The most iconic bagel in Montreal is St. Viateur

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  • One of Montreal's iconic foods is the Montreal-style bagel. It's subtly sweet and baked in a wood-fire oven.
  • St Viateur is considered one of the city's most iconic destinations to get one.
  • The store distinguishes itself from its competitors through its dedication in the craft of making the bagel.

Below is a full transcript of the video:

Herrine: One of Montreal's culinary emblems is the Montreal-style bagel. It's poached in honey, then baked in a wood-fired oven to give it its distinctively sweet taste and chewy texture.

In a city spotted with numerous bagel shops, St. Viateur stands out for its masterfully crafted artisanal bagels.

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Customer: For me, it's not just a great bagel, but it's also the institution itself that's really fantastic. Once you have it once, you just can't stop, and I haven't stopped for 50 something years.

Saul Restrepo: St. Viateur Bagel was founded in 1957 by Myer Lewkowicz. Myer was Polish, Jewish born in Poland. He came to Canada after the war and he learned the trade here in Montreal.

Herrine: Lewkowicz's bagels continue to be popular for a variety of reasons. For starters, the authentic recipe has remained unchanged for over 60 years. The bagels are also made 24/seven, ensuring customers get a fresh bagel day and night.

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Saul Restrepo: We produce a thousand dozen a day.

Customer: St. Viateur Bagel is very famous. I think personally what makes it so great is no matter when I come here, whether it's alone or with friends, there's always just this atmosphere and you're always getting a great product, and it's just kind of amazing.

Herrine: And perhaps one of the biggest reasons why St. Viateur has upheld its iconic reputation is because the team's dedication to the bagel's foundation, the art of hand rolling. Many employees have been perfecting the craft for over 25 years.

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Saul Restrepo: Let's say a guy comes in and he wants to do our job. So usually it takes about six months to practice to be good at it.

Herrine: Mastering this technique takes practice because the bagels have to be consistent in size, shape, and texture.

Saul Restrepo: You're going to see it's going to have that chewy taste inside, and that ma that's because of the malt flour.

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Herrine: Once made, it's the baker's turn to finish off the bagels. Working with the long wood panels called sheeba, It's no easy task and takes equally long to master.

Saul Restrepo: They go in the hot water, in the boiling water, for five minutes, water and honey. And then they go 15 to 20 minutes in the wood oven.

Herrine: What does the wood oven do to the taste or texture?

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Saul Restrepo: Our oven has a dome. So the smoke, if you look inside, you see the smoke in the dome. So it gives all that smokey flavor, I believe. Still, we always like came up first, best bagel than Montreal, us and Fairmount. But I think we have more times to be number one than them. I don't know if you knew, but there's always like a friendly, a friendly battle between St. Viateur And Fairmount bagel.

Herrine: And while I'd be remiss not to mention the standing debate between which place has the tastier bagel, St. Viateur has technically been the longest running bagel shop in the city.

Saul Restrepo: We've been making bagels for a longer time because they closed for so many years. Anyways, I don't want to get in there.

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Herrine: Regardless, the bakery has been a keystone destination on the Mile End for locals and tourists. Even celebrities like Adam Sandler, Justin Trudeau, and Leonard Cohen have frequented. In fact, the flagship store has a huge hall of fame. And when it comes to which bagel flavor is the most popular, the answer is very clear.

Saul Restrepo: I will recommend to have sesame and I recommend the first time, just eat it as is.

Herrine: Oh wow. This tastes great on its own. I saw other people dipping this in a tub of cream cheese, so I'm going to try that.

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Saul Restrepo: Usually a family comes in, so they buy six bagels. They can have a cream cheese tub, Liberte, not Philadelphia. Liberte, from here.

Herrine: So this is Canadian cream cheese and a Montreal style bagel. Let's see if Canada does it better. Oh yeah, the cream cheese wins by far.

Saul Restrepo: And then I will try the poppy and the all dress. The all dress too, it's very popular. The all dress, we call it, is the sesame, poppy, onion and garlic seed on it. And then you can do it with the cream cheese, and with salmon is the classic. Yeah.

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Herrine: Maybe this is a very like exclusive thing to St. Viateur, but the sesame here is so toasty and nutty that even with the all dressed combination, the sesame flavor is a lot more pronounced. And because the salmon isn't like actual filet, or like cuts of salmon, this one's like creamier and silkier. They have a lot more depth in flavor and a lot more textural contrast than a New York style bagel, just because that crunchy exterior contrasts so well with that plushy inside and that sweetness from the dough and how it's not so dense. So, I'm leaving kind of sad because up until now, I thought New York style bagels would be incomparable, and this would honestly come in second place, but now I'm going to go back to New York and I'm going to miss this. I can see why this place is iconic. It's so simple, but it's so good.

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