HOME > Chowhound > Quebec (inc. Montreal) >


What's so great about Schwartz's?

At the risk of incurring the wrath of many Chowhounders, I feel compelled to ask this question.

I have tried smoked meat sandwiches at several Montreal places. I used to rather enjoy Ben's (now closed) and Reuben's, as well as Green Spot (near Atwater Market) and Nouveau Système (which is, in turn, near Green Spot). The few times that I tried Schwartz's, I didn't much care for it. Montrealers and Montreal aficionados think I'm nuts, but there you go. Am I the only one who feels this way?

By the way, on an unrelated note, does Reuben's still offer its amazing breakfast deal? It was the best deal going downtown when I lived in Montreal many, many moons ago.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, I'm not a Montrealer, but I have tried Schwartz's. I didn't understand what all the hype was either. Once we took them "to go" and the grease ran right through the paper wrapping and the paper bag -- and we ordered lean!
    I mean, it tastes fine -- maybe I'm spoiled living in the NJ/NY Metropolitan area where pastrami and corned beef abound, but (sorry 'hounds) I didn't see anything great about it, neither did my husband.

    1 Reply
    1. re: shopgirl

      For me, as much as I love the sandwiches (and I love them a lot) is the atmosphere. Ben's certainly didn't have it during its last years, but Schwartz's is always bustling and thats definitely part of the experience.

      and for th record, no matter where you go a lean smoke meat sandwich doesn't count as a smoke meat sandwich in my books.

    2. The flavour is in the fat. That said, although I have no problem with Schwartz's I prefer The Main which is across the street.

      1. I hate the atmosphere. I did have a smoked meat there many years ago, but since I'm not much of a red meat eater - and especially not non-organic beef - I don't quite "get" the great appeal. They certainly smoke their wares well - I love getting smoked poultry there, in particular to make a pork-free sauerkraut for non-pork eaters - but I get it to takeaway. I certainly wouldn't queue to eat there, but to each his and her own, eh?

        1. It's just good, I like it, not much more complicated than that.

          1. "Am I the only one who feels this way?"
            Nope, I am not into it either. I"ve had the medium fatty one and it still tastes dry and leathery to me, but the place has achieved cult-like status amongst many. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

            1 Reply
            1. re: hungryann

              Yup, that's how I recall it: dry and not so tender. It's what I found most surprising about smoked meat at Schwartz's.

            2. Well, besides it being a Montreal institution and packed with fond memories and blah blah blah, it's great smoked meat. I agree that a lean smoked meat isn't a Schwartz's sandwich. You need the fries, the cherry cola and a pickle - and to me you're in heaven. Not fine dining heaven, not chi chi heaven, but I would be hard pressed to find better meat with yellow mustard on rye bread anywhere. I will defend them to the death. It's just good eats.

              Ben's didn't serve a decent anything for a long time before their doors got shut. Not even in the same league.

              1 Reply
              1. re: maisonbistro

                I completely agree! If you're a Montrealer, the atmosphere at Schwartz's is the best and there is no better place to enjoy smoked meat.

              2. It is an obscene amount of really good and fatty meat (fat is half the point) stuffed between mediocre rye bread (in a sweet comforting Wonderbread way); and you eat it with very well made fries and something sugary. This is an epitomic example of what "most" meat eaters define as comfort food. But it isn't something more complex than that, and some people indeed have other definitions of comfort food. For me, it is pleasure, especially after a long day of working, to drop by at late hours and get a sandwich and make it my dinner, preferably while watching really bad TV.

                But yeah, waiting on the line for an hour to get it, I am not going to do it. But I live close by and can do a take out or stop by during non touristy hours. But perhaps if I were visiting, maybe?

                2 Replies
                1. re: emerilcantcook

                  I just can't see the sugary drink thing with meat or any savoury dish. No, the drink needn't contain alcohol, but if not it should be good bubbly water or with the foods of some cultures, good tea.

                  As I said, they smoke things really well. Love their smoked chicken and other poultry.

