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Montreal bagels for a California girl

Enough of this "New York bagel" BS. I've scoured the SF board and am mortified this question hasn't been answered. Where to find a wonderful Montreal bagel? I'm looking for a good Montreal bagel in the CIty or East Bay. Chewy, small, sweet, and preferably covered with sesame seeds. If anyone can point me in the right direction, I will follow the love.

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  1. Its my opinion that when people yearn for a "New York" bagel, what they really want is one of those small, dense, chewy Montreal bagels. I think Montreal may be the last refuge of real bagels. And you are even less likely to find a Montreal bagel here than you are to find a New York specimen. I've yet to find anything even remotely close. (This is a pet peeve of mine: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6241...)

    1 Reply
    1. re: BernalKC

      NY bagels are not sweet...Montreal Bagels are supposed to be...that being said, although I do love REAL NY Bagels...I'd love to try Montreal Bagels as well as their smoked meats which are also highly spoken of.

    2. I haven't had any luck locally but just returned from Portland, Or.

      http://www.tastebudfarm.com/ a close approximation, maybe not as sweet, and if anything, too dense.

      waiting for one of the Bay Area wood fired oven establishments to set up a side business (hint)

      1. Is that "sweet" as in sugar or honey added?

        3 Replies
        1. re: dordogne

          Or go a little further north and we can set you up at Siegel's in Vancouver :-)

          1. re: dordogne

            Montreal bagels taste sweeter because 1) honey is added to the water they are boiled in and 2) no salt is used. Saltiness and sweetness tend to counteract each other.

            The OP really needs to go to Montreal and get some St. Viateur or Fairmount bagels. There is no substitute.

            1. re: dordogne

              When the dough is made they are floated in hot water with honey in it that's what makes them chewy and sweet. Damn did not see later post. Search a bakery in Montreal and see if they will ship. Schwartz's deli will ship mustard and Montreal smoked meat. Provincial foods in Toronto will ship most Quebec foods and I saw frozen Montreal bagels once there.

            2. Bump, so any place for good Montreal bagels in SF?

              11 Replies
              1. re: hedge_hog

                Beauty's Bagel Shop, soon to open somewhere in Oakland, has served a few times at Wise Sons. I haven't tried their bagels yet, but it does sound awfully promising:


                Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen
                San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                  1. re: BernalKC

                    Finally got to the Wise Sons pop up at Heart and I'm licking my chops right now savoring my first Beauty's bagel. I'm a happy SOB. It's not St. Viateur. Yet. But its already a big jump up from any bagel I've had around here. Not as dense at St. Viateur but more so than the norm here, not quite the same depth of flavor, could maybe be a bit larger diameter, but the thickness and weight are just right.

                    Why am I picking nits? This is an excellent bagel. Something I've never said about any bagel I've had here in SF.

                    1. re: BernalKC

                      Thanks for the report. I haven't been back since Wise Sons moved to its new location and, presumably, since the Beauty Bagels folks came back from their St. Viateur mini-apprenticeship. So I've only had the bialys that the Wise Sons folks make themselves, which are darned good but a different breed of cat.

                      Were there different kinds of bagels or just a plain variety?

                      1. re: BernalKC

                        I was also at Wise Sons today with Martin Strell and his family. We got to try nearly everything. I suspect the holiday weekend made the lines shorter, although this was our first visit.

                        We shared: bagel with smoked trout, trout salad sandwich, chopped liver, chocolate babka, rugelah, pickles, pastrami, and tongue.

                        I'd been a little wary after all the publicity they've gotten (does a place open 4 hours a week need a writeup in the NY TImes?). But this is a great place, with high quality and very reasonable prices.

                        Portions are not huge, but I'd prefer to spend $11 for a top notch deli sandwich that doesn't require a nap or a 5-mile run after; last time I was at The Refuge, I had shock from both the size of the sandwich and the size of our lunch bill.

                        I liked the bagel more than loved it. It doesn't compare to Ess-A-Bagel's pumpernickel. But the smoked steelhead trout on top was exceptional.

                        Chocolate babka and delicate sliced tongue were the other standouts for me, along with fresh cole slaw. I also appreciated the spicy mustard and good pickles.

                        Martin and his wife preferred the pastrami to tongue; I thought it was good, but not revelatory (like Kenny & Zuke's in Portland). Apricot rugelah were tasty if not that traditional. About the only thing we didn't finish was the chopped liver.

                        I look forward to Wise Sons opening in a permanent spot some day soon. Clearly the demand is there.

                        1. re: Windy

                          Good tip on Beauty Bagels. Where can I buy them? Info on the web is limited. In SF, only at Wise?

                          Montreal vs. NY Bagels in NYT: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/200...

                          1. re: jman1

                            As mentioned upthread, they're opening a shop in Oakland sometime soon. The specific location is unannounced or yet to be determined.

                            1. re: jman1

                              Saul's Deli is serving Beauty Bagels on Saturday only...

                              Saul's Deli
                              1475 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                      2. re: abstractpoet

                        I'll add, too, at risk of being slightly off topic, that the bialys that the Wise Sons guys are making in-house are quite good. Which is to say, they're real bialys (as opposed to mediocre onion bagels without the holes).

                        And I love a good bialy - maybe even more than I like a good bagel.

                        1. re: abstractpoet

                          ...and I love a good PLETZL even more than a good bialy!!!

                    2. So it seems the Beauty's Bagels folks are revving up for a brick-and-mortar site early next year - here's to hoping their fortunes are better than the guys at Spot.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Spatlese

                        Aside from differences between their products, Spot and Beauty's are taking polar opposite paths to market. Spot went large, building what sounded like a large bakery first before establishing a brand and a product. Beauty's is taking the pop-up route, using shared facilities to bake in and word of mouth and pop-up gigs to test their product. It will be interesting to see if Beauty's lo-fi, grass roots approach is more sustainable or not. Of course, it remains to be seen if there is enough of a market for this style of bagel at all.

                        1. re: BernalKC

                          Beauty's Bagel Shop is going to have deli items, coffee, and so on. That's a pretty well-established business model. It's kind of a nowhere location (former Dae Po Jib / Sushi Plus), though it's across the street from BART.

                          Beauty's Bagel Shop
                          3838 Telegraph, Oakland, CA

                      2. Just tried Beauty's sesame bagel. Fresh in my mind were St. Viateur's bagels that I had on three occasions in Montreal a couple of months back. I'd say these maybe just barely scratch the itch. To my mind, Beauty's are too dense and don't have the same depth of flavor. I agree size and shape are close.

                        However, if I compare them instead with the regular dense bricks that are the norm in most places, Beauty's are vastly superior. So in that reference frame I'll consider myself happy that decent bagels can be found.