I would like to start this post with a special announcement. Montreal is now where my food-loving heart lies, sorry Vancouver! After spending four days in the French Canadian city last week, I fell in love with not only its charm and oh so European vibes, but with it’s delectable food scene.
The trip had been planned for a number of weeks. My Mum is currently visiting from Tasmania and had offered to fly me somewhere for a Christmas/birthday present. I chose Montreal, mainly to see see if the amazing food rumours were true and if the city could live up to it’s well regarded reputation. I also heard that it was a pretty chic place to visit, so that’s always a bonus. The boyfriend also tagged along and played a very helpful tour guide/porter. Some strong muscles never go astray when hauling luggage is involved. Plus he is my BFF (best food friend) and one should never venture to a new food city without their BFF.
Unlike Portland, I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to whip up a foodie map for Montreal. Damn my hectic work schedule cutting into my googling time! I did, however, have time for a quick power scroll through the must -eat lists plastered across the internet. It was enough to wing it. And wing it we did!
We stayed in the ever so dreamy suburb of Mile End, just a few short walking blocks from Saint Laurent and all that it has on offer. The infamous Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur bagel shops were just a pleasant stroll away, as well as the highly recommended brunch spot, Fabergé, which we hit up on the first morning. For you brunch fans out there, I highly recommend their Belle Province waffles. I mean what is there not to love about bacon stuffed waffles topped with more bacon, maple syrup and blueberry compote?! Streets known for bar hopping, such as Rue Saint Denis were also only a couple of blocks from home, which suited us perfectly when the urge for a late night tipple arose. And when in Montreal, a late night tipple can often result in a late night poutine, which was definitely the case for us.
In the four days we had exploring the streets of my new favourite Canadian city, we managed to cover a lot of ground and consume a lot of calories. Each morning started off with coffee and tea on our gorgeous balcony attached to our accommodation, followed by brunch at a cafe of our choosing. Along with Fabergé, we also devoured some mouth watering brunches at Les Folies and Larry’s (the little sister to the well regarded brunch spot, Lawrence). Afternoon drinks were also accompanied by some nibbles at whatever establishment we happened to find ourselves. And dinner was devoured, normally at some raved about restaurant in close proximity to home, but only after we indulged in a cheese board back on our gorgeous balcony. It really was the stuff of a foodie’s dream holiday.
Out of all of the places we read about, all of those which made the various must-eat lists and out of the ones we got to try, one in particular holds a special place in my heart. It has a reputation that goes well beyond the borders of the city it calls home. So far west, that even people here in Vancouver know of its existence. It goes by the name of Schwartz’s Deli.
Outside of poutine, Montreal is known for its smoked meat and Schwartz’s is known to be the best joint in town offering up the goods. Schwartz’s was founded in Montreal in 1928 by a Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania. Ninety years on and the deli can still be found at the same establishment on Saint Laurent, a convenient hop, skip and jump from our Montreal abode.
Walking into Schwartz’s is like taking a step back in time. It has that old school diner feel about it, with its white tiled walls adorned with mirrors and framed photos of celebrities who have had the honour of devouring some of Schwartz’s smoked meat. The store is the definition of juxtaposition, nestled in among some of Montreal’s trendiest bars and hipster boutique stores.
The menu is a simple one with both take out and sit in options. If you decide to sit in you have the choice of sandwiches, steaks and sides. Sandwiches are your only take out option, along with sides such as french fries. You can also purchase meat to go if you prefer a DIY sandwich. Priced per the pound, you have the choice of everything from the traditional smoked meat, to a smoked spiced whole turkey.
Shwartz’s Deli was the final stop on our Montreal foodie crawl and we may have just saved the best for last. We opted for a take out sandwich as the clock was ticking and we were soon due at the airport. All three of us ordered the traditional smoked meat sandwich, the stuff that the deli was so well renowned for.
The sandwich was more meat than bread, but lets face it, that’s what you’re after when the meat is as good as Schwartz’s. Half a pound of meat was wedged between two slices of sandwich bread that were spread with mustard. The bread was just bread, but the meat was heaven sent! 100% the star of the show. It was succulent, juicy, melt in your mouth perfection. It barely needed chewing. Schwartz’s also nailed the balance of flavours between the meat and the mustard, which one would hope so after being in the business for nearly a century. After devouring our sandwiches in moments, it was quite apparent why both tourists and locals alike queue the street outside Schwartz’s Deli for a taste of their specialty smoked meat.
Four days was never going to be enough to conquer a food city like Montreal, but upon reflection I can safely say that I am proud of our efforts. Montreal sure knows the way to my heart and it’s definitely through my belly. Thanks for the taster, you beautiful city and a special shout out to Schwartz’s Deli, a real highlight of the trip and 100% worth the hype. I am already planning trip number two.