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August 11, 2005

The Best Bagels

sesame seed bagel They’re cut from 150 lb slabs of dough, hand-rolled, boiled in honey-water, tossed with either sesame or poppy seeds, and then baked on long pallets in a wood-fired oven. With a crisp crust and a chewy center, they have a hint of sweetness (remember the honey-water). They are, in short, the best bagels in the world. Nothing else even comes close1.

When my parents were alive, every visit was accompanied by four or five dozen, carefully-wrapped and frozen. These went straight into the freezer, to be doled out sparingly, until the next visit. Since then, we (my wife, though born in Chicago, is as passionate about these bagels as I) have been bereft.

So you can imagine my excitement when I learned that the St. Viateur Bagel Bakery now has a mail-order business. For $31.50 CAN, they’ll send a box of six dozen, via next-day air. Bliss!

Alas, a quick email exchange with José2 established that they only ship within Canada.

Lack of demand? The hassle of dealing with US Customs? Pressure from the New York Bagel lobby? Who knows why they won’t ship south of the border! Whatever the reason, I am, needless to say … crushed.


Since this post generated more interest than I thought it would, I offer you, dear readers, a little bit of soft-core bagel porn:
Soft-core bagel porn

1 Well, OK, there’s the competition. But besides that …

2 The Jewish staff, long ago, gave way to other ethnic groups; the current owner is Italian.

Posted by distler at August 11, 2005 1:36 AM

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Re: The Best Bagels

Ahem. I am from Chicago. And while I do not claim to be passionate about bagels, I like ‘em and can tell a good one from a bad one. You make it sound as if Chicago is some kind of bagel-free zone.

Posted by: Adam Rice on August 11, 2005 9:01 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Thanks Jacques, I just may give them a try (when I am back to Canada). Though I grew up eating the crusty kind of bagels (baked but not boiled), I got to like this “jewish” food in the US. (In Israel, incidentally, the best bagels were available at the arabic bakeries).



Posted by: Moshe Rozali on August 11, 2005 9:05 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels


You just need to find a willing Canadian intermediary who, for a small bagel forwarding fee, would place a US-bound connoisseur’s order and then send the coveted bagels through to the US or other locales. You’d have to be careful that such operations don’t evolve into a massive bagel smuggling ring ruled by a bagel mafia, especially if these bagels are in fact as succulent as they sound from this post!

Posted by: John Chunko on August 11, 2005 9:48 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Bagel Mules

What, you mean like this listing on Craigslist (to pick one example)?

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the whole point of NAFTA and the revolution in e-commerce is so that we, here in Texas, can get real Montréal bagels delivered at the click of a mouse.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 11, 2005 10:27 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels


Finally something we wholeheartedly agree about, and I never tasted a Montreal bagel before moving to Canada.


Posted by: Lee Smolin on August 12, 2005 9:11 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Okay Jacques, here’s the deal. I’m in Ann Arbor for two and a half more weeks before heading to Providence. I am about 40 minutes away from the border. If you can arrange to have them delivered to the border, via some kind of Canadian Pony Express or something, then I will pick them up and immediately next-day air mail them to Texas. I know, it seems risky. But it sounds like it just might be worth it.

Posted by: Bob McNees on August 12, 2005 10:19 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

I always wondered what the French word for
“bagel” is. If it is “bagelle,” then is the plural “bagels,” in French _bageaux_?

Posted by: Pyracantha on August 13, 2005 2:19 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

En Français …

… ils s’appelle «les bagels».

Not very interesting, I’m afraid.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 13, 2005 2:36 AM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

En voulez-vous?

Bonjour Monsieur Distler,

I’m a regular reader who happens to live corner Saint-Urbain and Saint-Joseph! A few steps from Saint-Viateur street… Maybe I can package some for you?

A fellow physicist and ex-NeXTy

Posted by: Raymond Lutz on August 13, 2005 9:56 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: En voulez-vous?

Whoa! Now we’re talkin’!

I will contact you offline, and see if we can set something up.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 13, 2005 10:16 AM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Hi Jacques:
Just a small correction, apparently the price of bagels is 31.50CAD, but the shipping is additional 54.74CAD, and then there is tax… still a small price for the best bagels in the world.

Posted by: Moshe Rozali on August 13, 2005 11:00 AM | Permalink | Reply to this


Ouch! I guess next-day delivery doesn’t come cheap (I assume that’s the shipping rate to Vancouver)

With GST+PST, that works out to $1.37 CAN ($1.15 US)/bagel. Not a bad deal but, perhaps, I need to get myself invited to McGill …

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 13, 2005 11:25 AM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Shipping

Yes, shopping online in Canada is quite the adventure, I still cannot come close to predicting the eventual price of anything, seems pretty independent of the quoted price.

I actually visited McGill a couple of months ago, if only I knew then what I know now…

Posted by: Moshe Rozali on August 13, 2005 2:51 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Hey Prof. Distler…
just to let you know… McGill is hiring a string theorist this upcoming year. if you really miss your bagels… know that we’d love to have you back up here…

Posted by: Joshua Elliott and Subodh Patil on August 15, 2005 9:17 PM | Permalink | Reply to this


There are many reasons, quite apart from the bagels, why I love Montréal.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 15, 2005 10:55 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: McGill

So we can count you in then I suppose? Have your people contact our people.

