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Food

St. Viateur Bagels Eat Fairmount's for Breakfast

Posted by Emily / July 21, 2007

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Not long ago, I was doing some internet research on bagels (what else would I be doing at 7 o’clock on a Sunday morning?). I came across a rather lengthy article comparing the virtues of Fairmount Bagel and St. Viateur Bagel. According to the article, a heated debate has been going on among Montreal’s bagel enthusiasts regarding the superiority of Fairmount over St. Viateur or vice versa.

Since it had been a couple of months since I’d been to either establishment, I decided to refresh my memory and perhaps take a position in the Great Bagel Debate.

My first stop was Fairmount bagels. The place was so packed that I could barely reach my purse to get my wallet out. When I got to the counter, I ordered a cinnamon-raisin bagel and rushed to pay so as not to hold up the line. The sullen woman at the cash register gave me my bagel without a word.

I walked out of the shop and took my small, perfectly round bagel out of its paper bag to taste it at its freshest. I took a bite and… eh, it was okay. It was a little too chewy and a little too bland. I realized why I couldn’t remember what Fairmount bagels tasted like before. They’re just not memorable.

I headed on over to St. Viateur, and my spirits began to lift before I even entered the shop. Just down the street from St. Viateur Bagel is none other than… Patisserie Pagel. It’s straight out of Dr. Seuss.

When I walked into the bagel shop, I was hit by a powerful whiff of fresh bagels. I hadn’t noticed that aroma in the Fairmount shop, perhaps because I was distracted by the throng. St. Viateur Bagel was much more spacious and less crowded.

When I got to the counter, I ordered another cinnamon-raisin bagel. The cashier looked at me and casually said “I’ll give you two for the price of one, since we’re almost out of those.” My delight was audible.

Compared to Fairmount’s dainty little bagelettes, St. Viateur’s bagels look rather monstrous. They’re much bigger and somewhat misshapen, with tumours of dough protruding from their crusts. As I passed by Patisserie Pagel, I took my first bite. My bagel was soft and sweet, with a soft crust and moist innards.

I may have caught Fairmount Bagel on an off day, or maybe my bagel wasn’t as fresh as it should have been. But that doesn’t change the fact that the bagel I had at St. Viateur tasted better. St. Viateur’s had the sweet, moist density that defines Montreal bagels while Fairmount’s was basically tough circular bread. And in my opinion, size matters. Compared to St. Viateur’s bagels, Fairmount’s were more like bagel-bites.

St. Viateur Bagel Shop; 263 St. Viateur West; (514)276-8044
Fairmount Bagel; 74 Fairmount West; (514)272-0667

Discussion

25 Comments

Cass / July 21, 2007 at 04:13 pm
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Although I agree with you 100%, I must say that I don't think a cinammon raisin bagel can form the basis of comparison between these two establishments. It's like comparing Schwartz's and Lester's by tasting their french fries! I think the poppy bagel would have been the best comparison mesure.
Christopher DeWolf / July 21, 2007 at 04:36 pm
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I prefer St. Viateur but many of my friends swear by Fairmount. Maybe it's a geographic thing: I live near Bernard and they live down by Villeneuve.

Still, I'm a bit suspicious of your taste-test. Cinnamon raisin?!? Sacrilege!
jane / July 21, 2007 at 05:30 pm
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A lot of my friends prefer St Viateur bagels to those of Fairmount. But I have compared both bakeries' bagels MANY times, and Fairmount is ALWAYS soooooo much tastier. (St Viateur's bagels taste bland and often stale in my experience) I do agree with the posters above that you chose an odd bagel to compare. I think you should have compared sesame bagels.
asmaa / July 21, 2007 at 06:04 pm
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"tumours" on bagels? ew.
Fairfax / July 21, 2007 at 07:15 pm
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Have to agree with everyone else... comparing the two based on a cinnamon-raisin bagel is like comparing two Mexican restaurants by ordering spaghetti from each.

It's gotta be either a completely plain bagel, a sesame-seed bagel, or a poppy-seed bagel to truly compare. And you really should put cream cheese on each, too.
Kate M. / July 21, 2007 at 11:11 pm
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Have to agree that you should've compared the poppy or sesame bagels. Bagels are ephemeral things, and the best bagel is one that's still hot. I bet they only do the cinnamon raison ones once a day, so you could've had something close to a day-old bagel, and as anyone knows, the only thing you can do with a day-old bagel is bisect it and toast it.
Popo / July 22, 2007 at 10:49 am
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Any one ever tasted the bagels from Plaza cote-des-neiges....Unsusual place for bagels migth y'all say but great tasting. ET je doit aller avec la famille...des bagel au raisin sa craint
Gord / July 23, 2007 at 05:42 pm
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Another Fairmount vote from a part-time Montrealer.

Last summer, I did the side by side test: purchased a hot sesame bagel from Fairmount, a hot sesame bagel from St. Viateur, and took them into Olympico where I consumed them with a good coffee.

Of course, both of the bagels are very good, but Fairmount remains my favorite. One thing the Fairmount had was a nutty (perhaps peanut oil?) aroma that appealed to me.

