt :-(

                      Perhaps the history of Montreal bagels is more definitive than the history of the New York version. There are so many supposedly "authentic" versions of New York bagel history that I can only laugh. During my NY childhood, most bagels were made in Brooklyn, by hand, by artisans who were (literally) born into the trade.

                      Frozen bagels were developed by two companies at roughly the same time: Abel's in Buffalo NY and Lender's in West Haven Conn. This dates back only to the 1950s, yet Abel and Lender (who later merged) could never agree on the history of the frozen bagel. I suspect the "true" history of the bagel in North America won't ever be known.

                      The stuff they sell at Tim Horton's and many, if not most other places in Toronto are known to many of my Jewish friends as "Anglican bagels", meaning, essentially, that they are a variant of "white bread".

                      1. re: embee

                        Kaisers with holes is what I call them!

                        Yeah what was wrong with Kettlemans? To clarify, I agree they should have been good but were not. Some say the water in Montreal is also a factor.

                        1. re: julesrules

                          I dunno about Mtl, but the Kettleman's in Ottawa is consistently delicious and the best in town, IMO.

                          1. re: julesrules

                            I haven't a clue. I watched them make the things and they seemed to do everything by the book. But the bagels never tasted very good. Water can be a factor. Montreal water isn't as treated as Toronto water and is softer (as is the water in New York City). Was that a factor? I've no idea. But Bagel House is making Montreal style bagels that do taste good. So who knows?

                            1. re: embee

                              i live in NYC but Montreal to me is seriously awesome. We went to a famous bagel place in the city (i forget the name). It was good but so much different than NYC area bagel. I would take an Ess-a-bagel bagel over any in the world.

                              1. re: embee

                                As far as I know, La Ville de Montreal is still not fluoridating its water. Could be the difference (and the reason for all the fillings in my mouth!).

                                1. re: FlavoursGal

                                  Nah..those are because of all the margarine you ate.

                                  1. re: embee

                                    ...ya, and the Miracle Whip! ;-))

                            2. re: embee

                              The second St-Viateur Bagel location on St-Viateur street BTW is at 158 St-Viateur West(very very close by to the original location). It's open to the public, but otherwise they produce for their wholesale market. They're three St-Viateur Bagel locations producing for the wholesale market(all three also open to the public), & I'm guessing they all use a gas-burning oven. However the two St-Viateur Bagel & Cafe(one on Mont-Royal, the other on Monkland) locations both use wood-burning ovens. Of course the original St-Viateur Bagel on St-Viateur still uses a wood-burning oven.

                              The way that Fairmount Bagel & St-Viateur Bagel make their bagels are different. The owner of Fairmount Bagel went on Montreal radio several years ago, & explained how they make their bagels(can remember what he said specifically).

                              1. re: BLM

                                the st. viateur outlet in the Esposito grocery store on Marcel Laurin definitely uses a wood burning oven.

                                1. re: C70

                                  Yes, you're right. Went to the St-Viateur outlet at Esposito for first time yesterday, & saw their wood-burning oven in action.

                        2. A Montreal bagel is dipped in boiling water ( in a salt like brine I think) and then baked... then you have a chewy bagel not a breadlike one like the ones you buy in a grocery store... those aren't bagels

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: missmojito

                            It's usually a sweetened water. The New York bagels of my childhood were also boiled, but were not sweet.

                            1. re: embee

                              the water is sweetened with honey.