Posted by: Joshua Elliott on August 16, 2005 2:47 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Hi Everyone, Vince the owner of St-Viateur Bagel here. Here is the real story. We have shipped to the US before, about 15% of the time they have been sent back by border securtiy. Therefore, I am working on perfecting our shipping system throughout Canada before I negotiate the US. For Canadian orders we should be ready in 10 days and shipping rates are pretty good. Please check the site in a couple of weeks. Thanks everyone for caring about us, sorry gotta go bagels are burning

Posted by: Vince Morena on August 15, 2005 9:43 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Ah, the awesome power of “the internets”!

Thank you, Vince. Best of luck with your e-commerce efforts, and we look forward to the day when you can extend your service to the US. I’d be honoured to announce it here at Musings, when the day comes.

P.S.: Currently, this post is the top hit on Google for the phrase, “best bagels in the world” and #6 for the phrase, “best bagels”. Considering the subject-matter, I think the placement is well-deserved, no?

Posted by: Jacques Distler on August 15, 2005 10:26 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

About 3 of those (maybe 4:)), scrambled eggs, orange juice and fresh coffee…

Posted by: Steve on August 17, 2005 2:02 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Hi everyone, Vince from St-Viateur Bagel in Montreal. Our web-site is now fully funtional and we are shipping bagels via internet ordering across Canada. As for the US. We can take orders manually and shipping is relatively inexpensive for the North-Eastern States however, it does get more expensive the further west and south we go. Thanks for your time. Gotta go the bagels are burning!

Posted by: Vince Morena on October 3, 2005 7:00 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

i hope you get fda approval soon.

i’ve got guys all over asking for bagels. they’ve infiltrated even national geographic headquarters. whenever i go down, we have to bring bagels… and only st. viateurs will do.

by the way, when you all go, you might get Andy. he’s an absolute delight. look for the smile and handlebar moustache.

my word of advice: freeze the bagels as quickly as you can for long storage. microwave for only about 40-45 seconds and they are almost oven fresh. it ain’t exactly the same, but, ya know…

Posted by: blogmonkey on January 4, 2006 4:23 PM | Permalink | Reply to this


My preferred technique is to microwave for 30 seconds (or less, depending on the power of the microwave), and then finish in the toaster oven.

The result more closely approximates the fresh item.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on January 4, 2006 4:33 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: defrosting

My Grandmother was a top of the food chain cook
never did she freeze bagels or serve lean corned beef!

Posted by: marshal Sandler on January 24, 2006 10:40 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

St. Viateur has great bagels but there is a place in Ottawa Canada, that makes grat bagels too. As a diplomat at the US embassy it was a great pleasure to bring them home for everyone to devour.
I was talking to the owner recently and he said he will be opening several stores in the states!

Posted by: Craig on February 1, 2006 11:42 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

the best bagels are in brooklyn, new york and on 18th avenue and 62nd street. hand rolled, boiled and baked in a rotating oven. theres nothing like new york water and it makes the best bagels!!

Posted by: john on January 8, 2009 5:44 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

I have enjoyed excellent bagels in many cities throughout the USA and Canada. By far, the very best bagels are from Dominicks’s at the intersection of Randall Road and Huntley Road in Carpentersville, IL. Not only are they the best, but they are $3.99 per dozen!

Posted by: Corey on May 25, 2009 1:30 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

We lived in DDO (West Island) of Montreal for 5 years. Just got back from a visit on Sunday and already miss the bagels. No comparison here in Plano, TX. Stopped by Yagel Bagel on Saint-Jean Blvd on way out of town. Got two days worth. Miss them already.

Posted by: Jan on August 11, 2009 11:52 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Here in Eastbourne, UK, not many great bagels!
Maybe it’s just a cultural thing, but I scouted around and could not find anything good.
I come from Poland and there we have plenty of good bagels.

Shame that St. Viateur only ships within Canada…

Posted by: Christopher on December 16, 2009 8:44 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

I live in Montreal and I love bagels like no other! I’m fortunate enough to have such great bagels all around me, but for those of you who don’t live in Montreal; my favorite Montreal bagel shop, Mount Royal Bagel Bakery will ship to literally anywhere! I prefer their bagels to St.Viateur’s, let alone the fact that they are much cheaper! If you’re a serious bagel lover, their number is 1-877-LEBAGEL

Posted by: Ryan on December 21, 2010 1:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Couldn’t agree more about the above comment about Mount Royal Bagel. They make the best bagels, seriously no other bagel even compares.

Posted by: Germaine on May 25, 2011 3:54 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: The Best Bagels

Hey, just discovered this conversation. The best bagels in the world are Gryfe’s bagels on Bathurst St. in Toronto. We used to line up outside the shop on Sundays, summer or winter.
The ones that come second are in Paris where I’m living at the present. And, yes, I have had Montreal bagels. Good but…

Posted by: Alexandra Glass on March 18, 2012 10:13 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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