Come Sunday morning, we couldn’t wait to hit the bagel trail. Schwartz’s Deli seemed like a classic option, but then we heard they had new owners, including Céline Dion. We gave it a pass.
Outside, we encountered something that should’ve come as no surprise: a freezing winter day. Locals were bundled in no-nonsense Sorel boots and puffer coats, with hats, hoods, and scarves pulled up to their eyeballs. Those Canada Goose-brand jackets, supposedly the warmest winter coats in the world, and very pricey, were out in force. We ran back inside and put on virtually every piece of clothing we had with us, including long johns. No biggie, though: Google maps said our entire bagel-lined route would take 40 minutes.
Indeed. An hour later we were still searching for Faubourg Bagel Place in weather that included crunchy pellets of snow. We eventually made it to 1616 rue St-Catherine West and . . . what a disappointment. The shop was set inside an indoor food court with a cement floor, with a sign that was missing letters (_a_el_uFaubourg.) There was no line. We ordered a bagel, and it was OK, but if you want the total bagel experience, this is not the place.
We had high hopes for Beautys Luncheonette (93 avenue du Mont-Royal, 514-849-8883, www.beautys.ca) in a neighborhood that was once the heart of the city’s Jewish garment district. Walking into the biting wind, we were starting to question our sanity when we reached the circa 1942 diner, where long lines were spilling outside the door. Owner Hymie Sckolnick came out to survey the line and usher lucky folks inside, just as he’s been doing for 71 years.
We eagerly agreed to a table at the counter and it turned out to be a good move: It was the perfect vantage point to watch cooks turn out the famous Beautys Special — the one we came for — a sesame bagel from St-Viateur, with cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomato, and red onion ($10). Maybe it was the lively vibe, maybe it was the long walk, or maybe it was the fact that we found a bagel place with actual seats, but we adored Beautys. “Come again! You’re welcome!” Sckolnick said as we left.
Wearing our fat pants, we headed back to Boston the next day, satisfied that we’d sampled at least a few of Montreal’s best bagels. Of course, we had to make one more stop: at St-Viateur’s sit-down cafe at 1127 Mont-Royal East. Call it research, call it carb overloading, but we couldn’t leave without a bag of bagels for the road.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.