Six hundred kilometers of road and one international border separate New York City and Montreal, two of the world’s most notorious bagel destinations – certainly the most famous outside of Eastern Europe, aka Bagel Pangaea. You can’t convince either party that its bread is inferior, but you can decide for yourself which is best suited for you. Aside from a taste test, perhaps a few stats will assist.
Never tell a Québécois that the Montreal bagel is too stale and flat. It is intentionally crunchier than most and flatter than most. Also, where are your manners? Montrealers are a peaceful people and don’t deserve such harassment. The Montreal bagel does not contain salt. The malt-and-sugar dough is boiled in honey water, then baked in a wood-fire oven. The result is flatter, sweeter, and firmer – with a larger hole, too, as result of the dough not expanding as much. Order one with sesame seeds for the most authentic experience.
Never tell a Yankee that the New York bagel is too big and fluffy. How could a bagel be too big or too fluffy? Also, where is your common sense? The New Yorker will probably retort with some pointed curse words, telling you precisely where to stuff that large bagel. The New York bagel, on the other hand, is more like a traditional one: a malt-and-salt blend is boiled in water, then baked in a standard oven. Most importantly, it’s difficult to perfectly replicate New York City’s sensational water quality, thus you can never totally mimic this thing outside of the five boroughs. The result is fluffy, with a firm outer crust. Put some cream cheese and lox on it and you’re practically a local.
For the best of each city, check out these tried and true bagel experts:
St-Viateur Bagel, 263 Rue St-Viateur W
Fairmount Bagel, 74 Avenue Fairmount W
Beaubien Bagel, 828 Rue Beaubien E
Murray’s Bagels Chelsea, 242 8th Ave., Chelsea
Bagel Pub, 775 Franklin Ave., Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Ess-a-Bagel, 831 3rd Ave., Midtown East