Montreal's Bagels – Better than New York's?

An interview with Vince Morena, president of Montreal's St-Viateur Bagel in Montreal, Canada.

The essay "Real New Yorkers Don't Toast Their Bagels" tackles the question of bagel-toasting with eight prominent bagelers and critics. Read the full interviews for more on bagels, cream cheese, and who has better bagels, New York or Montreal.

New Yorkers may think that the bagel is their city's birthright, but New York City doesn't have the last word on all things bagel. For a complete picture, you have to also look to Montreal, a city with its own storied bagel tradition. Thinner, sweeter, and made with bigger holes big, Montreal's bagels are known for being boiled in honey-sweetened water before being baked in a wood-fired oven.

When you talk Montreal bagels, you have to talk about Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur Bagel. And at St-Viateur Vince Morena carries on Montreal's bagel tradition 24 hours a day. In this interview Vince reveals his favorite bagel, which flavor should never be a cream cheese, and how best to toast a Montreal bagel — if you can't get one fresh that is.


New York or Montreal?
Montreal. 100%.


What's your favorite kind of bagel: everything, sesame, pumpernickel, poppy, plain, etc.?


Bialy or Flagle?
I've never tried them.


Nova or lox?


Sable or whitefish?


Favorite place for a bagel other than your own?
I've never gone anywhere else.


Who is your biggest competitor?
In Montreal there's only really two Montreal bagels, so Fairmount is our only competitor, and it's hardly a competition anymore. We're on good terms.


Some people swear by toasting. Others claim it destroys the integrity of the bagel. To toast or not to toast? Why?
Given the choice, hot and fresh out of the oven. But toasting for me is alright. And believe it or not, I keep bagels in my fridge. I tend to toast them whole to give them that crispy oven effect.


Favorite type of cream cheese
Usually we have a brand up here known as Liberty. It's not as commercial as Philadelphia. And just regular cream cheese.


What should never be a cream cheese flavor?
To each their own. I like different flavors in cream cheese as well. We make our own. Maybe like butterscotch or something.


Anything different you notice about bagels now from those of your youth?
I've been making bagels since I'm 13 and now I'm 40. And we haven't changed. They might have gotten a little bigger over time, but they're still much smaller than the New York bagels.