Darien List of Beach Hill Smokehouse uses a J&R Oyler Smoker to bring Texas barbecue to the frigid winters of Toronto. From Eater’s Smoke Point, which you can watch videos from here.
Description: At Beach Hill Smokehouse, pitmaster Darien List prides himself on bringing meat with the flavors, spices, and fall-off-the-bone textures of central Texas barbecue to Toronto. In a 7,000 pound indoor smoker, he and his team are able to cook 1,800 pounds of meat at one time, which, in a place that gets as cold as Toronto, comes in handy.
Name: Schwartz’s Deli Date: 9/20/19 Location: 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec Order: 3 large smoked meat plates, slaw, fries, pou (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: For this year’s edition of our annual guys trip, the guys and Speedy and I headed to Montreal to get our fill of jet boating and poutine (well, not so much Speedy on the poutine). Speedy used to spend a decent amount of time in Montreal for work and had a pretty good meal here. Seven years later, Schwartz’s was a must-stop for our group that weekend per Speedy.
Speedy: Smoked meat is a staple of Montreal cuisine – it’s served almost everywhere. And there’s no smoked meat joint more famous than Schwartz’s. Our group was lucky enough to get seated immediately upon arriving on a Friday just before 11:30 (the line was out the door when we left), and our waiter told us stories of all the famous people he’d served (which was a pretty extensive list including several celebrities).
Monk: Montreal smoked meat is actually a brisket that is pickle juice-brined for 10 days before being smoked for 8 hours. It’s similar to pastrami except that the mix of seasonings it’s cured in contains less (or almost no) sugar and more savory seasonings like cracked peppercorns, coriander, garlic, and mustard seeds. Fun fact: Montreal steak seasoning was modeled on the spice mixture used for Schwartz’s smoked meat. The briskets are kept whole and sliced to order when large groups such as ours order such outrageous quantities of meat…
Speedy: Which we did. Based on the advice of our waiter, we ordered 3 large plates, and (spoiler alert) had enough leftovers for late night snacks (and add-ons to our Montreal bagels next morning).
Monk: Ah, Montreal-style bagels – man, those were good. Back to the meal…
I threw together my first sandwich with the seedless rye slices plus the mustard and slaw, and it was fantastic. More jewish deli than barbecue, but there’s a reason why Schwartz’s is a Montreal institution that was purchased by Celine Dion for $10 million so that it wouldn’t be torn down. I ended up making two more sandwiches of the delicious smoked meat.
Speedy: Agree, Monk. The meat is tender and flavorful, and really makes a great sandwich. It’s an absolute must in Montreal. And bonus – the slaw is vinegar based! The slaw was crunchy and tangy and was a perfect complement – either on the sandwich or a side.
Monk: I was excited to try all of the poutine during our stay in Montreal that weekend. For the uninitiated, poutine is Montreal’s signature dish that is comprised of fries topped with cheese curds and a meat gravy containing bits of the smoked meat from the slicing block. Schwartz’s was the first of 4 poutine orders I had that weekend, and it was very solid.
Speedy: Overall, there’s a reason Schwartz’s Deli is a staple, and it’s a must-eat in Montreal. On this trip, this was the only smoked meat our group had, but after this meal, no other was really needed.
Name: Blackstrap BBQ Date: 2/13/13 Location: 4436 Rue Wellington, Verdun, QC, Canada Order: Brisket place with a side of pork. Coleslaw, fries (link to menu) Bill: CAD 15
Growing up in the south, I had never really associated Montreal with good barbecue. Actually, I had never really associated it with anything other than snotty french people. But I’d like to go on record and say I was wrong. I learned on one of my first trips to Montreal about the famous smoked meat, which I’ve grown to really love. So when one of my co-workers told me about Blackstrap BBQ and swore by it, I decided it was worth giving a try. I’m glad I did.
Blackstrap is about 3 miles (excuse me – 5 kilometers) from downtown Montreal in an area of town that I’m not at all familiar with. It’s relatively easy to get to via the rail system, so I was excited to check it out.
Upon entering, you see the order counter and a small dining room. You can also see part of the kitchen (but not the smoker) where the food is prepared. I was happy to find out that the cashier spoke english completely fluently (you never know up there), so I inquired of her what she thought I should order. She quickly responded that I should get a brisket plate with a side of pork, so who was I to argue? She also recommended the fried mac and cheese, but due to my intolerance of dairy, I opted for the fries. The meal also came with slaw. As an aside, slaw in Montreal is a frequent side dish and it is ALWAYS vinegar based and awesome.
When I went to sit down, I was excited to see a wood pile, making me suspect a stick-burning smoker. I was also excited to see one of the workers slicing the beef brisket in a meat slicer. I prefer brisket to be sliced, but for some reason have been getting pulled or chopped brisket when I’ve ordered it lately.
I sat down and the food was brought out shortly. I must say, I was pretty pleased. The brisket was tender with just the right amount of tug. The pork was also tender and had a bit of bark in it, which is how I like it. I will say that both meats seemed to have been prepared without excessive rub or sauce, which is nice, but I did find it necessary to apply some of the sauce provided on the table. I used the spicy sauce, which was vinegar based and seemed to have a good bit of red pepper. The mild sauce was more ketchup-y and probably a little sweet for my liking.
The slaw also was good and the fries were fine, but it really was the brisket that stole the show for me. This is likely because I rarely get good brisket in NC, while the pork (which I did enjoy) wasn’t really anything that I couldn’t find in a dozen places back home.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. If you ever find yourself in Montreal and are homesick for some good southern barbecue, you could do worse than going to check out Blackstrap BBQ.
Name: Schwartz’s Hebrew Deli Date: 8/15/12 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.