One or the other, you can’t like both – Bagel faceoff: Fairmount vs. St. Viateur

by Jason

For this week’s post, we’re going to do something a little bit different. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have answered me when I asked everyone where their favorite Montreal bagel comes from. As far as I can remember my family has been team Fairmount – my grand parents lived right around the corner – and a visit to “ah poa’s” (my grandmother) would never be complete without a dozen black and white to take home. It’s always nice to get your hands on fresh baked goods n’est-ce pas? But what if the bakery is opened 24 hours… When is it “fresh” o’clock? This is what I set out to find. Not only pitting these two renown bagels head to head, but to up the ante, the stakes were raised as to who has the better bagel under a veil of night… Who’s bagel is better at MIDNIGHT… dun dun DUNNN…

Since the days of riding dirty in the car seat in the back of my dad’s Buick, I’ve now found that my bagel preference has blurred, not that I’ve become indifferent, just that I’ve considered a Montreal bagel, a Montreal bagel (don’t judge me!). Maybe it’s a question of having been stuffed with them when I was younger or I’ve become jaded, but this should be a perfect premise to base a bagel showdown… a Bageloff, if you will.

Our “judging” criteria was 1: Freshness (how warm were the bagels when we bought them) 2: Outside characteristics ( texture, crust, soft, hard) 3: Inside characteristics (taste, texture, chewiness) 4: Carey Price 5: Friendliness of the staff for working at midnight.

We hit up Fairmount first. Steps from The Main, just follow your nose and you’ll know if you’re within three block radius of the place. The way this went down was we bought a dozen sesame seed bagels from Fairmount, got into the car and raced over to St. Viateur to buy a dozen there. We then found a bench, pep-talked the combatants for holey battle and let destiny write itself.

Got in and the guys were in full on production mode. As one was pulling dough and forming bagels, another was dunking the doughy rings in their Fairmont cauldron of magic. This technique is said to be that gives the Montreal bagel the je ne sais quoi, that is arguably what separates our bagels to those New York burger-buns with holes. Technique or not, I’m a firm believer that it’s in fact the Montreal water itself is the secret.

We asked the nice lady behind the counter for a dozen of sesame. She didn’t acknowledge my order more than she sang along with the stereo that was playing some “keep you awake” rhythmed soca music. The bag was pretty warm, obvious indication that the bagels were fresh and only out of the oven maybe 10 mins MAX, or someone was sitting on the stack of paper bags, which I doubt.

With a bag of propaganda in hand, we jumped into the car and headed into enemy territory. Blanketed with a sweet and yeasty aroma, you can tell that there was a bakery was near by. We got a dozen sesame seed and we prepared for the most epic of awesomely epic bagel comparisons to end all bagel comparisons epically.

We lined up the challengers and readied the troops for the bagel-off. First things first, St. Viateur’s bagels were not warm when we got them. Compared to the Fairmount’s, the St. Viateur’s bagels could have been sitting around for maybe 30-45 mins; however, not to their discredit, the bagels were still fresh by all means, just not warm. To also mention, both dozens were the same price.

We found that both bagels had the same outside texture; the outer crusts were solid enough to provide a toothsome bite before it gave way to the chewy interior. It was obvious that the sesame seeds were more abundant on the Fairmount bagel and more sporadic with St. Viateur, which led us to believe that the Fairmounts were literally bathed in a tub of sesame – like me with diamonds in my gangster rapper days – where as the St. Viateur was treated more with a peppering.

We noticed that throughout the bags, each respective bagel and its friends all had the same shape. Fairmount bagels seemed more uniformed from one bagel to the next, where as the St. Viateur bagels were different from one to the next and had more character and each had it’s own personality – maybe this explains why some of them tend to get moody and burn in the toaster so easily and others wont.

