How do you explain the 90-dozen bagels in your trunk to a U.S. Customs officer guarding the Quebec-New York border crossing at midnight on a Friday?
“We promised them a few bagels the next time around, and went on our way,” said Jon Leitner, one of the drivers in question, jokingly.
Good thing the passage went without a hitch. It means that Leitner and business partner Joel Tietolman, both 27, will move ahead with plans for Friday night deliveries of just-baked Montreal bagels to Mile End, the Montreal-inspired Brooklyn deli opened by Noah Bernamoff, their high school pal, in February.
Bernamoff was already selling bagels imported from his hometown, but even with a retail tab of $2.50 apiece, shipping costs ate into profits. Enter Tietolman. When he saw how fast the coveted baked goods sold out, he and Leitner hatched a scheme to buy Bernamoff bagels directly from the source, drive them down to Brooklyn on a Friday night and drop off still soft bagels in time for Mile End’s 8 a.m. weekend breakfast rush.
Ordering directly from the venerable St-Viateur Bagel in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood, for which the restaurant is named, would cost you $40 for three dozen, shipped by ground. But by the time they arrive stateside, the bagels would lose some of the crust’s characteristic crunch and the dough’s softness. Leitner and Tietolman’s venture, on the other hand, will offer the bagels — about eight hours out of the oven — for $20 per dozen if preordered online, $22 for walk-ins at Mile End.
After the February 19 trial run of 90 dozen, Mile End Montreal Bagel will officially launch February 26 with the Friday-night transport of 150-dozen bagels. If the Mile End bagel venture takes off, Tietolman and Leitner plan to wholesale St.-Viateur bagels to specialty shops in other New York neighborhoods.
So does the selection of St.-Viateur Bagel as Mile End’s official supplier finally lay to rest the long-raging debate over which Montreal bagel is superior — which the Forward reported on in January? Leitner is diplomatic. “These are the bagels we grew up on,” he said. “We think they’re the best.”
This story "The Best Montreal Bagel...In New York" was written by Michael Kaminer.