                  1. re: lagatta

                    Their pickles are AMAZING!
                    I'm a Veg so I can't comment on their sandwiches, but I would drive the 6 hours to Montreal just for one of those pickles

                2. I think its a blend of factors.
                  Its a very different style of smoked meat than say Green Spot or Rubens. I think Schwartz' smoking process does have a drying effect. Most other places simply use pre-made smoked meat.
                  Does this make one 'bad' or one 'better'? I don't think so, its more of a personal taste.

                  Tradition probably has a lot to do with it as well. There are many whose grandparents started bringing their parents who brought them who will bring their kids ets etc.
                  So its not JUST the food, but "I've been coming here since I was 4 years old with my granddad" thing.
                  I assume that if you're 'weened' on this style of smoked meat (been going there since you were 4 years old) it would be your measuring stick, thinking that other styles are not 'true' smoked meat...

                  Me? I felt like the OP on my first try; "why is the meat so dry?" (I liked the Dunn's style). I returned several times and it grew on me. I love it there now. I won't wait in a line longer than 4 or 6 people, though...
                  I think Abbe's purposely strives for the Schwartz' style (products, not necessarily service or 'ambience') to attract the same customers.

                  22 Replies
                  1. re: porker

                    The industrial stuff you find in most delis is injected with phosphates which make it swell up with water. It's a cheap way of getting more volume from less meat. It's what gives it that horrible wet and jello-like cheap ham texture. I guess some people have forgotten what cured meat is supposed to taste like. Personally, I prefer the texture of real meat, but there's no accounting for taste.

                    1. re: SnackHappy

                      Have to agree with you SnackHappy. I love a properly prepared brisket. Reminds me of the story of the food manufacturer who tried to make their ketchup taste more like tomatoes. It didn't sell. People preferred that burnt, metallic, "authentic" ketchup flavor.

                    2. re: porker

                      For me, the atmosphere is more legend than anything else, and although I do like the elbow-to-elbow seating from time to time, it's more about the meat itself. We usually get takeout anyway.
                      I've lived here all my life, and no other smoked meat in this city comes even remotely close to Schwartz's. Back in the 60's, I used to go to Ben's quite often with my family, so the memories of the place, and the little toy they used to give out to every kid were always deeply ingrained. But Ben's smoked meat, though not bad, always just came up just slightly above the baseline of Reuben's, Dunn's, et al. Even in later years, I'm pretty sure it was the presumed cachet of eating in a place with the walls festooned with pictures of dead B-list celbrities even your parents never heard of watching over you that brought them in. All the rest can be easily categorized as thin, wet, even watery, and treading precariously close to tasteless. Dunn's made its mark by offering 600 lb sandwiches that were bigger than your head, but the meat was not much more than OK.
                      Schwartz's meat is like Nirvana. The flavouring is second to none. The texture of the brisket, the way it falls apart is iconic. "Lean" is a relatively new advent at Schwartz's, and is a bow to both tourists (indeed, insiders call lean the "tourist sandwich") and the sweet-n-low set. Real Montrealers don't even specify.
                      The Main is the only joint in the city that comes close, and the only other smoked meat I'd even consider eating. ("The city" technically does not include Smoked Meat Pete, which of course is the same as The Main, and just as good)

                      1. re: bomobob

                        My guess, the majority of people who order 'lean' or 'extra-lean' smoked meat at Schwartz's are Montrealers(most tourists don't know you can specify). Maybe in the vast majority. That's my experience. If you don't specify, you get medium(that's too lean for me). I always specify medium-fat.

                        1. re: BLM

                          I just checked with the Schwartz's people this morning. By a slight majority, it's the tourists who usually order 'lean' or 'extra-lean.' Usually the Schwartz's servers/take-out people, do ask customers when they order smoked meat if they want lean or medium.

                        2. re: bomobob

                          "Schwartz's meat is like Nirvana. The flavouring is second to none. "

                          I would definitely agree with this statement. Yes, the Schwartz's meat may be a bit drier than other smoked meat, but there is a depth of flavour that sings out to my stomach. There is also the marvelous interplay between the meat, the fat, the mustard, the fries and the pickle that is so perfectly balanced between sweet, salty and sour, truly a symphony of flavours and textures. And so cheap! I can only eat at Schwartz's every 4-5 months, on account of I think it would kill me to eat there more often, but no other Montreal smoked meat experience even compares for me. Oh yeah, and no lean for me, thanks.

