Name: Schwartz’s Hebrew Deli
Location: 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec
Order: Large smoked meat plate, slaw, fries (link to menu)
Bill: $19.75 CAD
Recently, I spent a week up in Montreal for work. As I was asking some of my co-workers (who are local) where I should eat, I was told by my co-worker Richard that I absolutely must go try Schwartz’s. I have previously taken Richard to Henry’s in Greenville on one of his trips to the States, so he knew about my obsession with barbecue. Apparently, Montreal is famous for smoked meat. After a little research (ahem, wikipedia), I learned that smoked meat is actually beef brisket cured in a manner similar to pastrami or corned beef.
Richard explained some of the Schwartz’s backstory to me: it’s a famous restaurant that’s been around since the 20’s, and it’s a bit of a hole in the wall. (It already sounds like my kind of place.) It sits in a very popular section of town where real-estate is pretty pricey. Earlier this year, Celine Dion bought the restaurant (for an alleged $10M), apparently to make sure no one tore it down to put in a more lucrative restaurant. After hearing all this, I was definitely excited to go check it out.
Our group went directly after work in order to avoid a line, which apparently forms nearly every evening. When we arrived, we were seated immediately, and a server came to take our order instantly. Schwartz’s has an atmosphere of an old-time diner, albeit with a large meat case upfront. The menu basically consists of steak or smoked meat, and everyone in our group ordered the smoked meat. When ordering, you are given the choice of fatty meat, lean, or medium. Based on Richard’s recommendation, we all went with the medium meat. Being bold as I am, I ordered the large plate, which came with bread as well. I was told it would make about 2.5 sandwiches, but that turned out to be a very conservative estimate. Others in our group ordered either the small plate or a sandwich. I also ordered slaw and fries to accompany my meal. (The joys of being on an expense account means no skimping on dinner.)
The food came out promptly and I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of food. My meal alone could have easily fed two and maybe three. I first sampled the meat without any type of sauce, and I was pretty impressed. It was tender and tasty, but definitely tasted more of corned beef than a traditional texas beef brisket. Still, it was very tasty and great in sandwiches. There was a barbecue sauce on the table, which was actually kind of similar to A1, and I thought it went well with the meat. Overall, I was very pleased with the smoked meat.
What made me even happier, however, was the slaw. I ordered slaw three times when I was in Montreal, and each time, I was delivered vinegar based slaw. Schwartz’s was the best slaw I had, and definitely reminded me of eastern NC barbecue slaw. Definitely a fantastic surprise on the trip.
Due to the volume of food I was given, I was unable to finish my meal. When I declined a to-go box, the server asked if I was sure and informed me that the meat was good for two days without refrigeration; I suppose due to the curing process. I declined anyway since I was flying home the next day, but it’s nice to know the option was available.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend going to Schwartz’s for a good meal, and I think I will probably go back next time I’m in the city. I certainly wouldn’t call it barbecue, but it was the closest thing I saw in Montreal. I do think it’s a little bit overpriced, but c’est la vie in Montreal.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs
Smoked meat – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs