3895 St. Laurent Blvd., Plateau Mont-Royal
Tel. (514) 842-4813. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Fri-Sat. 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Sunday, 9 a.m. to midnight. Under $15. Not licensed. No credit cards. Cash, U.S. Currency, Travellers' Cheques
Montreal does not have barbecue. Not like the South has barbecue or Texas has barbecue or Florida has barbecue. Down south the arguments are about dry and wet or pork and beef or pulled or sliced or off the bone. Montrealers don't argue about these things because we do not have barbecue. We have no barbecue culture and you do not get great food without a culture that goes with it. You need long slow outdoor cooking for great barbecue and hickory or mesquite or whatever. Great barbecue does not go with seven months of winter and indoor cooking. That is why we have smoked meat.
Thank god for Rumanians. They brought over brined and smoked pastrami recipes. The great meat palaces of Montreal were once East European and Jewish. Moishe'sof great steak famewas originally Moishe's Rumanian Paradise and almost next door was Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen and next to that was Kravitz's (cousin of Ben's Delicatessen downtown). There are lots of great places for smoked meat left in town but the soul of the brisketMontreal soul food if you willis at Schwartz's.
Ask for medium. The fat feeds the flavour. Ask for some of the best fries in town. An order of pickles, and of course Cherry Cola, the only drink you should get. Forget dessert. There isn't any. Order, eat, enjoy. Get up and make room for the next person in line.
When you are standing at the counter waiting for a seat (no one gets an entire table, be happy for the seat), glance over your shoulder to the cutting counter. Look for a plate of ends to samplesmoked meat, maybe some smoked turkey or a piece of karnatzle, slightly spicy Rumanian sausage.
The charcoal grilled steaks are goodgreat for the price, but you've had better. The liver is excellent. But you came here for smoked meat. Black, peppery and crusty. Sliced thin. Stacked fist-high on fresh rye. Maybe the platter for those who crave a little bit more. Maybe a grilled hot dog on the side. It is hard to pay more than $10 a person.
There are tourists who hear of Schwartz's when they plan their trip to Montreal. There are Montrealers who moved out of town and dream of coming to this place as soon as they get off the plane. And then there are the rest of us and we're just smiling, or licking the tastiest grease in the world off our lips. When you come into this town remember two things: Montreal bagels and Schwartz's smoked meat. That's all. They are never as good anywhere else.Reviewed by Barry Lazar