                          1. re: moh

                            My taste buds thank you for so eloquently putting into words what they've been experiencing for so many years.

                          2. re: bomobob

                            Whoa, rein in your tartare bomobob! "Real Montrealers"? I was born, raised and lived the first 30 years of my life in Montreal. Over the past 25 years I've been back for visits of various lengths at least twice a year. I'm here to tell you that I prefer The Main over Schwartz's. Note that I did not say Schwartz's is lousy, just that I prefer The Main (not just for the smoked meat but also their more varied and tasty sides).

                            You wouldn't happen to be a member of the Smoked Meat Police, would you? ;)

                            1. re: bomobob

                              "The texture of the brisket, the way it falls apart is iconic."

                              Yep. I never realized what made me feel good about the meat, but I think there is definitely something about the texture. Some people find it stringy, but I find it almost delicate. As delicate as a hunk of meat could be...

                              1. re: bomobob

                                Have you ever tried Lester's Deli on Bernard (in Outremont)? To me, it's the best Smoked Meat Montréal has to offer, not Main, and definitely NOT SCHWARTZ'S!!!!! SCHWARTZ'S IS S***!!!!

                                Then again gotta still try out Reuben's and Katz (in Place Ville-Marie).

                                1. re: Har_Gow_Freak

                                  "SCHWARTZ'S IS S***!!!!"

                                  lol...That's pretty harsh, they are doing something right to be around all these years and have all those line ups.

                                  I guess if industrial produced smoked meat is your thing then you wouldn't like the in house smoked goodness of Schwartz.

                                  I don't mind Lester's but it is what it is.

                                  1. re: ios94

                                    Smoked goodness eh? Smoked crumbly dogmeat that's what SCHWARTZ is all about! Nothin' but old-fashioned cured mystery meat that crumbles after every bite....something definitely to remember. Levitt's and Dunn's are 1 billion times better, mind you.

                                    1. re: Har_Gow_Freak

                                      Your jimmies seem to be thoroughly rustled. Is crumbly meat really this bad? I would understand if the sandwiches were consistently super dry

                                      1. re: Ghostquatre

                                        I find that smoked meat should be tender, lean and nice n' juicy. (I do admit I like Coorsh smoked meat he he) :-D

                                        1. re: Har_Gow_Freak

                                          generally after a piece of meat has been cooked for a very long time, if it is tender and lean, it cannot be juicy as well. I don't even think phosphates would make it any juicier, just sloppy

                                          1. re: Har_Gow_Freak

                                            IOW, you don't like real smoked meat. Moving along...

                                            1. re: Har_Gow_Freak

                                              "I do admit I like Coorsh smoked meat"

                                              That explains a lot and should pretty much end the discussion.

                                      2. re: Har_Gow_Freak

                                        Lester's is terrible. It's absolutely sickening. It is no better than Nickels

                                        1. re: Har_Gow_Freak

                                          The taste of Schwartz's smoked meat makes it great. It is the worldwide benchmark for smoked meat and their sandwiches are best enjoyed or appreciated ordering the meat anywhere from medium fat to extra fat. Lean meat/sandwiches are typically somewhat to very dry and will be "crumbly" LOL! Schwartz's ranked #1 on a whirlwind SM throwdown of 8 years ago when compared to The Main, Snowdon Dell, Abies & Georges. If you do a blind taste test, the results become quite apparent. Hands down, time & time again, it's Schwartz's. Har Gow Freak, save your $ & bypass Reuben's & Katz - but hey, if Lester's is your idea of great, then you will very much enjoy both..

                                          1. re: RhondaB

                                            I saw an interview with Saul Ettinger (he started the Briskets franchises years back). I remember him saying something along the lines that smoked meat is such a good thing, even lousy smoked meat is still pretty good.

                                            I think of that when encountering the mass produced, phosphate pumped, gang-needled smoked meat that most places sell.

