Besides poutine, the thing to eat while in Montréal is smoked meat. There are a handful of purveyors around town, but Schwartz’s Montréal Hebrew Delicatessen is the most well known and highly regarded.
The restaurant was opened in 1928 by a Jewish immigrant from Romania named Reuben Schwartz. The smoked meat is prepared using a secret blend of herbs and spices and marinated for ten days. Schwartz’s has employed the same recipe and techniques for over 80 years and takes great pride in serving a preservative-free product.
The Astronomer and I, along with our friends Nina, Linda, and Dan, made our way here for lunch on our first full day in the city. Even though we arrived well past lunchtime, there was still quite a lengthy line outside the restaurant. After waiting for about 30 minutes, we were finally ushered in.
Due to the restaurant’s limited space and immense popularity, smaller parties are usually seated with strangers along the long narrow tables that occupy the room. Our group was large enough this afternoon to merit our own domain.
Along the restaurant’s white tiled walls are photos of celebrities who have stopped into Schwartz’s for smoked meat. As luck would have it, a portrait of the incomparable Celine Dion and her adoring husband was hung right next to our table. I would’ve preferred a picture of Alanis Morisette or Avril Lavigne, but you can’t win ’em all.
To pair with our smoked meat sandwiches, our hosts Linda and Dan highly recommended Cott’s black cherry cola ($1.90). I totally dig it when Montrealers school me on how to eat like a true local.
Our side items included a plate of vinegary coleslaw ($2.40)…
…a large and snappy pickle ($1.75)…
…and homemade french fries ($2.80).
All of the sides were perfectly nice, but the stars of the afternoon were the famous smoked meat sandwiches ($6.15). The Astronomer and I ordered ours “medium,” which included a blend of lean and fatty cuts of brisket. “Lean” is also available for those who are fat averse.
The hand-sliced meat was stacked tall between two slices of light rye bread with a bit of yellow mustard. The seemingly simple sandwich packed an impressive punch. The meat was flavorful, moist, and tender, while the bread was soft but sturdy enough to keep the meat in its proper place. Mustard, coleslaw, and pickles were just the tangy accompaniments needed to punctuate the wonderful smoked meat.
The smoked meat at Schwartz’s totally lived up to the hype. I love it when that happens.
Schwartz’s Montréal Hebrew Delicatessen
3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard
Montreal, H2W 1X9, Canada