If you’ve ever been to Montreal or lived essentially anywhere in Canada, you’ve heard of Schwartz’s. It’s more an institution than a deli, serving up Montreal smoked meat sandwiches so loaded with meat that the bread is really just a superficial addition so that Schwartz’s customers can feel assured that they are eating a sandwich for lunch, not just scarfing down a mountain of smoked meat with their bare hands.
If you know me or have been following this blog, you probably know that I don’t eat meat, and perhaps think it somewhat blasphemous that I promote such an establishment; or at least feel sorry for me, thinking I had to watch WB enjoy such a Montreal tradition while I glumly sucked on a sour pickle.
I was not, in fact, a vegetarian when we visited Montreal. Before converting, I didn’t eat meat often but I loved it. Now, I honestly don’t really miss it, but I am guiltily happy that I had the opportunity to eat a Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, after a hike up Mont Royal, once in my life. I don’t know if I’d feel like a true Canadian if I hadn’t.
If you don’t know where Schwartz’s is, you’ll notice it before you see it. Not only is there that smell – which would probably be awful if you didn’t know it came from food, but knowing it’s that legendary smoked meat transmutes it into something wonderful – there is also a line snaking the street. The deli is filled with towers of smoked meat, workers slicing off piles of it at top speed. Jars of pickles and mustard, loaves of rye bead and tubs of coleslaw are also present, but really – it’s all about the meat.
A Schwartz’s broilerman is credited for creating Montreal steak spice out of the rub used on their smoked meat, and it is this blend that makes their meat unique, on top of the 10-day curing time and their long history, which has allowed for an impressive and flavour-adding buildup in their brick house.
So while the world (and many Canadians) might be unsure of what constitutes Canadian cuisine, I think we can safely say that Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwiches are a quintessential component.
And if you are a vegetarian? There is definitely nothing disappointing about a Montreal bagel.
Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen website
3895 Saint-Laurent Blvd, Montreal
519-842-4813 | email@example.com