Montreal has a few foods it's known for: Montreal Bagels, Poutine, and Montreal Smoked Meat (MSM). And when you say smoked meat in Montreal, you are talking Schwartz's.
This place is an institution, with people coming for smoked meat since 1928. And not a lot seems to have changed. There is ALWAYS a line up outside that can stretch around the block. On this particular day, it was raining, and there was a street festival, so the line was shorter than I've seen it before. And because it was just LJ and I who were surrounded by big groups, so we got in quick.
That doesn't mean you are getting a table to oneself, oh no. This is communal sitting for sure. They seat you where you can fit. This makes for this total experience of going to Schwartz's.
The menu is pretty strait forward. Well strait forward in mostly French. It's a pretty simple menu, and you know you are getting smoked meat.
You can see how crowded the place is, with old men, families, hipsters etc. You don't know who you will be sitting with or near. The above photo was more to point out the blonde mum sitting in the chair. Notice the baby on her back, covered with a towel? Ya I didn't at first either.
A natural pairing drink to MSM is Cott's black cherry cola. I love cherry cola, and as cherry cola goes, this is a good one - crisp, sweet but not too sweet.
With our sandwiches LJ and I shared an order of fries - fresh cut, crispy but unseasoned. We also got a kosher pickel. This is a jumbo, super sour dill that crunches when you bite into it, but also soaks you with a tone of brine. Prepare to pucker up!
The key here was the Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich - which wikipedia defines as:
is a type of kosher-style deli meat product made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices. The brisket is allowed to absorb the flavours over a week, and is then hot smoked to cook through, and finally steamed to completion.Although the preparation methods may be similar, Montreal smoked meat is cured in seasoning with more crackedpeppercorns and aromatic spices, such as coriander, and significantly less sugar than New York pastrami. Montreal smoked meat is made with brisket, while pastrami is more commonly made with the navel/plate cut. The meat is typically served in the form of a rye bread sandwich slathered with yellow mustard. While some Montreal smoked meat is brine-cured like corned beef, with spices applied later, many smoked meat establishments prefer dry-curing directly with salt and spices.
The above is a medium (you can get lean, medium or fatty) and it is stacked high. Schwartz's is a drier cut - and while purists will often say this is the way it should be, I prefer a thinner, wetter sliced cut for my sandwich. That being said, this is still a very tasty sandwich. Served with yellow mustard and on rye bread. This is a hearty meal anyway you slice it.
Schwartz's is great and I think everyone should go if they are ever in Montreal. It truly is an experience, but I won't lie, after you've been here, there are other places with no lines and lots of table space with equally good smoked meat.
Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen
3895 Boulebard Saint-Laurent, Montreal QC