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The Great Montreal Bagel Debate: St-Viateur vs. Fairmount

Photo by Noema Pérez

By Marcella DeVincenzo

The rivalry between bagels from New York and Montreal is well documented (though in competitions, Montreal overwhelmingly comes out on top). But what those outside of Montreal might not know is that within the city, there has always been a battle for the best bagels—and in the bagel war, you’re either on Team St-Viateur or Team Fairmount.

In the red corner: St-Viateur Bagel

Since 1957, bagel emporium St-Viateur has been rolling out their masterpiece. You can smell the wonderful fragrance from blocks away. At any time of day or night you can walk find people picking up sesame or poppy seed bagels at this bagelry known for its friendly service.

“If I want consistency, I’ll go there. I’m a traditionalist, so a sesame seed bagel is the way to go and St-Viateur knows how to make bagels!” —Montrealer and proud member of team St-Viateur

In the blue corner: Fairmount Bagel

Fairmount is Montreal’s first bagel bakery: it opened in 1919 and one of Fairmount’s founders apparently sold bagels from a horse-drawn carriage before that. Some purists scoff at the flavoured bagels (chocolate chip, blueberry), but that doesn’t stop the line from forming outside on a weekend morning.

“I love their All Dressed bagel (onion, garlic, caraway seeds, sesame, poppy, salt). Fairmount is for people who want something a little different than the regular bagel.” —Montrealer and proud member of team Fairmount

Both bagel shops are 24 hours, and bake around the clock, so you’re always guaranteed a pretty fresh bagel. Locals argue till they’re blue in the face about which bagel is sweeter, chewier and has a better outer crunch. The bottom line, in our opinion, is that whichever bagel is fresher will take the prize. The trick to getting it fresh is to go for a popular flavour—sesame is number one—that has a high turnover.

And whichever team the locals choose, there are two things everyone agrees on: One, be it the hand-rolled technique, Montreal water or wood-burning oven baking, Montreal has the best bagels—not doughy or puffy, with a good exterior crunch, a perfectly chewy texture and a hint of sweetness; and two, when picking up warm bagels to go, always get an extra one.

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