Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Montreal: Shwartz's Deli

The Smoked Meat, Medium.

Smoked Meat, Medium.

That's all I was told to say at Schwartz's Deli here in Montreal. I was actually chastized for not knowing about this place. Smoked meat. Medium. Maybe some fries.

Up on Saint Laurent is the (presumably) famous Schwartz's Deli and I was there. As far as delis go, it's pretty typical. Kinda small, kinda packed and the service is a bit abrupt and a bit brusque. Go figure. At least there was a line to get in - and being a single, solo diner, I didn't have to wait. Just walk in and have a seat at the counter. Nice.

Like I said, Schwartz's is a deli. You've been to one, you've been to them all. It's just simple, white walls, jam-packed formica tables and busy. It's got about as much character as Woody Allen. Flat and undistinguished (and I know I'll now get hate mail from Woody Allen fans the world over).

That said, you don't come to Schwartz's for the decor or the service. Yahweh knows you don't come here for the comfort. You come here because someone told you that you must order the Smoked Meat. Medium. And that's exactly what I ordered: Smoked Meat, Medium.

But what does that mean: "medium"? Is there a large and a small? Should I fear the large because it might come out as a Carnegie Deli sized Broadway Danny Rose??? And why the Smoked Meat? Heck, I grew up in a Jewish community and I never heard of a cut called "smoked meat."

Salad and a pickle.

Turns out, "medium" is between "lean" and "fatty" on the amount of fat that gets cut into your sandwich. It has nothing to do with size and everything to do with fat. I'll have the smoked meat, medium with fries and a coke.

Within moments, a small plate of what looks to be a vinegar based cole slaw and large deli pickle lands on the counter in front of me. A second later comes the smoked meat sandwich on rye. A few more moments and the fries land, then the coke. All in all, my food has arrived no later than six minutes after ordering it. Cool.


But just what is this "smoked meat"? It looks like brisket. It looks like it's been corned and then smoked. It's soft, tender and delightfully textured. According to Wikipedia, it's a combination of both. Actually, they don't state that explicitly but when you read how it's made, it seems obvious to me. Either way, it's pretty darn tasty.

This is supposed to be a "medium" cut of meat but I'm finding it pretty lean by my standards. I can't imagine what "lean" must taste like but am increasingly curious as to how the "fat" serving tastes. I imagine the thin slices of cross-grain cut meat interlaced with glistening ribbons of juicy fat and I'm transported to a comfortable place where birds sign gleefully and fair maidens dance in song.

The Whole Kit and Caboodle.

As I chew through the sandwich, I find myself wishing that I had ordered the fat version. This is a bit lean and slightly dry because of it. It's still tender and succulent, just slightly dry - if that makes any sense. A liberal application of mustard helps but I'm wishing for more.

The fries are rudimentary. They're cut and fried in-house but served on the limp side. Perhaps they need to try frying them just a little longer to crisp. They're not bad, they're just not stellar. They're not on par with the meat. And, of course, a Coke is a Coke. Just that proper phosphate zing to cleanse the palate between bites.

Things are hoppin' at Schwartz's and I'm outta there within a half hour. Fourteen dollars later (including tip) I'm back on the streets of Montreal and heading south for Vermont.

Schwartz's Deli
3895 Saint Laurent Boulevard
Montreal, QC

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