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Battle of the bagels

Two Montreal bakeries compete to make the best rounds of hot, soft bagels.

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In Montreal, where French and English flow into one another with a stylish effortlessness and relaxed denizens sip café au laits in European-style coffeehouses, it's not surprising that one of the few points of contention would be on matters of the .

For the past 30 years, two storied bagelries, the St. Viateur Bagel & Cafe and the Fairmount Bagel Bakery, located a few blocks from each other in the city's Mile End neighborhood, have divided the allegiances of Montrealers.Bagels are perhaps Montreal's most celebrated food, akin to cheesesteaks in Philadelphia or clam chowder in Boston. Compared to their New York cousins, Montreal bagels are more like soft pretzels – flatter, doughier, and sweeter. They've been replicated, with arguable success, in Toronto, Calgary, and other Canadian cities, but people living far outside Montreal are drawn to this city for the bagels alone.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, a line snaked out of the Fairmount shop. Marty Machalek of Pointe-Claire, west of downtown Montreal, was buying a dozen bagels to take to his father in Ontario.

"I went around the city with my girlfriend a few years ago comparing bagel shops, and this one was the best," Mr. Machalek said. "The bagels are gooey and warm. But really, [Montreal bagels] are all good."

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