But heck, enjoy both.
susan / July 24, 2007 at 11:52 am
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A blind taste test of the standard sesame seed is the only way to go. Check it out: http://www.montrealmagazine.ca/en/article.php?month=02&;year=2007&article=feature_1

Incidentally I happen to agree with you, but bias goes a long way.
james / July 24, 2007 at 12:17 pm
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cinnamon bagel? And you cant be biased by customer service. Those places are bagle machines.

are you from montreal? do you even live in montreal?

sigh. the best of bagel remains a mys(t)ery
Yannick Gingras / July 24, 2007 at 08:14 pm
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James have a point. When I <a href="http://ygingras.net/b/2007/6/fairmount-bagel";>fetch bagels in the middle of the night</a>, I'm not looking for a café where to work and relax. I'm looking for a tasty snack. I might be biased by the fact that I buy bagels almost exclusively during the night. It might be that Fairmount is more fresh than St-Viateur only before sunrise. I like your enthusiasm but please base your judgment on the bagels, not on the ambiance. And do it on a reasonable sample, a single bagel is not conclusive. It's sampling error at best.
emily / July 25, 2007 at 11:08 am
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Thanks to everyone who has commented on this post so far. I love that it’s getting so much attention! A lot of you made really good points that I hadn’t considered before. According to your comments, most of you feel that a really good comparison of the two bagel places would A) be done early in the morning when the bagels are freshest, B) include large sample sizes with multiple types of bagels, and C) be based solely on bagels and exclude things like ambiance and service. You guys are right that the methods of my comparison didn’t produce the most reliable results. I had tried some sesame and poppy seed bagels from both establishments in the past, so I admit I kind of already had a favourite. But on the day I described in the post, I was just feeling cinnamon-raisin. So thanks again for the comments and keep your eyes peeled for my next post when I do an in-depth review on the salads at Schwartz’s (kidding)!
RS / July 25, 2007 at 04:59 pm
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I live between both and well, essentially lived on bagels last summer. Both are equivalently great when the bagels are straight out of the fire...but in either case, that's almost always only sesame and poppy (I've been known to wait around for 20 minutes to get poppies straight out of the fire at viateur). I like that I can get a little diversity at Fairmont, but that's at the expense of freshness as others noted. But...although I vote for viateur, fairmont has big salty pretzels and I'm a sucker for those.
Ken Sloan / July 28, 2007 at 01:05 am
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I think the "bozo" bagel at Fairmount is one hell of a bagel. It's huge, so it's perfect for sandwiches, which most Montreal bagels are not really cut out for, and is loaded with seeds. The hugeness sort of lends to a more chewy texture too.

For standard-sized bagels I guess I don't really have a Fairmount vs. St. Viateurs preference. I actually like Beaubien sesame seed bagels with Liberte cream cheese!
neil / August 4, 2007 at 08:57 am
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where are you from, TORONTO? Who the f#^k gets a cinnamon raisin bagel?!?!
Claire / August 9, 2007 at 01:50 am
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While they aren't the best standard to rate bagel place by, cinnamon raisin bagels are tasty. I have the priviledge of living on Parc smack in between Fairmount and St. Viateur, so I sample both places regularly and have honestly found it hard to pick a favourite.

They're definitely different. In terms of just straight sesame bagels, I find that Fairmount ones are sweet and soft while St. Viateur ones tend to be a bit more on the more bread-like side. I think I lean more towards Fairmount in that respect, but it's all about personal taste. Either will do in a pinch.

That said, if you're looking for something outside of the ordinary, it seems like St. Viateur will frequently be out of the non-sesame bagels. Fairmount usually has what you're looking for, but in my experience they're rock hard. If you encounter that at St. Viateur, they get all cute and appologetic and placate you with more bagels. So, maybe St. Viateur has less of the fancy bagels because of their high freshness standards...

Or maybe I'm totally over-anylizing bagels.
At home with Kim Vallee / August 10, 2007 at 01:22 am
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I am fan of plain sesame bagels with the typical cream cheese or creamy goat cheese. I prefer Fairmount maybe for sentimental reasons. I never got the chance to taste Saint-Viateur right out of the oven.
curiousnesser / August 16, 2007 at 10:10 am
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Please post a clip of your audible delight.
Anon / August 19, 2007 at 10:04 pm
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Well, based on customer service alone, I had brought up a concern about their ingredients and was treated very rudely at St. Viateur; I asked the same thing to the people at Fairmount and they were much more helpful. Plus their bagels are delicious. I will now ONLY go to Fairmount for my bagel fix.

And yeah, the best comparison is the fresh sesame bagels; do a taste test and let us know what you think.
Alex / September 16, 2007 at 11:11 pm
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St-viateur bagel all the way! :D
the Baker's / April 13, 2008 at 12:36 am
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please let me know how awe can get your bagels sent here to Scottsdale Arizona

thank's Sonia
chris barany / April 29, 2008 at 03:23 pm
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i'm from toronto, and i order the sesame. even when i take them back home, cut and freeze them, and eat them defrosted months later, Fairmount bagels rock. toast them, put some cream cheese or mayo in between the two slices, add cucumber and tomato, salt and pepper. consume.

there's a reason why there's always a line-up at Fairmount, and St. Viateur are practically giving them away.
JP / December 26, 2009 at 11:16 pm
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WTF? Cinnamon Raisin??? W-T-F?

There goes any credibility you might have had.

And who the fuck wants to be eating "tumours of dough"?

Aaargh.
carsls / July 7, 2010 at 02:19 pm
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The debate is over, we have a winner. I've in fact find a superior bagel bakery to St.Viateur and Fairmont. It's Mount Royal Bagel. Although not as well known, it is far better than all other bagel shops. Their bagels are perfect. Soft, chewy and always fresh. Mmm, could go for one right now. They are located at 709 Lucerne in TMR ..even if your not close by, they are well the worth the trip! Take my word for it.
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