In the North American Bagel scene, it’s Montreal vs. New York. Both sides have their advocates, and both bagels are, well, bagelly, but they are different variations on the same idea. I stopped in at St. Viateur Bagel Shop in a Hasidic neighborhood in Montreal to see what all the fuss was about.
St. Viateur is a serious, no-nonsense bagel shop. One enters the store and is immediately in-line in the narrow passageway between the stacks of bagel flour, a juice cooler, and a larger wall cooler holding assorted cream cheese and spread options. By the time you get to the register, where you have full view of the both the “dough table” and the giant bagel oven, you better know what you want. Your bagels are scooped into a brown paper bag, and you’re on your way. It’s actually charming.
So, how does the Montreal bagel compare? First, its more reasonably sized. Not as large or as thick as a New York bagel, its total carbohydrate weight is a more reasonable breakfast. And it’s not as dense. Once it’s sliced open, the insides are a bit squishier, collapsing under the weight of your spread. Some fans of the NY style claim that the Montreal bagel has no flavor, and it truly does have less salt than your average NY or even “American” bagel. But with a hearty coat of poppy seeds and a schmear of cream cheese, I didn’t miss the salt. In fact, I ate two.