                                            1. re: porker

                                              You shure that was Ettinger talking about smoked meat, or Mrs. Porker talking about you? :-)

                                    2. There's just *something* about Schwartz's... to the point where on one trip to Montreal I couldn't fit it into my dining plans and had to have it for breakfast just to get it in there. Totally worth it, BTW. I also find the old grumpy male waitstaff funny and kind of central-casting-esque! Through the years I've tried a lot of the other smoked meat [Ben's, The Main, Dunn's, Reuben's, etc.] and the taste of Schwartz's lean smoked meat with greasy fries, pickle, and Cott's cherry cola is just it for me. Don't even get me started on the sad state of smoked meat in Toronto- so the Belle Province pilgrimmage is a summer ritual for my SO and me. I've actually teared up eating a sandwich from Schwartz's, b/c I had been anticipating it all year and it more than lived up to the memory of it from the summer before! [hmm, that seemed less sad in my head before I typed it out ;-)]

                                      1. Every other delicatessen, not to mention restaurant, in the entire country/continent/world has changed, compromised, sold out, sold up, expanded, and lost focus of their original intention over the years. Schwartz's has not. They've stayed stubbornly true to the original formula and that's the reason why it is so universally respected.

                                        1. The smoked meat sandwich experience that can be spoken of is not the true smoked meat sandwich experience.

                                          -- Laozi

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Xiao Yang

                                            To mix cultures even further: Umami, baby !

                                          2. They don't serve knishes... a veritable culinary crime.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: meinNYC

                                              And Yonah Schimmel doesn't serve smoked meat. What's your point? :)

                                              1. re: bomobob

                                                Yonah Schimmer, if could be argued, doesn't serve knishes either!

                                              2. re: meinNYC

                                                Order a smoked meat platter (medium fat) that comes with half a loaf of rye and a container of yellow mustard, and order a side of latkes with sour cream (go with applesauce if you must). At The Main. Bring someone else (even so you'll waddle out). Brisk, efficient, bilingue, fourth-generation waitresses. Food that truly schmecks.

                                                1. re: mrbozo

                                                  For a place to go and eat, I much, much prefer the Main. But I almost never eat red meat (and if I do, it is usuallly bison or deer - the one beefy exception being asados organised by Argentine or Chilean friends) so I can't judge the smoked meat at Schwartz per se. I do love their smoked poultry.

                                                  I suspect the waitresses may speak more than two languages.

                                                  But this kind of stuff becomes very subjective.

                                                  1. re: mrbozo

                                                    The club roll still kills me. I feel like a useless, bloated sack of !@#$ for about 2 days afterward, but THAT is one delicious sandwich. Smoked meat, stuffed chicken, salami and grilled tongue... SO good. Plus, their sours (coleslaw and pickle) are fantastic.

                                                2. You need to ask for the fatty sandwich. There's no point in eating smoked meat if it isn't fatty. You might as well eat a jerky sandwich. What makes Schwartz's great isn't just the meat it's the atmosphere, staff, history and of course, the pickles!

                                                  1. This just as a side,
                                                    Few years ago, an elderly gent ('bout 75) sits at the counter next to us. Waiter nods and asks "The usual?" to which the new customer grunts "yep."
                                                    So here I am, placing a bit more mustard on the first half of my sandwich when the waiter returns with a plate for the ole guy.
                                                    I'm thinking a platter? Maybe an app of slaw or pickle?
                                                    Nope, a plate of sliced fat.
                                                    I don't mean fatty smoked meat, I mean seasoned, smoked fat, sliced off the brisket.
                                                    He enjoyed every bite, washed it down with a Cott, and left.

                                                    Don't get me wrong, I like fat, probably more than most, but I would just feel too guilty indulging THAT much. Not only that, but it appeared that he ate this regularly!
                                                    God bless him.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: porker

                                                      Well he lived up to 75, perhaps more; must have really good genes to pull that off.

                                                      In my hometown, there was this hole in the wall joint that sold little grilled skewers of meat or liver and some onion salad, some thick flatbread, nothing else. The people in the know also were aware that you can also order skewers of chargrilled fat, for really cheap; and for nil if it is a part of a big order. It was one of the best indulgences of life; smoky crispy half rendered fat. I was able to do it because I was in my early 20s and reasonably fit. And it was chargrilled after-all, so most of the fat was rendered. Now, smoked non-rendered fat is a totally different animal.

