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St. Viateur Bagel Shop

January 12, 2015

Can you believe that until a handful of years ago my husband had never had a bagel before and thought that he didn’t like cream cheese?  Come now, the man who loves smoked salmon had never had a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon?  He just assumed he didn’t like bagels and assumed he didn’t like cream cheese.  Then one day, someone at his office brought in bagels and cream cheese for breakfast for the office and he grudgingly decided to try one.  And then you know what happened?  I got an email from him while I was at work and he told me how wrong he was for thinking he didn’t like bagels and cream cheese because he had one at work and he loved it.  So now, my husband, plus bagels, plus cream cheese, equals a winning combination.  So, when we were in Montreal, I had heard about the fact that die-hard New Yorkers who think that their bagels are the best in the world even are forced to admit that the bagels in Montreal are better than the ones in New York.  In fact, I had read of a particular bagel shop that’s open 24/7 in this amazing, vibrant city, churning out bagels to the masses all day and night and people gobble them up by the dozens and dozens and tourist, even those from New York, flock to this mecca of bagel and buy dozens and dozens to bring home with them.  This bagel shop, yeah, it was on the “to do” list while we were in Montreal.  Lucky for us, the shop was located just down the street from Les Deux Singes de Montarvie, so we could enjoy dinner, stop by the bagel shop and pick up some bagels and be set for breakfast for the rest of your time in Montreal.  Sounds like a good plan to me.

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The bagel shop is called St. Viateur Bagel since it’s conveniently located on Rue St. Viateur, or St. Viateur Blvd in English.  Even at the late hour we arrived at St. Viateur Bagel shop, they were still churning all sorts of bagels by the dozens.  St. Viateur Bagel was the brainchild of a former Polish immigrant to Montreal named Myer Lewkowicz, who after having been released from a concentration camp and then sent to Germany to work after the war was then sent to Montreal by the Jewish Immigration Aid Services of Canada.  Upon arriving in Montreal, Lewkowicz, who had no baking experience, went to work at a bagel shop in the city where he learned the art and craft of hand-making bagels.  In 1957, Lewkowicz set up his first bagel shop on Rue St. Viateur.

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Over 50 years later, Mr. Lewkowicz may have passed on, but the tradition and recipe for hand-making these bagels continues under the guidance of former employee turned partner of Mr. Lewkowicz, Joe Morena and now his new partner Marco Sbalno.  Today, St. Viateur Bagel operates the original store as well as several others and cafes as well and is continuing to grow the business.

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When you step into the store, the first thing you’re greeted by is bags and bags of flour used to churn out these amazing bagels around the clock, 365 days a year.

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At the next station, you can see the bagel dough that’s already been made being sliced into long strips, rolled out and then hand formed into the classic round bagel shape.  The hand rolled dough are then boiled in special honey water to add the famous Montreal sweet taste to the bagels.  The boiled bagels are then dressed, loaded onto long wooden boards in a line and that entire wooden board is loaded into the wood fired oven to bake.

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Here’s a peak of the wood fired oven in the back and the bagels being loaded into and then churned out of the oven.  When the bagels have baked to their perfect golden brown color, the long wooden board is pulled out of the oven and the bagels are tossed onto a slide chute near the oven to rest and cool down.  As soon as the bagels are ordered by customers, they are bagged fresh and sold out the door.

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Look at those fresh sesame seed bagels and poppy seed bagels.  In addition to sesame seed, which is their most popular bagel, St. Viateur also churns out whole wheat, plain, rosemary & sea salt, multigrain, cinnamon & raisin, all dressed, and flax.  But sesame seed is the bagel made all throughout the day and night.  When you walk into the shop and see fresh bagels coming out of the hopper, you just can’t resist ordering a half-dozen or dozen.  The fresh bagels are immediately put into a paper bag for you to take away.  The paper bag helps allow the bagels to breath and the heat to dissipate so that you don’t end up with soggy bagels due to the heat and condensation trapped into plastic bags.  If you plan to store your bagels for a few days, plastic bags are also provided to you to use for storage purposes.

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Of course, you can’t have bagels without some toppings.  The store has refrigerated cases of cream cheese – light, whipped, flavored – you name it, they’ve got it.  Also, lox, gravlax and a variety of other types of smoked salmon.  What about straight up cheese slices and wedges?  They’ve got that too.  And hummus and other types of spreads.  Any sort of traditional bagel topping, you can find it here at St. Viateur Bagel.

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Since sesame seed is St. Viateur’s most popular variety of bagel, we decided to pick up a half-dozen sesame seed bagels and a tub of cream cheese for our morning breakfast for the next couple of days while we were in Montreal.  As soon as we got back to our hotel, I couldn’t wait to just look at these bagels and all their wholesome goodness.  When you take the bagels out of the bag, the first thing you can tell right away is that they are handmade, each of them unique.  Depending on where the rolled and shaped dough was placed on the long wooden pallet that goes into the oven, some of them are more golden brown and baked on some sides than others.  You can tell looking at them, that they are imperfect rounds, obviously all rolled out and shaped by hand.  And look at all those golden baked sesame seeds covering the entire bagel.

To have these bagels on hand in our hotel room as breakfast for the next few mornings was terrific.  The bagels here in Montreal are somewhat sweeter than a normal bagel, probably due to the honey water.  The bagels are also a bit more dense and thick, not as airy as a bagel you get at your local grocery store.  That made just one bagel quite filling.  The bagels were perfectly baked and the sesame seeds were terrific.  They really may have been the best bagels I’ve ever had, and knowing that they were all handmade is somewhat more comforting.  If you ever find yourself in Montreal and you’re looking for a quick and easy breakfast, or snack, and you want to pick up something that is a classic Montreal goodie, treat yourself to some of these amazing bagels from St. Viateur Bagel Shop, you won’t be disappointed.  Even my husband, who originally thought I was being silly dragging him to a specific bagel shop for what he believed to be “just any old bagel,” had to grudgingly admit that these were really good bagels and he was glad that we had made a stop to try some of Montreal’s finest bagels.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Heather Morrow permalink
    January 12, 2015 6:46 pm

    Sounds like a good bagel. 😉

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