For the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to get away in February to escape Edmonton’s long, cold winter. Last year I soaked up the sun in Hawaii and the year before I enjoyed some time in Phoenix and Disney Land. This year, I continued my February vacation trend, however instead of packing my shorts and flip-flops, I opted for my Canada Goose Parka instead. This year I was heading out to Eastern Canada, Ottawa and Montreal to be specific. My boyfriend, Byron, is working in Ottawa right now, so off I went, into the extreme cold warning (I kid you not) so we could spend some time together. Why he decided not to practice law in Florida, I will never know. 😉
During my visit, we decided it would be fun to take the train to Montreal for a weekend getaway. The train ride was only 2 hours and it was such an easy, convenient and comfortable way to travel. It really made me wish Via Rail had more of a presence here in Alberta.
Whenever I mentioned that I was headed to Montreal, almost everyone said “you have to go to Schwartz’s.” Schwartz’s is a traditional Hebrew Deli that has been serving smoked meat since 1928. It’s so well-known that everyone also told me that there would surely be a line-up, as there always is.
Well, apparently the trick to not having to wait for a table is to show up on a weekday, at about 4:15 when it’s -25 (plus windchill) outside. We literally walked right up to the deli and had our choice of a couple of tables. While warming up, we quickly looked over the menu board before placing our order: 2 Cott Black Cherry Sodas, 2 Smoked Meat Sandwiches, a pickle and an order of french fries.
The sandwiches are served on rye bread, with a smear of yellow mustard. We both ordered our Smoked Meat Sandwiches medium, meaning there was a “medium” amount of fat. The smoked meat had a delicious, unique taste, thanks to the special blend of pickling spices used during the smoking process.
French fries and a pickle are the classic addition to the Smoked Meat Sandwich. The french fries were good, albeit they were really just fries. And I can’t speak to the pickle, as I am not really a big pickle fan, but Byron said “it was a pretty good pickle.”
I actually really enjoyed my Smoked Meat Sandwich. Not that I wasn’t expecting to, but you know how it can be when something is highly recommended and built up. Sometimes it can end up being a let down. It also didn’t hurt that I was ravenously hungry and that the deli had a lot of character, but I really do think the meat itself was quite tasty.
As a self proclaimed carnivore, I really enjoyed the simplicity of the sandwich and that it was really just about providing a vessel for the delicious meat. No need for any fancy condiments or ingredients, just simple, high quality smoked meat.
I know some people think Schwartz’s is a little over-hyped, but I think it’s worth a trip, especially if it is your first visit to Montreal. Even in the cold, I’m really glad we made it to Schwartz’s, I think it’s one of those things you just have to do.
…that and I didn’t want another “I can’t believe you didn’t get a Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia” type incident hanging over my head. 😉