                                                      1. re: emerilcantcook

                                                        Coming from New York, my first smoked meat sandwich was wonderful, and what is not mentioned is that most New Yorkers, after thier first tase are addicted! Going back to the restos all night!
                                                        With all due respect the appearance and atmosphere of Schwartz, compared to the Main and others was a little off putting, here in Brooklyn w have an enourmous Jewish community, almost half the borough and delis are an institution.
                                                        I dropped into th famous Schwartz after checking out and shopping at the amazing ethnic markets along St. Laurent, walking down from Laurier.
                                                        I asked simply for a smoked meat sandwich, not knowing the categories.
                                                        What most folks do is get take out, but this one by the time I returned to the suite, was dry, unlike the one from the delis I went to on St. Cats.
                                                        If you ever come to New York, check out Katz in the Bowery(now a trendy zone) like most New York delis the meat is taken from a special steammer, made just for corn beef and pastrami, so every sandwich is guaranteed to be moist, tender and flavorful.

                                                        1. re: tombombadillo

                                                          You know, both times I've eaten at Katz's, I enjoyed the meat, but couldn't help thinking, "Hmm...it's not Schwartz's. It's good, but it's not Schwartz's".
                                                          I'm convinced it has much more to with what you're used to and what you grew up eating, than anything objective. However, the pickle place around the corner totally rocks!

                                                          1. re: bomobob

                                                            Bottom line is, you can't "convince" someone to like Schwartz's. Either you do (for sentimental or other reasons) or you don't.

                                                            I love it, think it's the best smoked meat in the world, with the crappiest "ambience" which makes it even better in my book.

                                                            1. re: maisonbistro

                                                              Yes, that is the bottom line. While I don't necessarily like fancy places either - I love discovering cheap and cheerful "holes in the wall", I can't stand their ambiance.

                                                              Their excellent smoked poultry deserves to be better known - but for me it is takeaway - there is no shortage of parks (including Mont-Royal and Parc Lafontaine) nearby, and it is great at home (or hotel room) in the wintertime.

                                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                                Almost always takeway, and sitting on that little plank across the street outside Berson, watching the world go by. NOTHING says summer in Montreal to me more.

                                                            2. re: bomobob

                                                              We make food pilgramages to NY about 4 times per year (just returned from the Big Apple Block BBQ).

                                                              Early on, we went to Katz's and enjoyed it immensely. I don't think we'll be returning, though, for a couple of reasons.
                                                              First, being next to Montreal and able to have great smoked meat anytime - NY has so much more to offer, why 'waste' a meal on something we can get any day.
                                                              (to me, kinda like eating at a chain restaurant while visiting Mahatten...)

                                                              Secondly, the price. Yes, Katz is famous and rightly so (traditions, old world, movies, cult following, etc etc), but $15 for a sandwich? I undrstand, its supply and demand, they charge $15 because they can.

                                                              If I came from someplace with no smoked meat, then yeah, I'd probably drop in every time and damn the price!

                                                              1. re: porker

                                                                they had to raise the prices because of the regentrification in the area and the hgh rental increases they have to pay, in that area an average apartment went from 850 per month to 2500 per month, hey I understand your ppoint, I come to Montreal for the excellent baguettes, croisants and duck confit rather then bagels .

                                                        2. re: porker

                                                          This is Speck. You wont see it on the menu, but it has been available at Schwartz's since dirt was a rock.

                                                          1. re: fedelst1

                                                            Speck schmecks. But you must be careful. If you haven't lived right it will get you sooner rather than later.

                                                            1. re: fedelst1

                                                              How much do they charge for it? Anything else they have but not listed on their menu? According to the Mike Boone piece, once Schwartz's expands next door as a take-out counter, they would be looking to add menu items(as long as I can remember, they have never carried any desserts).

                                                          2. There are 2 Smoked Meat camps, the traditional old style, such as Schwartz's and the 'new' style, which is the more common wet cured product. One style is not better than the other, they are just 2 products that address specific tastes. There are those of us who like the drier Schwartz's type product, and the rest who like their smoked meat steaming and moist. And, invariably the folks from the wet camp hate the dry smoked meat, and vice versa.

