Restaurant: Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen
Last visited: November 6, 2011
Location: Montreal, QC (Plateau Mont Royal)
Address: 3895 Boulevard St-Laurent
Nearby subway stop: Sherbrooke
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Ambiance: 4 (for what it is)
- Since 1928
- Montreal institution
- World famous Montreal Smoked Meat
- “Best in City”
- Multiple award winning
- No preservatives
- Smoked daily
- Local/tourist favourite
- Line ups/very popular
- Hole in the wall
- Cheap eats/budget friendly
- Eat in/Take out
- Sun-Thurs 8am-12:30am
- Friday 8am-1:30am
- Saturday 8mam-2:30am
- Hot meat available after 10am
**Recommendations: Smoked Meat Sandwich, sit at the counter, tip the butcher and don’t forget the pickle!
Okay it’s time for a coffee break and onto a meat break… and then onto food coma!
This is likely one of the posts you have all been waiting for! The world famous Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen that has been frequented by locals, tourists and celebrities since 1928. It’s notorious for the best Montreal Smoked Meat, and of course if you’re in Montreal you can’t miss out of the opportunity to try it. It’s an institution and must try if you’re a foodie visiting the city. It’s a foodie’s “Eiffel Tower”.
It’s a very casual diner that hasn’t changed since it opened. Its unpretentious atmosphere and long lines during peak hours don’t stop locals or tourists from visiting this foodie destination. Sure, you have to like smoked meat to be able to appreciate this, but even if you don’t, it’s still something to check off your list. Missing out would be like missing out on dim sum in Vancouver, not the “national food” there, but it very well could be because it’s excellent there.
My experience at Schwartz’s was very reminiscent of my visit to Katz’s Deli in New York. Both are equally hyped, globally recognized, and most raved about in their perspective cities. Katz’s is famous for their pastrami and Schwartz’s is famous for their smoked meat. I find them both very similar, but to some Montrealers and New Yorkers the two are never to be confused.
They both vary slightly in cuts, cooking and smoking methods and honestly it’s comparing creme de la creme. I had Meg Ryan experiences at both of them. Montreal Smoked Meat is supposed to be cured for longer, but in this case Katz’s is cured for 30 days and Schwartz’s for 10 days, so the one at Katz’s is noticeably saltier even from memory.
Oh god. Stop yourself from drooling all over your keyboard. It is really as good as it looks. Okay for vegetarians, this may not appeal to you, but carnivores I can feel your energy. This will certainly hit the spot. I’m not a smoked meat fanatic, but I certainly enjoy it when I have it.
In Vancouver, the closest thing I’ve found so far is from Estrella’s Montreal Smoked Deli in Langley, but even after trying this, it was significantly different. Estrella’s is still excellent, but the slices weren’t cut the same and I actually found Schwartz’s closer in comparison to the pastrami at Katz’s. They come from different parts of the beef brisket, but they were similar. Again, Schwartz’s is not as salty and it has more apparent spices and seasonings, and in the end it just comes down to what you’re accustomed to. Vancouver doesn’t have much of a smoked meat culture, so I appreciate both on equal levels.
In terms of Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen being the “best Montreal Smoked Meat”, I’m really not sure since I only tried one other one in Montreal (you’ll see soon enough which one ;)). However I’m sure I can have Montrealers testify that this is the real deal.
There are a few others that are apparently “better”, but given the short time I was there, I wasn’t on a hunt to find “the best in the city”. I was more than satisfied to stop the hunt here, which usually means I haven’t had better. I imagine if there’s better, it would be by a marginal difference and personal preference. Schwartz’s does represent the standard for Montreal Smoked Meat, so if you only have time for one experience, I would say make it this one.
**Note: For another local’s choice that rivals Schwartz’s see – Deli Lesters VS Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen
On the table:
- Cott Cherry Soda $1.90
- I know. I know, I know. I forgot to order a pickle. I don’t know what I was thinking. Sorry to break tradition! Please remember to order a jumbo pickle with this, it will also help “cut” the grease.
- Anyways this Smoked Meat Sandwich is the “must try” item.
- As I said, it is the “Eiffel Tower” for foodies! See what I mean.
- It’s served on rye bread with a thin layer of old fashioned mustard which you can only mildly taste under all that meat.