We first tried the bagels without cream cheese then with. Fairmount bagels were thicker in size and fluffier which made it chewier in bite. It had that stickiness factor (if you know what I mean) where the “meat” of the bagel sticks to your teeth. The taste in itself was sweet and tasted more doughy and floury. The St. Viateur bagel was thinner in size, but far denser… and surprisingly saltier than the Fairmount, which was heightened even more with a “schmear“.

It goes without saying that Fairmount bagel and St. Viateur bagels are the Coke and Pepsi in the Montreal bagel world. Yes, there are other places who make their own respective Montreal style bagels, but I chose to do this with the two most notable, both on historic and popularity basis. Choosing to do this bagel-off at midnight was something that I had been thinking about for a long time already. The ultimate test to challenge Montreal’s ultimate bagels. Sure, getting fresh bagels first thing in the morning is the most obvious thing to do, but when reputation is at stake as well as the boasting of being open 24 hours, the oven mitts come off. It was great to be able to have both at hand to make a thorough and fair comparison. Try them both, raise your flag and stand strong. Words are harsh in the Montreal Bagel wars so defend your team. However, in the end it all comes down to personal preference and taste… even though Fairmount bagel is the clear winner and the superior bagel. 😉

Fairmount Bagel
74, av Fairmount O
Fairmount Bagel on Urbanspoon

St. Viateur Bagel
263 St. Viateur O
St-Viateur Bagel & Café on Urbanspoon

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mania July 4, 2011 - 3:36 pm

I personally did not know that there is a 24hr bagel shop in Montreal…you can not imagine how much this changed my life…thanks 🙂 hope you have a great week

mayssam @ Will Travel for Food July 4, 2011 - 3:57 pm

I had done my own personal bagel taste test with the 2 stores a few months ago, although I had not documented it and it wasn’t as “scientific” and rigorous as yours 😉 and I think we all preferred the Fairmount ones because of the added sweetness… Great post!

Jason July 4, 2011 - 4:07 pm

Thanks Mania. I agree, bagels can be a life changing experience!

Natalie Luffer Sztern July 8, 2011 - 3:56 pm

Jason u cannot imagine how happy I am that u did not include Real Bagel..thank you thank you because did u know they add more sugar than the others so that instead of one bagel being enough the philosophy is the more sugar the more bagels you will be desiring to eat one after the other.

Going back to my days growing up tradition was early Sunday morning for my dad to take us for bagels and I don’t recall ever ending a Saturday night without stopping by one of the bagel places early on in my marriage and especially when my kids were growing up…

Personally I like more seeds but you left out one very important detail which I am sure was an oversight…the only place to buy the lox you eat with your bagels is at Victoria’s Fish Store.

Jason July 9, 2011 - 8:19 am

Thanks Nat. It’s been a while since I’ve had one of their bagels so I don’t really remember exactly how much sweeter they are compared to everyone else… then again it can be a urban myth like McDonald’s and caffeine in their food.

Yes, I always try to get my smoked salmon from them… usually for the for the first slice they give you to eat right there are the counter. 🙂

Brendan July 15, 2011 - 10:03 am

The Faubourg bagel place is pretty awesome too- though not on the same level as these two. I’m partial cause it’s right down the street to my apartment, but it satisfies my bagel cravings.

Jim P July 21, 2011 - 12:15 pm

I like Real Bagels fresh by the dozen and St. Viateur we get in packages of 6 but they have to be fresh.

Jon-o July 22, 2011 - 9:19 pm

To REALLY test the bagels, midnight in June hardly counts though – you need to grab them on a windy February at 3:00am, -20°C. Bliss.

Jason July 22, 2011 - 11:48 pm

I don’t see how getting bagels at midnight in June “hardly counts”, but that’s cool though. Stay tuned for the next face-off, it’s going to be awesome. 😀

wender July 24, 2011 - 1:01 pm

What we should do is get a whole bunch of people toghether and place a massive order.. say 100 dozens at 3am winter time and see who can push the out the fastest 😛

Karoll October 18, 2019 - 6:41 am

So far the best are st. Viateur Bagel! Fresh, soft and warm!! Although lines are full al the times!


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