                                                            So, if you went to Schwartz's and did not like it, I would guess you would prefer the smoked meat at Reuben's, Deli Lester on Bernard, What was Ben's or most other joints selling Smoked meat.

                                                            If you are not a fan of either, and find the wet too wet, or the dry too dry... you can always go to a hidden gem on Center Street..... Quebec Smoked Meat. These guys are a major producer of the Smoked Meat yet, few know of their storefront on Center St. They sell sandwiches over the counter, and they are very good. Piled high with what could be described only as a hybrid between the wet and dry products, they have a good balance of seasoning, and are neither too fat or too lean.

                                                            These guys could be doing huge over the counter sandwich sales if they put out a few tables, and were not so uncoordinated. I would say location could be a factor, but truly, I think that if they were to get serious about selling sandwiches, that their clients would come to them en masse.

                                                            BTW, their Potato salad is excellent, when they are not sold out, or they did not forget to make it (yes, this has happened). The Cole Slaw is run of the mill.

                                                            I still have a place in my heart for Schwartz's. It is the place not clogged with heart stopping cholesterol from my last Schwartz's fix.... ;~>

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: fedelst1

                                                              Which camp is Snowdon Deli(traditional old style or new style)? Personally I like their smoked meat the best(even if they don't make their own smoked meat). It's made according to their specs.

                                                              1. re: BLM

                                                                I think Snowdon does both styles. Don't they have "smoked meat" as well as "old fashioned smoked meat"? I still like the place partly because I have some very early childhood memories of the place back in the 60s, and partly because I can bike over in 10 minutes.
                                                                It's much closer to the "wet" smoked meat camp, but I've always liked it better than Ben's, Dunn's, Lester's, et al.

                                                                1. re: bomobob

                                                                  Yes, they have regular smoked meat & Old Fashioned smoked meat(I find their regular smoked meat also very good). Their corned beef is very good, although it tastes similiar to their regular smoked meat.

                                                              2. re: fedelst1

                                                                Talking to someone years ago about smoked meat, he mentioned Quebec Smoked Meat. I went the next day to find their very good smoked meat.
                                                                I think the guiys there are smoker cum butchers first and sandwich guys later. You're right; set up a few tables with dedicated staffers and people would seek it out regardless of their location (which can turn semi-hip a la Notre Dame/Atwater).

                                                              3. Easy: myth building.

                                                                It's not bad. It's not great. I always try to remind myself: there is no such thing as "the best".
                                                                Taste is subjective. right? :)

                                                                I will however say this about the "atmosphere": bright fluorescent lights make meat and unhealthy people look green... yummy!

                                                                1. There's nothing great about Schwartz's other than it tries to duplicate a NY deli.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: tromeros

                                                                    Them's fighting words, as there is no NY deli that can hold a candle to Schwartz's smoked meat. It just is what it is. An unpretentious place that does one thing, and one thing only, very very very well. NY can keep all it's delis. We'll gladly keep our Schwartz's

                                                                    1. re: tromeros

                                                                      Ba hahaha .... please show me one place in NY that serves authentic NY style Smoked Meat.... I challenge you! It just does not exist. You can't swing a dead cat and miss hitting a place that serves Pastrami or Corned beef in NY... but Smoked Meat is MTL.

                                                                      You got to stop eating those boil in the pouch Smoked meat packages. The plastic is doing bad things to your taste buds...

                                                                      1. I just went. Seems like tradition and atmosphere to me. I don't know how it compares to others like it in Montreal but I've had much better in many other cities. I had a MF smoked meat as did my wife. When we were done, I said that really wasn't any better than the corned beef sandwiches around Boston. Right away, she said she felt the same way from the first bite but didn't want to say anything negative since we had gone out of our way to get there. I wouldn't ever recommend it and I wouldn't ever go back.

                                                                        1. I will go to Schwartzś when there is a street festival on the Main, but only because I don't have to wait in line. Otherwise, I will continue on to Coco Rico and have a little laugh at the people lined up.

