Now that we’ve all had our breakfast, after shopping and dropping and working up an appetite, it is time for lunch. Of course you’ve got your basic burger and fries but more on that later. I’ll give you some alternatives to work with first.
I’ll start with smoked meat. A Jewish tradition imported from Europe, it has found a home here in Montreal. There is furious debate as to who serves the best smoked meat. Some of these places do their own smoking if they don’t order from the big meat packers. I’ll start downtown with Ben’s (990 de Maisonneuve W.), which is a legendary smoked meat joint, they ship their meat all over the world to ex-Montrealers. You can’t go wrong here. Check out their wall of fame.
Within walking distance from Ben’s you’ll find Reuben’s Delicatessen on 888 St. Catherine St and Dunn’s on 892 St. Catherine St. I think you’ll find they’re very similar to Ben’s smoked meat-wise. Before you go to any of the above you must, I repeat, you must make a pilgrimage to the smoked meat Mecca of the world (or at least Canada), Schwartz’s deli baron 3895 St Laurent.
But maybe that’s a bad idea since you’ll be hooked after your first bite and then you’ll never get to try the Main’s 3864 St Laurent offerings just across the street. There is bitter dispute in our offices as to whose are superior. Keep an eye out for Mordecai Richler and other celebs at Schwartz’s and maybe Leonard Cohen at the Main. They have been seen standing in line on busy evenings.
Then there are those amongst us who drool over the juicy smoked meat that melts in your mouth like butter at the New Palace Restaurant, just around the comer from The Nation homeoffice off Parc Ave. (281 Bernard W, 273-1180).
As long as you’re in the neighbourhood you may as well drop by Wilensky’s on the comer of Clark and Fairmont where baloney takes on a whole new meaning. Forget all those jokes about “Hudson Bay Steak” or “Round Steak,” they’re not funny any more. Here baloney is serious business. It has been since the 1930’s. Ask for “The Special,” baloney and salami on a bun. For a variation you can add Swiss or kraft cheese. It is on 34 Fairmount W, corner of Clark. Their soft drinks are mixed right in front of you. Old time fountain style.
For something completely different you’ll want to try the Lebanese delights at Basha’s on 1202 St Catherine W. and Asha’s on Crescent Street. I recommend the Shawarma (Lebanese sigabon?) or Shish Taouk, beef and chicken respectively. The meat is skewered onto a rod and stood on end with burners on the side they turn and cook evenly like a Sigabon with the Chef slicing pieces off for your plate or sandwich. Students in Hull might be familiar with the Shawarma sandwich. Apparently they sell very well at closing time. Try the plate version of either one, they come on a bed of rice with some hummus, a sauce made of chick peas and a pita bread. Take a piece of pita spread some hummus on, stack the rice and meat and enjoy. Nothing scary. For you vegetarians try the Falafel, which is also made of chickpeas, formed and fried.
Burgers and fries, how wrong can you be with that? That is very easy. Or is it? Sure, there are the big chains that offer the McBurgers. If you happen to be shopping at the Bay downtown on Ste. Catherine across from Philips Square check out La Chaumine at 585 St Catherine W. on the 7th floor. It is the best kept secret in burgerdom. They arguably have one of the better burgers in town.
Another noteworthy spot for burgers is Frites Alors (5235 Ave. du Parc), a Belgian spot that serves up burgers and fries as their specialty. The hamburger is very solid with the accompanying fries as one of the best in the city. Try the mayo-based sauces for dipping the fries.
Forget about poutine in Montreal, I’ve never found a decent one. Best to stick to the snack shacks of the Abitibi and Lac St jean areas.
Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing THE SOUVLAKI. The Nation’s award-winning investigative team has traced the Montreal souvlaki’s origins to Greece. Here is what we have been able to find out about our subject It comes loosely sealed in a pita bread and it tastes… I just can’t describe it. It is truly a mouth-watering delight so arm yourselves with lots of napkins or bibs and go to the following newly declassified spots. Zorba’s (or is it just Zorba?) on St. Viateur (271 -5520). Just a few doors down also on St Viateur is Arahova’s, a popular spot where the souvlakis go down like lead but the other Greek food is not too bad. And of course there is the aforementioned New Palace, which most people surveyed at The Nation agree has the best pita bread and tsatziki sauce (the sauce that goes in a souvlaki, made with cucumber, garlic and yogurt) in town.
So there you have ’em. All the souvlaki joints that matter.