Boerum Hill/ Gowanus

Mon dieu! Le Brokavore deigns to try $2.50 Canadian bagels

Nothing but a hole lot of hype, says L.B.
A $2.50 Montreal bagel from Mile End.

If hell was a bit nippy this past weekend, or airborne pigs were spotted over Prospect Park, I can offer an explanation. Which is this: Shortly after noon on Saturday, I, The Brokavore, a man devoted to thrift the way carp are devoted to swimming, walked into the Mile End on Hoyt Street in Boerum Hill, asked for a poppyseed bagel, and pried $2.50 from my cold, not-quite-dead hands.

This unlikely event followed on the heels of my rant last week about the Canada-centric diner’s practice of having bagels express-delivered from Montreal early Saturday mornings, and the wrongness of Brooklynites eating bagels with an overinflated pricetag and a global footprint that would give Al Gore indigestion.

It sparked my curiosity about what such bagels were like, and whether the Canadians can best us in anything besides hockey and healthcare, so I picked up a poppy model (the other choices were sesame and plain) and took it home to investigate.

First observation: Canadian bagels are skinny, with a hole in the middle that you can fit a finger through. As an enemy of puffed-up, oversized bagels, I approved. And they’ve got a pleasing irregularity of shape created by hand-rolling. So far so good.

Second observation: They’re…. how should I put this….. bad. I kid you not. Deep down I expected to like them, maybe even to have to admit that they were a worthy alternative to Brooklyn bagels. But they lacked flavor beyond a pronounced and unwelcome sweetness, and their texture was dry and crumbly.

I toasted the second half, and it helped, but not enough. And two fellow tasters agreed: “mealy,” Becky called it, while Jim complained that it just lay there lifeless in his mouth, and “didn’t put up a fight.” He also noted that the bite in question had cost about 50 cents. So, here at Brokelyn, our advice stands: See America first.


  1. Tim Donnelly

    USA!!! USA!!!!

    seriously though, the carbon footprint here is kinda ludicrous. It’d be like shipping pizza into Brooklyn from Columbus, OH. What’s the point?

  2. itsme

    So true! I went to the “best bagel place” in Montreal last year expecting to get wowed, but ended up throwing the thing away after the first bite. Even fresh out of the oven they’re dry, mealy, flavorless.

  3. what’s with that awkward lopsided poppyseededness? if that bagel was a mouth, them poppyseeds would be like some kind of funky bottom lip goatee. Not tryin’ to hate on Montreal, but, you know, let new york city take care of the bagels.

  4. Piper

    It is wrong to call them Canadian bagels as they are particular to only 2 bakeries in the whole country. These two bakeries that operate 24 hours a day, rolling bagels by hand and baking them in wood ovens, are only a few blocks apart in the Mile-End district of Montreal: St-Viateur Bagels and Fairmont Bagels. Otherwise, Canadian bagels are the same bread-like fluffy puffy factory made bagels you find in just about any grocery store in North America.
    I question the post that says that the person went to the ‘best bagel place in Montreal’ and the bagel was so bad he had to throw it out. I’m not saying it’s not possible this person went to one of these two bakeries, but if he did, his experience is the exception to the rule. Or, maybe, with all the hype the person was expecting something more like a cupcake than an authentic bagel (on that note, Mile-End, the neighbourhood, has the best cup cakes too, at Coco Locale on Parc Ave. near Villeneuve St.). I recommend New Yorkers and Brooklynites save up their 2.50$s they would otherwise spend on buying an exported Mile-End bagel so that they can come to Montreal to experience the real thing, hot out of the oven, while taking a stroll along Saint-Viateur Street lined with its unpretentious cafés and boutiques and hang with the diverse creative-type locals. St-Viateur St. is the heart of the Mile-End district, the best neighbourhood in Montreal (and therefore, Canada :)).
    Context is everything so come visit, (after all, we are only a few hours to the North of you), and when you do, don’t limit yourselves to the downtown tourist zone, take a walk North up Saint-Laurent Boulevard through the famed Plateau neihbourhood and into the ajoining Mile-End district, turn West on Saint-Viateur to sample its cafés, boutiques and bagels, and then South down Park Ave. to Coco Locale for a cupcake and continue on to the Mont-Royal Park (our Prospect Park), to climb the mountain and work off some of those bagel and cup cake calories. Also, iff you are into indie music, this is where it happens. Check out small venues like the Divan Orange, the Casa del Popolo, the Sala Rosa and the Cagibi, all on St-Laurent boul., and your bound to catch the next, yet undiscovered, indie sensation in action.
    – a Mile-End Resident of over 10 years.

  5. What I’m wondering is…why not use the Canadian bagel recipe and bake them here?

    It’s not like they’re made from exotic ingredients that can’t be found here- they’re BAGELS.

  6. Mollie, I agree. But I think the reason is the pretty much proven myth that bread tastes the way it does from different places due to “the water.” That’s pretty much a known myth in the bread baking world. The real key is the yeast and yeast cultures which can change from region to region.

    Which is all to say, they could make their own Canadian versions of bagels here in Brooklyn, but the myth of importing them will still be a stronger pull.

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