- The meat was medium fatty, unless you request otherwise. Honestly “fatty” would be way too rich and “fatty” for me, so medium fatty was perfect.
- The meat is beef brisket smoked for 10 days.
- The slices were hand cut quite thick rather than thinly shaved slices of “roast beef”, like how some places may do it.
- It also didn’t taste like roast beef or ham, like some can, and it had a meaty chew and beefy flavour, yet your teeth just sink straight through the multiple layers.
- The smoked meat wasn’t necessarily smoky in flavour, but it was very flavourful with a coarsely ground spice rub of black pepper, coriander and lots of whole grain mustard seed. I could taste those three seasonings the most, but there were other spices.
- It was well cured and salty, but not too salty (well it’s fast food salty) and I would get random peppery bites of cracked peppercorns from the seasoned crust.
- I don’t know how else to explain this, but by zooming in!
- If that photo turns you on, you are indeed a carnivore at heart. But if not, those little white threadlike strands of fat holding the meat together are completely gelatinous free in texture. I’m not a fan of chewy gelatinous fat, and this was very enjoyable and easily overlooked.
- The meat would loosely break apart into tiny chunks with every bite and fall “meat snowflakes” upon picking it up.
- It was an effortless pull of the meat to see the thin white ribbons of marbleized fat cave and release bits of meat.
- It was no doubt tender and moist and it shred away in chunks beautifully.
- I don’t even know how they sliced it while keeping the meat in tact because it was melting with tenderness and almost delicate.
- This was freaking delicious, but it’s very rich and one sandwich, or even half, would be enough for most.
- It’s a very guilty indulgence, and I could have rolled over after this, but I was off to find dessert!
no pickle or fries??!! well at least you had the black cherry soda …
I don’t usually just order a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s, but I thought the jumbo pickle was included(at no charge). Yeah!, getting a fatty smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s is too fatty. I don’t know anyone who orders their smoked meat fatty, & I always order medium-fat .
Honestly it never occurred to me to tip the smoked meat cutter at Schwartz’s(‘tip the butcher’). To get the perfect medium-fat smoked meat sandwich, the smoked meat cutter could cut between two briskets(that’s what I heard). Yes, it comes to mostly preference on who has the best smoked meat in Montreal. I prefer the Snowdon Deli for best smoked meat in Montreal(part of the reason why is that it’s always consistently good, while at Schwartz’s it sometimes can be dry especially if you don’t get it at least medium-fat).
Now that’s a sandwich(which will feed you and your family) !!! Vancouver has deli’s that make smoked meat sandwiches but not that BIG. Years ago Max’s Milk grocery on Davie made huge sandwiches nut with conventional hams and smoked beef…not near as good. A carnivore’s delight, but better with a beer than a cherry coke. Food that schmecks.
Asians would order fatty meat…anybody that has eats twice-cooked pork belly likes fat.
mmmmmmm i am totally a carnivore!!!!!
that sandwich looks soooooo good! look at that big hunk of meat!!! wow, i think i would eat here everyday if i lived in montreal 🙂 glad it was delish! how was the cott soda?
@bow and mijune: vancouver just opened up a new montreal smoked meat place TODAY! it’s called Montreal Dunn’s! heard alot of good things so far 🙂
@kathryn – i know!!!!!! I’m so sad!!! I asked for whatever the “usual” is for locals and I didn’t know fries was a highlight!!! I forgot you had mentioned them… but I sat at the counter! Truly regret missing the pickle!!!
@WS – ohhh Snowdon Deli is a new rec! Thank you! I’ll need to go back to Montreal to try that one day! yes fatty would be too fatty! Yeah you have to actually order the pickle I guess.
@Bow – oh you’re right… they do like the really fatty cuts… although the Asians in Vancouver are different than ones in Asia. .. I find they’re a bit more healthy conscious and go for ducks with less fat nowadays too. Bow, you should try Estrella’s.. they pile on the meat!
