Montrealers are mad for the bagels of the Mile End neighborhood. No one would mistake them for bagels from anywhere else, although local food maven Adam Gollner once suggested they may accurately reflect the way bagels used to be made in the Ukraine. Sold hot from neighboring 24-hour bakeries, Fairmount and St. Viateur, they are modest-size hoops that are boiled and then baked in a wood-fired oven that adds a smoky note to the flavor of dough that is nearly as sweet as challah bread.
At first bite, we didn’t like them. We thought they were too sweet and too small. But we came back for more and soon we were addicted, toting four dozen back to the U.S. and hoarding them. (They freeze well if you plan to toast them.)
There are two Bagel Kings in town; and the differences between Fairmount’s and St. Viateur’s bagels are subtle indeed. Each has devotees. We think Fairmount’s are chewier, and while we’d recommend plain bagels for a first taste, we especially like Fairmount’s sesames and onion bagels, the latter having a tawny skin spangled with charred bits of onion that add welcome pizzazz.
Neither bagel bakery has a place to sit down and eat, although the kindly counterman at St. Viateur will offer you a plastic knife to go with your bagful and a cup of cream cheese. This allows devotees to stand in the street, schmear, and eat.