Ryan Homsy and his wife, Reagan, launched MTL Bagels in November. 

When Montreal native Ryan Homsy met his wife in New York City, they always had the great debate: who had the better bagels?

Ryan stood fiercely behind his beloved Montreal bagels, while his wife, Reagan, picked the east-coast bagels as the winner.

This intense food battle continued back and forth until she finally tried a Montreal bagel. Her verdict: they were great. She asked why no one was doing it in the states, Ryan said.

When the couple moved to Tucson and started a family, they finally decided it was time to bring these special bagels to the city.

Ryan and Reagan are the creators behind MTL Bagels, where they serve up wood-fired Montreal-inspired bagels from their home kitchen. Ryan bakes the bagels while Reagan helps with everything surrounding the bagels, like the website and logo work.

To make Montreal bagels, dough is boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-fire oven, which adds a bit of sweetness and a bit of smokiness to the breakfast staple, Ryan said.

Ryan Homsy grew up with sesame bagels, so he had to make sure this flavor was on the menu. 

There is not a lot of yeast used so they only rise once, as opposed to New York bagels which rise twice. They also tend to be smaller and denser than a typical bagel.

While Ryan loves to cook, he didn’t have a lot of experience when it came to crafting the bagels. In fact, he was once an athlete, playing handball professionally.

After extensive research and trial and error, Ryan continued to tweak his recipe until he got it right. Everything finally came together when he got a wood-fire oven — the key to making the perfect Montreal bagel.

“It was always missing one thing and I was like, you know what, the key ingredient of a Montreal bagel is that it has to be cooked in a wood-fire oven,” Ryan said. “So that's when I went ahead and purchased a wood-fire oven and that was the key.”

Paying homage to his athletic roots, the couple came up with a name and logo loosely inspired by Montreal’s former baseball team, the Montreal Expos. Their Instagram page features their signature dark green, blue and yellow colors along with Reels that show Ryan having fun while working on the bagels.

Ryan eventually joined Startup Tucson’s Food Forward program, which helps guide entrepreneurs through the challenges of starting a food business. After graduating in November, the couple started taking their bagels to local markets.

“I don’t think I could have done it without them,” Ryan said.

So far, MTL Bagels offers three flavors: everything, sesame and cinnamon raisin. The everything and sesame bagels are covered in the usual everything bagel spices or sesame seeds, ensuring flavor in every bite.

The dough for a Montreal bagel is boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-fire oven.

“I grew up on sesame bagels, and that's all I knew as bagels so that was the first one that I knew I had to have,” Ryan said. “Then you know everything bagel, everyone loves the everything bagel so that was in the mix. The cinnamon raisin was just to have something sweet and something that my daughter really loved.”

Ryan first thought the sesame bagels would be the favorite among customers, but it turns out the everything bagel seems to be the most popular. He even makes more of that flavor since they tend to sell out first.

When it comes to preparing the bagels for markets, Ryan described the process as a “labor of love.” He first has to make the dough and let it rise. He then hand-rolls each bagel, boils them and then they're off into the oven. It’s a two-day process since the dough has to be refrigerated before it can be baked.

Ryan usually brings around 10 dozen bagels to a market, selling them in single or four packs. He said he’s been getting positive feedback from customers, who really appreciate him bringing some bagel diversity to Tucson.

“There's a famous quote from Anthony Bourdain, that you can't compare a New York and a Montreal bagel because they're so different and they're so great in their own respect,” Ryan said. “So I'm never going to say our bagels are better than ones. They're just different.”

Ryan Homsy makes each bagel from scratch and hand-rolls them.

In the future, Ryan hopes to eventually open a brick-and-mortar where people can come in and buy the bagels. He is also aiming to supply MTL Bagels to local restaurants, markets and grocery stores.

For now, Ryan encourages all to stop by and try something new. Who knows, you may find yourself on the Montreal side of the great bagel debate.

“Everyone loves bread and it’s something new to try,” Ryan said. “My favorite part of this whole process is really being at the markets and chatting with people, meeting new friends and hearing what they're up to.”

Follow MTL Bagels on Instagram to find out where they'll pop up next, including the Udall Park Farmers Market, 7202 E. Tanque Verde Road, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, Jan. 12-19.

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Jamie Donnelly is the food writer for #ThisIsTucson. Contact her via e-mail at jdonnelly@tucson.com