                                                                          Itś good, but not good enough to wait for.

                                                                          One thing I will say for them is that they have my respect. These guys COULD double capacity and fill the place easy. They COULD cover the landscape in Schwartz franchises... instead, they just go on doing what they have always done, with integrity.

                                                                          I like that.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: The Chemist

                                                                            That is true, Chemist. They are taking over the vacant premises next door but it seems that will be for takeaway. I'm pleased about that because while I am not a smoked-meat fan, I love their smoked poultry and although one supposedly doesn' t have to queue alongside the diners for that, it is a bit complicated when they are busy.

                                                                            1. re: The Chemist

                                                                              Took the words outta my mouth -That was the only comment missing from all the opinions above.

                                                                              Schwartz also has my vote. I do prefer their Medium Fats over Reuben's, Dunns, Snowdon & Ben's (whose last years served their fate), whose meats don't feel like real meat.

                                                                              And lagatta, after the 10th mention of their smoked poultry, I'm finally giving in and will try it on my next visit!! lol.

                                                                            2. Speaking of what's so great? Not a good batch of smoked meat this past week end. We went there with friends visiting Montreal and my meat were spiceless. That was a first at Schwartz! Usually I can't stand their sandwich because it to salty but I tried a few slices form my wife's plate and they tasted nothing like usual. Someone ran out of the secret spices I guess.

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: maj54us

                                                                                The docs asked René A to ease up on the salt...

                                                                                1. re: maj54us

                                                                                  It could just have been that the person slicing the meat didn't give you some of the more seasoned bits. The quality of a sandwich at Schwartz's depends a lot on how it was sliced.

                                                                                  1. re: SnackHappy

                                                                                    Could have been a "lean" smoked meat.They normally have less taste.

                                                                                    1. re: finefoodie55

                                                                                      Maybe but It's a hit and miss with smoked meat no matter where, no matter who. Once at main I received a sandwich that was textured liker sand paper. I told the waiter that that one was a really bad one and he apologized and got me another medium one.

                                                                                      Ohh bythe way did you guys notice how nice, friendly and smiling the staff is now. Celine must have given them a pep talk. Thank you Celine !

                                                                                      1. re: maj54us

                                                                                        Friendly and smiling?! It's ruined.

                                                                                        I grew up on NY Pastrami, and while I saw skeptical about Montreal smoked meat at first, Schwartz's won me over.

                                                                                        Haven't been since the fall, tho, so... not sure what's up now. Next thing you know, people will be allowed to be seated before their whole party arrives!

                                                                                        1. re: deadchildstar

                                                                                          I agree, "What's so great about Schwartz's ?" If you like sitting at a table sharing with total strangers (which doesn't bother me but), when the lady (who you don't know) puts ketchup on your fries(no potato latkes , or a waiter brings your drink with his fingers in the glass !!! Go to Schwartz's
                                                                                          The Main across the street is so much better (No sharing tables, with potato latkes ) !!!

                                                                                          1. re: fotobug

                                                                                            But fotobug- that is part of the charm- that's what makes eating there a Montreal experience- as opposed to an epicurean delight of the highest order.

                                                                                2. Correct me if I'm wrong but schwartz is not the same sandwich anymore. Something happened. Is it the same meat? same process ? Not the same sandwich anymore.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: maj54us

                                                                                    In what way different ?

                                                                                    The last time I went, a few months ago, the meat was more drier and crumblier than usual (from a few months before and a few months before ... )

                                                                                    1. re: Maximilien

                                                                                      Schwartz's is walking distance from my office, so a few of the guys and I used to go there every couple of weeks (for the last 7 years or so). Over the last 6 months, we noticed the meat becoming more dry and crumbly (and we all order it medium).

                                                                                      Needless to say, it's no longer on our regular rotation. But will still go once in a while for old times' sake... But for some reason, the meat doesn't deem the same...

                                                                                      1. re: foodie_mtl

                                                                                        people have been saying that for years. just send it back if it is dry and crumbly. some of their cooks seem to have lower standards than others but problems do not get fixed unless people say something...

