Author: Norman Goldman

Montréal’s Bagels – Are they the Best in the World?

According to native Montrealers their bagels are the best in the world! In fact, many a former Montrealer when returning on a visit to the city will invariably visit St-Viateur Bagel located at 263 St. Viateur in order to stock up on bagels.

Not only do Montrealers consider these bagels the best in the world.
Matthew Goodman is an American who raves about these bagels and explains in detail how they are made and what differentiates them from other bagels. He even goes so far as saying that just to taste these bagels is well worth the trip to Montréal. I guess just as Maurice “Rocket” Richard is a legend to the Montréal Canadians, bagels are just as legendary to the world of food.

For many decades Montréal locals have compared Bagel Shop Inc (most commonly known as St-Viateur Bagels) to Bagel Factory (1951) Reg’d (most commonly known as Fairmount Bagels). The latter bakery is located at 74 Fairmount West.

It seems, however, that St-Viateur is preferred over Fairmount according to a survey comparing the two bakeries. This comparison has always been very controversial and in fact has led to some very heated discussions among the “Montréal bagel mavens.”

We can definitely consider both of these shops as Montréal landmarks and a “must see” attraction, especially on a Sunday morning where it seems every cultural group is standing in line to taste the morning’s fresh bagels.

This in itself is an experience only distinct to Montréal. Where else would you hear bagel pronounced as if it were part of the French language, “B -A- G- A- L?”

Just to stand near the wooden oven in the St-Viateur bakery and see and experience the preparation of the bagels is an experience in itself that you will not want to miss.

The blast of the heat and the rising flames reminds one of sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows and cooking hot dogs. However, the latter experience is nothing compared to the aroma of the bagels. Oh, that mouth watering aroma! You can hardly wait to grab the black seeded or white seeded bagels from your bag once you have paid for them and taste the wood-burning oven. Be careful, they are hot!

Be sure to ask for your plastic bags in order to place the bagels in your freezer when you arrive home. However, I doubt if you will arrive home with the bagels, as you will probably have devoured them before leaving Montréal.

There is nothing like it! These are the greatest bagels in the world! After all, these are the world-renowned and legendary Montreal bagels!

To trace the history of the St-Viateur Bagel bakery we have to go back 40 years ago.
A Jewish Gentleman from Eastern Europe and a holocaust survivor by the name of Myer Lewkowicz opened the first St-Viateur Bagel store in partnership with Jack Shlafman, who was the son of the owner of Fairmount bagel at the time. The store has remained a legend and is very often mentioned in many movies and books pertaining to Montréal. It has become part of the landscape.

It is quite fascinating to learn that according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the bagel originated in central Europe.

One legend, which has been widely accepted throughout the years, is that in 1683 John III Sobieski, King of Poland, successfully defended his county from a Turkish invasion.

Apparently it seems there was a local baker who wanted to celebrate the victory of this horseman and consequently designed his bread in the shape of a horse’s stirrup.

The best way to reach the St-Viateur Bagel bakery or the Fairmount Bagel bakery if you are driving from downtown Montréal is to take Av Parc going North until you reach Fairmount and then make a right turn until you arrive at your destination.

St-Viateur is a few blocks after Fairmount and again you would turn right and you will find the bakery on your left-hand side. If you travel via the bus, take the 80 bus going north and either get off at Fairmount or St. Viateur.

From my own experience the best time to visit either of these bakeries is on a Sunday morning or late at night. It certainly is worth the trip.

You may also want to walk along Av Parc once you have purchased your bagels but don’t eat them all before going home and passing them out to friends and relatives. These precious bagels make a perfect gift.

Recently St-Viateur Bagel opened their branches located at 158 St. Viateur and 340 Marcel Laurin where you can either take out their delicious bagels or eat them in the little café. Apparently the most popular items are the bagel sandwiches with soup or salad.

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