For the past two days I’ve been touring Montreal, Quebec, Canada with my husband and learning so much about this vibrant, family-friendly (as well as romantic) destination. I have a lot to share on both those angles, but before I did that, I needed to sit down and share one of the most important discoveries I have made to date during my time here: Montreal bagels.
Now, it turns out that according to a lot of folks, Montreal bagels are a must try when on this side of the border. Some have even gone as far as to state that Montreal bagels are the best in the world. Hmm. That’s a bold statement, especially from this New Yorker’s perspective, but I had to try and see what all the fuss was about.
After much discussion with people in the know here in Montreal, there are really only two places worth going to for bagels: Fairmont Bagels and St. Viateur Bagels. Which one is the best out of those two depends on who you ask here in Montreal, thus leaving us to try for ourselves.
What makes Montreal bagels so unique is how they are made. Montreal bagels are smaller than New York bagels and are egg based (not water based). They are also boiled in sweetened water and, the true defining difference, they are baked in wood burning ovens.
Fairmont Bagels are made 24 hours a day, offering customers over 20 varieties to choose from. As we walked in customers made their orders and walked out with large bags full of them. The wood burning oven was hot and staff was busy prepping dough and baking. We ordered two bagels: poppy seed and sesame seed, then walked out.
A short distance away, and in the same multicultural neighborhood in which they are located, we arrived to St. Viateur. I was immediately distracted by the overwhelming sight of bagels in a wooden shoot, where staff picked out orders as customers made them (they sell about 1,000 dozen bagels a day!). And like Fairmont, the wood burning oven was lit and busy prepping for the day. We ordered the same bagels here as well, poppy seed and sesame seed.
Which were our favorites? Well, both were actually pretty good. We could taste the smokiness from the wood burning ovens in both, but there were two major differences that determined our final preferences.
Fairmont bagels are sweeter and a bit more baked through, so not as “doughy”, where as St. Viateur bagels are saltier (closer to that of NY-style bagels) and not as hard, or rather doughier. I loved the sweetness of Fairmont because it was different than what I am used to, but preferred the doughiness of St. Viateur. My husband preferred the latter as well.
But, it’s really a matter of personal taste, which will require you to do your own taste test when visiting. Either way, you won’t regret stopping at both, at least until you find your favorite.
Disclosure: I am the guest of Montreal Tourism, where I am discovering all this wonderful city has to offer. I received no further compensation nor request that I express any particular point of view. Thank you to Montreal Tourism and Montreal professional tourist guide, Annique Dufur for navigating us through our bagel eating experience.