Montreal Bagels Are An Institution — Here's What You Need To Know & Where To Get Them

Montreal bagels are the best bagels.🥯

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Someone eats a bagel outside St-Viateur Bagel. Right: A selection of bagels from Fairmount Bagel.

Someone eats a bagel outside St-Viateur Bagel. Right: A selection of bagels from Fairmount Bagel.

No matter which side of the great Montreal bagel debate you fall, or which local hole-in-the-wall (or the dough) bakery you prefer, there's nothing quite like digging a warm, fragrant ring out of a brown paper bag, ripping it into pieces and shoving each one into your mouth with vigour.

Bagels are part of the city's history, a staple for city residents and a must-try for visitors (both singer Dua Lipa and Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski know). There are classic rivalries and even some new competish with Kettlemen's joining the bagel-making fray.

Any way you slice it, Montreal bagels are an institution — so here's what you need to know about them and which spots run rings around the competition:

Why is Montreal famous for bagels?

Immigrants to Montreal founded the local food scene over a hundred years ago and Jewish people from Eastern Europe, specifically, introduced the bagel.

According to Mtl.org, historians disagree on whether there's a single figure to credit for the spread of the delightful rings — some say Chaime (Hyman) Seligman sold bagels as street food from a cart before selling them from a bakery on boulevard St-Laurent in 1900, while others say it was Isadore Shlafman (behind famed Fairmont Bagel) and Jacob Drapkin whose nearby bakery popularised the treat in 1919.

Either way, the unifying features of Montreal bagels that haven't changed for over a century are dense dough that's hand-made into rings, dipped into honey water and baked in a wood-fired oven.

What makes Montreal bagels different?

Montreal-style bagels are small hand-made rings, boiled in honey-sweetened water and baked in a wood-fired oven. In contrast, New York-style bagels are large, chewy six-ounce rings prepared with water that's less mineralized.

That means Montreal bagels are smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser, usually with a larger hole, while New York bagels are thicker and breadier with a thicker crust. Classic Montreal bagels are also usually rolled in either poppy seeds or sesame seeds, while iconic New York bagels are often plain.

What’s the difference between bagels from Fairmount and St-Viateur?

Montreal's Mile-End neighbourhood is a bagel-making haven where two bakeries have formed a playful rivalry over the years. St-Viateur Bagel dates back to 1953 when Polish immigrant and Holocaust survivor Myer Lewkowicz opened his own bakery on rue St-Viateur.

Fairmount Bagel dates back to 1919 when Isadore Shlafman opened one of, if not, the first bagel bakeries in Montreal. It was called the Montreal Bagel Bakery before it relocated to rue Fairmount and was renamed.

St-Viateur and Fairmount bakeries are two streets and at most a ten-minute walk apart. Some fans say St-Viateur bagels are firmer, while Fairmount's are sweeter. They're both tremendously popular and each has a cult fandom that will only eat wood-fire-baked rings from one or the other. More general bagel lovers and visitors recommend trying both.

What do you put on a Montreal bagel?

Montreal bagels are so flavourful that they really don't need a topping. However, they are commonly paired with smoked salmon (or lox), onions, capers and cream cheese.

Some local spots, such as La Fabrique de Bagel, offer flavoured cream cheese options on rotation, like maple bacon and cranberry orange.

St-Viateur Bagel & Café in the Plateau has perfected the bagel sandwich, while Jewish deli Arthur's Nosh Bar in St-Henri serves popular Montreal-style bagels with gravlax and cream cheese.

Beauty's retro Jewish diner has the popular 'Beauty's Bonjour,' a bagel stuffed with egg, bacon and cheese.

Bagel Etc. on rue St-Laurent serves nearly a dozen variations of bagel-based sandwiches, from the 'Sandwich Billy' with goat cheese, spinach, red pepper, cucumber and tomato, to the 'Croque-thon' with tuna, tomato and melted cheddar salad.

Where can I get the best bagels in Montreal?

  • Fairmount Bagel (74, ave. Fairmount O.)
  • St-Viateur Bagel (263, rue Saint- Viateur O.)
  • La Fabrique de Bagel (1000, rue De La Gauchetière O. & 747, rue du Square-Victoria)
  • Le Trou (1845, rue William)
  • Beaubien Bagel (828, rue Beaubien E.)
  • Hinnawi Bros. Bagel And Café (366, rue Ontario E.)
  • Dizz's Bagel & Deli (6160, rue Côte Saint Luc)
  • R.E.A.L. Bagel Inc. (4940, rue Queen Mary)
  • District Bagel (5679, ave. Park)
  • M.T.L. Bagel (5452, ave. Westminster)

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an Associate Editor for MTL Blog focused on gas prices in Montreal and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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