Who would have thought that one of the most famous places in Montreal - a "must-visit" that was recommended to me by numerous people - would be a Jewish deli?
Although the French influence is definitely the first thing you notice when you enter this city (they do speak French after all, and the place is filled with boulangeries, boucheries, and cafes), you soon begin to realize that there's quite a strong Jewish presence here as well.
Montreal is very well known for its freshly made bagels, which resemble New York bagels but are smaller and sweeter (check out the full post here). I soon learned, Montreal is also very well known for smoked meats, especially at this one historic Jewish deli which has been here since 1928, serving up some of the best smoked meat I've ever had.
Schwartz's is no secret to tourists. Just during our visit alone we heard several different languages being spoken in the dining hall. In fact, I ended up sitting next to some Americans from Florida.
Definitely show up early if you don't want to wait in a long line. Above is what the front of the restaurant looked like when I arrived at 11:45AM.
By the time I left (only about 45 minutes later), it looked like this.
Yep - arrive early. It's worth it!
Although the menu offers all sorts of different meats and sandwiches, you should just order their one signature item - basically anything made with their homemade smoked meat. Everything else that they sell (e.g., the sausage, chicken, etc.) is made by others - in other words, outsourced.
The classic thing to get (and what most people ordered), is the simple smoked meat sandwich ($5.95). White bread simply slathered with mustard and piled high with the gorgeously flavorful smoked meat, you really can't go wrong.
You have only one choice to make: lean, medium, or fatty?
We asked the server which one was the best. He said if it was our first time, he would recommend the medium. However, the "fat" one was definitely more juicy. For fun, we ordered one of each: one "medium" and one "fat".
Above is a cross section of the two types: on top is the medium; on the bottom is the fat. You can definitely see a few chunks of fat in the "fat" one on the bottom.
We definitely both liked the "fat" one more. It's definitely more juicy and still very, very flavorful. Of course, the medium one is delicious as well. It definitely tastes like a pastrami sandwich, though I find their meat to be less salty (which I like) and still deeply flavorful.
We ordered a simple pickle as a side, whose crisp acidity worked great to cut the fat of the sandwich.
The guys next to us ordered fries. I can't imagine wanting to eat fries to complement the rich sandwich (which is why I ordered the pickle), but I guess it's nice that they offer it.
You can order various sizes of the meat as "take-away" at the store next door. They sell everything from an entire side of meat ($70-100, sold by weight), to just a few slices sufficient for a sandwich. I wasn't sure what the policy was for bringing meat across the border, so I did not buy any meat to take home (sad!).
If you don't feel like waiting in such a long line for a sit-down meal, you can also order takeout sandwiches at their shop next door (which may still have a line, but it moves faster).
I had a great time sitting in this old school Jewish deli. The service is friendly but fast paced. The decor is simple and the prices are cheap. The smoked meat is incredible and probably amongst the best I've ever had (though some say it's equivalent to the sandwiches in New York). I can't say because I've never been to Katz or Carnegie Deli.
If you have time, I'd recommend trying to eat in. However, even if you don't, definitely at least try to take-out one of the sandwiches. They are really, really good.
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