When one is in Montreal, what else does one do but make a pilgrimage to eat a glutinous smoked meat sandwich? Well it’s not really a touristy thing to do because these stacks of glistening, savoury meat are so good, they’ve made a name for themselves honestly. What I wasn’t prepared for was the roller coaster ride!
I’ve been to Reuben’s on St Catharines Street for Montreal smoked meat sandwiches and they were really great, but this time I went to Schwartz on Saint Laurent. I knew I was close when I saw the line-up of about 30-people deep outside the shabby little restaurant that is divided into two parts; take-out and dine-in.
It didn’t take long before we were inside, seated at the bar – my favourite place to view all the action. Like the left hook that comes out of nowhere, the bar jockey with a strong Brooklyn accent hovers over us, tells us the “way it works around here” and what we should order. In his friendly, turbo-fast rambling of words I heard smoked meat sandwich, so Jon and I agreed to something, we weren’t quite sure, but all we knew was it included a smoked meat sandwich.
I wasn’t even finished shifting my weight on the retro bar stool trying to get comfortable when water, a gargantuan sandwich, a pickle the size of a flashlight and plate of house-cut fries were plopped down in front of me. The top of my sandwich fell over from the mammoth height of it and a few fries fell off the plate due to the sheer speed they landed. The waiter picked them up immediately and like the 2-second rule we all have in our own kitchens, held them in his hand and looked at me, “aren’t afraid of dying are you?” He tossed them back on my plate.
That’s when I realized the roller coaster began, the free-fall down from the tallest height. Without missing a beat, we dove into our food. I removed some of the corn beef from the sandwich that measured 4-inches in height, added more mustard and dug in. Wow, it was glorious, juicy, meaty and so yummy. The room behind us was buzzing with people talking and waiters running. Our Brooklyn waiter kept us entertained as he jogged up and down the bar reciting the same welcome and recommended order to everyone. At the other end of the bar were two old guys with dirty black shirts and grimy aprons. They didn’t look like they could move very fast yet they always seemed to be one sandwich ahead of the orders that came fast and furious. Some wanted extra juicy, others extra lean (yea, right!), one with a hot dog, a few with extra bread (to make two sandwiches out of one no doubt).
Like a roller coaster, there is a fast paced rhythm to this place that whisks you along with it and before we knew it, our food was gone, our places cleaned and a bill was in place of our dirty dishes and crumpled napkins. Wow, we just ate $45 worth or corn beef sandwiches??? Hey, what just happened? We paid the bill, pushed through the line of people hungry for a Montreal smoked meat sandwich and fell into the bright sunshine of the street. The roller coaster had just come to a stop, we’d finished our ride.
As we walked down Saint Laurent Street my distended stomach began to ache of unsettled, greasy meat. Like a roller coaster, my stomach was liking the experience an awful lot less than my mouth did. Jon was feeling a bit of the same as we changed our direction back to our hotel. What followed next was a marathon of movies that drowned out the growling of our stomachs as they eventually settled down.
I love Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches and enjoy one every time I’m in Montreal for their just no good anywhere else. Most don’t come with the roller coaster ride but if you’re interested, now you know where to get them both together.