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!
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!