@Linda – Carnivore!!!!!! hahaha love it!! I’m not a soda person, so soda’s never really do anything for me.. that’s my now not-so-secret confession lol
Dunn’s is in Montreal and it’s not where the locals really go… I think in Vancouver it could be our “best” option… but I haven’t tried it. Kathryn (commenter above) is a Montrealer and she doesn’t go to Dunn’s… I think if you’ve never had Schwartz’s you might think Dunn’s is “the best”… I don’t know though.. I’m just assuming based on comments…
Dunn’s is for tourists – not nearly as good and you don’t get the same experience
At Snowdon Deli you got to make sure to specify Old Fashioned smoked meat, otherwise you get their Regular smoked meat(although their Regular smoked meat is also excellent). And Snowdon Deli has odd opening hours(they close early). Look forward to your review of the other Montreal smoked meat deli you checked out(it should be Lester’s Deli based on what you said before).
@Linda, thanks, it’s on 827 Seymour, 1/2 block west of Robson. Kaplan’s, Max’s, Omnitsky’s, Zako’s and Bennie’s Bagels make a Montreal Smoked meat sandwich, BUT it won’t be like Swartz’s or Dunn’s. I have to go…the location is so central, so easy to get to and find.
I know you’ve heard it, but come on, no colesaw, no pickles and no fries? You’re missing out on the best?
Smoked meat isn’t my favorite thing on the planet since I find it is a bit dry, but Schwartz really is the best you can get for smoked meat. I usually take medium fat when I go there to because it is sufficiently moist. Glad to hear you like it though!
If you didn’t try Dunn’s in Montreal, you are not missing out! Dunn’s was my first stop and I was wondering what the big hype about Montreal smoked meat sandwiches were all about till I tried Schwartz! Extra mustard did my sandwich justice as I honestly didn’t get a pickle with my sandwich either. I got an extra 2 sandwiches to go as well because my bf couldn’t help himself.
A bit of a shame in regards to the lack of the pickle, but it seems like you’re not going to hear the end of it like I didn’t get to hear the end of it too. 🙂
@Kathryn – maybe why it’s located on St. Catherine’s too? (aka Vancouver’s Robson street for the other readers) Thanks for the insider tip!
@WS – wow… you’re good. lol
@Bow – Nice list Bow, but from what I hear if Kaplan’s “the best” out of your list… it doesn’t stand a chance with Schwartz’s. re: Kathryn’s comment too.
@Sara – lol ordering needs to come with a memo here! I asked for “the usual”. Damnit.. so not only did I miss the fries, but I missed the coleslaw. I just looked around the room and tried to order what everyone else was ordering… I don’t know how I missed the pickle! I did like it though sara 🙂 Thanks for your insider comment too!
Unfortunately Dunn’s doesn’t compare at all to Swartz’s …. but since the majority of people eating there have never had a Swartz Montreal smoked meat sandwich to compare it to, it will probably do alright. We sometimes went to one in Toronto when we lived there but I don’t really recall it being anything that special. Swartz on the other hand is the real deal. Bruno was in Montreal frequently to visit family and would stop in at Swartz’s. My honey isn’t a huge meat eater, but he always managed to finish one of these babies (medium fat meat is a must to get that melting texture to the meat…..get lean and you’ll be disappointed). Was this your first visit there Mijune?
Jayda Home, the Dunn’s in Toronto had no direct connection to Dunn’s in Montreal(it was open by another family member, & it wasn’t using the same smoked meat).
I watched a documentary called Chez Schwartz’s. I think a guy made the most fitting comment in regards to trying the Smoke Meat from Schwartz’s for the first time, he said – “You can never have that first euphoric moment of that first bite into a Schwartz’s Smoked meat sandwich ever again, it’s like a first kiss” I can totally attest to the experience of that “first bite”. It was like trying the most moist, flavourful, Umami packed mouthful of succulent steak!
@Jayda – yes it was! I think I had some from someone who brought it home before, but it wasn’t the same as having it there! 🙂 You have to have it on the spot, the next day it’s not even as moist.
@Soosh – lol that’s awesome!!!
Thanks WS…. I didn’t know that….. it’s funny they’d have the same name though….. I guess adding the Montreal part at the end is supposed to distinguish it from plain old Dunns.
Jayda Home, officially the original Montreal location is known as Dunn’s Famous. The only location of Dunn’s outside of province of Quebec, that’s connected with the Montreal Dunn’s is the brand-new Vancouver Dunn’s Famous establishment. The other Dunn’s over the years in Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto etc. are not related to Montreal Dunn’s.
Hah, my brother was just in Montreal from Waterloo on a school trip this weekend, and the first thing he did was satisfy his smoked meat craving!