New York vs. Montreal?!?
Who Has The Better BAGEL??
In most parts of the world, what masquerades as a bagel is not really a bagel — it’s just bread made into a ring shape. But two cities stake a claim for the hearts of bagel lovers, each with its own unique style and history. New York or Montreal? Ashley Day and Larry Olmsted from USA Today sampled some of the best in each city.
Many New York transplants think great tap water makes local bagels disinct. But bagels became a trademark of Manhattan out of circumstance, not taste or texture
— though that’s what has made them famous. While the true origins of the basic concept of a ring of bread trace back to multiple countries, the boiled-then-baked version still drawing lines today (when done right) was a Jewish tradition in Poland before it reached the States. European immigrants brought ﬂavors of home to New York’s Lower East Side, where bakeries abounded in the 1800s.
Bagel aﬁcionados blame frozen makers, preservatives, mass production machinery and artiﬁcial ﬂavoring for producing modern-day imposters, but these NYC bakeries and delis still use recipes and processes that have been passed down through generations to bake fresh bagels daily.
NY Bagel Cafe & Deli
NY Bagel Cafe & Deli bagels are bucket-list worthy. The bagel is melt-in-your-mouth soft and doughy, with that perfect combination of chewy inside, crisp outside that all bagel makers aspire to. The bakery oﬀers over a dozen traditional bagel varieties and beautiful “Rainbow Bagels” but also gets creative with its cream cheeses — Walnut Raisin and jalapeño are among the 16 or so ﬂavors. The many locations across the US oﬀers breakfast ALL day, many different deli sandwiches, salads, wraps, smoothies,pastries and other baked goods.
America’s oldest remaining bialy bakery, Kossar’s didn’t add bagels until the ’90s, but the method is as historic as the shop. Originally established by the Kossar family in 1936, David Zablocki and Evan Giniger purchased the wholesale bakery in 2013, then renovated and reopened in February.
The shiny shop at 367 Grand Street oﬀers about 10 traditional bagel varieties made fresh daily (in addition to bialys and babka). Kossar’s bagels are hand-rolled, refrigerated for 12 to 24 hours so the dough rises slowly, boiled for 30 seconds and baked on wet burlap stretched over wooden planks. More than 10 ﬂavors of signature Schmears are made in-house.
Tompkins Square Bagels
Only 4 years old, Tompkins Square Bagels represents the new with experimental oﬀerings, but the bagels are beloved because of a much older technique. Owner Christopher Pugliese learned his craft at Bake City Bagels in Brooklyn. He kettle-boils then bakes his in a refurbished Cutler oven, which guests can watch from bar stools or while in line, thanks to the open kitchen design.
Tompkins Square Bagels oﬀers a dozen varieties of bagels at any given time and rotates about 20 ﬂavors of homemade cream cheese, from birthday cake to chocolate raspberry, weekly. It recently released its own version of a rainbow bagel.
Authentic Montreal bagels are boiled in water with honey, and as a result are sweeter than New York bagels. But the bigger diﬀerence is that they are cooked in wood-ﬁred ovens, which gives them a crunchier crust and a deeper, richer crust ﬂavor.Montreal bagels have a much bigger hole, mainly as a result of the dough tube that forms the bagel being notably thinner than New York style. For this reason, while Montreal bagels are excellent on their own or with spreads, they don’t make for as user-friendly a sandwich. This is especially true with messier breakfast sandwiches. In general, Montreal shops do fewer ﬂavors than are found in New York, but often some odder ones. The standards are similar: plain, sesame, poppy, cinnamon raisin, whole wheat and everything — except they call this version “all dressed.”
Bagel St. Viateur
The most iconic Montreal spot is Bagel St. Viateur, which has six branches, with the original 24/7 ﬂagship in the now trendy and food-rich Mile End neighborhood. The walls here are plastered with decades of articles, awards and even comic strips touting the bagels. Half the locations are just pure bagel stores, with the cooking process in plain view, while the other three are cafés with extensive menus of bagel sandwiches and Jewish-deli inspired salads. They even have a bagel food truck and online store with shipping to the USA and Canada. In a taste test with sesame and plain, these were our favorite bagels in Montreal.
While Fairmount has just one store, a 24/7 operation on Fairmount Avenue, its bagels are widely sold at coﬀee shops and supermarkets throughout Quebec. Fairmount oﬀers all the standard ﬂavors, plus ones with caraway seed, Mueslix or chocolate chips, and oddities such as a “sweet bagel,” which is a hard, crunchy ring similar to biscotti, and Matzoh breads, which are fresh-baked ﬂatbreads in various ﬂavors.
Montreal bagels: Better than NYC’s?
And the winner is …
Both cities should be on the bucket list of any bagel lover, with Old-World methods that produce that magic combination of crunchy crust and light interior. With their heft and great variety of toppings, New York bagels have earned their acclaim. The Montreal versions oﬀer the same artisanal quality with a diﬀerent taste sensation, especially when they’re unadorned.