May 7, 2012

St-Viateur Bagel vs. Fairmount Bagel

St-Viateur bagel (left) and Fairmount bagel (right)
In Montreal, bagels are king and there are only two bagel brands that count: St-Viateur and Fairmount.  St-Viateur Bagel, which opened in 1957, has a few shops, and the bagels are available at various places around town, but if you are going for a bagel degustation, don't mess around.  Go to the mother ship at 263 Saint-Viateur West.  It's open 24/7, and bagels are constantly being flung from the wood-fired oven to the mountain of bagels cascading down the large bin by the cash register.  If you'd like to sit down and get a bite to eat with your bagel, consider St-Viateur Bagel & Café on Mont-Royal.

Like St-Viateur bagels, Fairmount bagels are available around town, but there's only one Fairmount Bagel shop, and it's been located at 74 Fairmount West since 1949.  Fairmount Bagel is also open 24//7, and the bagel-making operation is on display. Here, though, you get a slightly better, although rushed, view of how the bagels are rolled before being boiled.

So which one is better?

Short answer: Both make a great Montreal style bagel.  You can't go wrong.

Having said that, I do have a personal preference.

From a shopping experience point of view, St-Viateur Bagel is a good choice for first-timers because it is possible to hang back from the line and observe what is going on.  At Fairmount Bagel, the indoor space is too small to do that, especially if part of the space is occupied by trays of packaged bagels being readied for delivery.  The ordering process at Fairmount Bagel is more hectic.  By the time you get a good look at the choices, it's already time to order and pay.  The crew at St-Viateur Bagel generally has a more laid back attitude.

However, I actually enjoy the ambiance at Fairmount Bagel more.  For some reason, even though there is more separation between patrons and the bagel making operation at Fairmount, and there is less time to soak in the atmosphere because the line keeps everyone moving quickly, I always feel more part of the action there in the small, bustling house on Fairmount.  More importantly, I prefer the bagels at Fairmount.  They are slightly sweeter and chewier.

What to do

It takes just 10 minutes to walk between the main Saint-Viateur Bagel shop and Fairmount Bagel, and while these two Montreal institutions have a lot in common with each other, they each have a distinct personality and slightly different bagel style.  Like me, most Montrealers have a strong opinion about which they like better, but it's a fun outing to do a back-to-back comparison to make up your mind for yourself.  If you are just starting out, try the sesame bagels.  They are the most popular and are a good choice for doing a taste test.  They are also usually the freshest bagels available because of the huge turnover.

St-Viateur Bagel
263 Saint-Viateur West
Metro: Laurier
Parking: Street

St-Viateur Bagel & Café
1127 Mont-Royal East
Metro: Mont-Royal
Parking: Street

St-Viateur Bagel & Café on Urbanspoon
Fairmount Bahttp://www.fairmountbagel.comgel
74 Fairmount West
Metro: Laurier
Parking: Street

Fairmount Bagel on Urbanspoon

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