FEAST on This #12: Montreal Smoked Meat

Confession time, Montreal.
Schwartz’s Deli.

We almost skipped it because it’s so famous, there is always a long line, and we were heading to Au Pied Du Cochon a few hours later (which we knew would be meat with a side of fat).  We fully realize the ridiculousness of the problem we faced—pickles count as a vegetable, right?

We felt like silly tourists waiting in line for what we were sure would be a good, but most likely over-hyped sandwich.  Hundreds of people have written about Schwartz’s.

We got in, got seats, and split the medium-fat smoked meat sandwich.  The verdict?  AMAZING.  We were devastated when we finished seconds later.  The simple combination of meat, bread, and mustard was so utterly impressive, and we were happily surprised.

Schwartz’s was founded in 1928 by a Romanian-born, Jewish immigrant named Reuben Schwartz.  It has since seen several owners, all of whom have maintained the traditions started by Schwartz.  Making smoked meat involves a process of slowly smoking slabs of beef brisket, and the absorbed smoke also acts as a preservative for the meat.  Schwartz’s Deli still uses the original recipe, a secret blend of herbs and spices, and the meat is cured for a total of 10 days in the original brick smoke-house, which holds about 80 years of built-up flavour.  

Smoked meat is a sacred thing in Montreal, but few places still do it in the traditional way.  We tried to replicate our smoked meat experience at various other sandwich shops in Quebec, but none were as satisfying as towering sandwich we had at Schwartz’s.  I’m sure there are heated battles over which place is best, and I would happily participate in a smoked meat throw-down.  Until then, I can only affirm that Schwartz’s is well worth the long line and goofy tourist photo.