New York may have its pastrami, Toronto may have corned beef, Italy may boast about its pasta, however, there is no place in the world other than Montreal which can offer you the most delicious smoked meat sandwich. If you do visit Montreal you must savor a smoked meat sandwich piled high on deli rye with mustard, pickle, and cole slaw.
What is smoked meat? It is basically beef brisket that has been cured, spiced and smoked. However, the various well-known delis in Montreal will not divulge to you their distinct secret recipes.
When you order a smoked meat sandwich from any one of the delis mentioned in this article you will probably always be served the “old fashion” smoked meat as distinct from the newer variety. The “old fashion” has a stronger, more mellow taste. The newer kind however can be purchased in many of the bakeries in Montreal.
One of the most famous Montreal delicatessens is Schwartz’s (also known as Charcuterie Hebraique de Montréal) located at 3895 Saint-Laurent. The atmosphere is similar to that which exists at the Soup Nazi in New York that was portrayed on one of Jerry Seinfeld’s episodes.
The waiters bark at you and sometimes you have to hold onto to your plates as they seem to move by themselves. However, this is what makes Schwartz’s one of the most famous delis in Montreal. It is a delightful experience just to visit and observe how the sandwich plates glide along the table to the customers. Alertness is essential at all times, otherwise you will not catch the plate.
Some people prefer Bens, which is located at 990 de Maisonneuve and is probably the oldest smoked meat restaurant in Montreal. The original owners were the Kravitz family who emigrated from Lithuania in 1908 and brought with them this special sandwich. It seems everyone in Montreal knows about Ben’s Delicatessen or as it is commonly called “Bens.” In fact, when you enter the restaurant you will notice several pictures of movie celebrities who have eaten Ben’s smoked meat sandwiches. I am even informed that some of the top U.S. Hollywood actors have even asked to have the sandwich flown to them into the USA.
Another well-known deli is Lesters, located at 1057 Bernard Street in Outremont, which is a suburb of Montreal. I grew up in Outremont and I can remember the evenings when my father would ask me to go over to Lesters and pick up a smoked meat sandwich for him. In the early fifties the cost of the sandwich was 25 cents.
Lesters has been at the same location for the past 50 years. Today Lesters advertises the latest-generation technology where they can offer you freshly cut, vacuum sealed and ready to be heated smoked meat.
Montreal smoke meat is unbelievable! You can order it either very lean or, if you want to die young, with lots of fat. I like to have my smoke meat lean and you must ask for this in advance otherwise you will have a sandwich with a great deal of juicy fat! You also have to order the fries, pickles and cole slaw.
I think after writing this article I will have a very lean smoked meat sandwich, thinly sliced and piled high on Rye bread with lots of mustard along with a plate of fries and a soft drink. This is paradise or perhaps Jewish haut cuisine!
Originally published in Suite101.com