                                                                                  2. Thought the Montreal Chowhounds might find this perspective on Schwartz's kind of funny!

                                                                                    (edited to add: I don't endorse the views in this blog, just thought it was funny to see what other people can take away from their experience at Schwartz's, and from Montreal food in general!)

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: unlaced

                                                                                      the rest of the schwartz's menu is not superfluous. real regulars and old timers know to get a liver steak or the chicken or even a simple rib steak. schwartz's is more than just smoked meat, it is the last of an institution: the jewish deli.

                                                                                      1. re: unlaced

                                                                                        Thanks for the blog. It *is* interesting to see what others think of Schwartz's and Montreal in general
                                                                                        I realize its hard to sum up a city and a small resto in 1000 words, especially to a new visitor. I'm wondering what his readers back home think?
                                                                                        Montreal has 2 mcdonalds, 3 subways, and 4 pizza huts?
                                                                                        Montreal is void of chains?
                                                                                        Only two shops make the quintessential Montreal bagel?
                                                                                        Only one restaurant will serve one type of food? (the poutine or pulled pork thing didn't sound any alarms with the guy?)
                                                                                        These are the impressions I'd get if I only read the article about Montreal.

                                                                                        1. re: porker

                                                                                          there's definitely fewer mcdonalds in montreal than in other big cities

                                                                                          also it is not surprising that a visitor would think that there are only 2 bagel shops since most others are not in touristy areas: westmount, cote-des-neiges, cote-st-luc, west island

                                                                                          the new york bagel is far more visible in manhattan

                                                                                      2. I'll wade into this. Came up from NYC for a visit this week for a first time ever trip to Montreal. Been to Mile End in Brooklyn where I have had their version of the smoked meat sandwich. I liked it but it never knocked my socks off. I'm not originally from NYC so I don't have any personal history vested. I appreciated real corned beef and pastrami when I had it for the first time. Have had all the standards in NYC. Tried smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz's and Dunn's this week. Both sandwiches were good. Got fatty meat based on what I read here. The sandwiches were both good, but honestly is it better than a good corned beef from Katz? No. Not worse either. Fine sandwiches at all these places but since I didn't grow up with any of these, I don't have the pull to any of these places. I like them all, but then again I wouldn't come to Montreal just for the smoked meat. On the other hand, I would come back to eat at Joe Beef.

                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                          I don't think smoked meat will knock *all* socks off - its simply not everyone's cup of tea. I'm not sure about Katz' corned beef, but I did have their pastrami, which I found similar to Montreal smoked meat.
                                                                                          All home town bravado aside, you're right, one isn't necessarily better than the other, and everyone has their favorite. But, as I mentioned upthread (yikes > 4 years ago...), Katz seems a tad expensive.
                                                                                          Yeah, Manhatten and all, but more than $20 for a sandwich, fry, and a coke? Schwartz rings in about $10.
                                                                                          So I understand your sentiment (not a tit for tat); I wouldn't go to NYC just for Katz (when Montreal is next door), but I do return again and again for _________ (take your pick, fill in the blank...pizza, dive bars, chinatown, late night food carts, Babbo, LES, BBQ Block Party, etc etc).

                                                                                          1. re: porker

                                                                                            You're absolutely right about the value. I was amazed at what a sandwich cost. At around $7 for a sandwich beats NYC on value every day.

                                                                                            Eta: can you get some better mustard though?

                                                                                            1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                              yellow prepared mustard on deli sandwiches is kind of a thing here. I do not know its origins, but I suspect it is a jewish thing since every jewish bakery and deli serves it on sandwiches by default. everywhere else in montreal defaults to mayo - at least schwartz's doesn't do that!

                                                                                              1. re: catroast

                                                                                                In NYC, the Jewish delis use a spicy brown mustard. Gives the meat more flavor. Agree on leaving out mayo. Many of my Jewish friends think of mayo as dairy - no meat and dairy - despite there being nothing dairy in mayo.

                                                                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                  That's odd. Mayo is pareve. Says so on my bottle of Hellmann's.

                                                                                                  1. re: SnackHappy

                                                                                                    the anti-sandwich w/ mayo thing is iconified in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters. Woody dabbles in religion and brings home Christian paraphernalia including white bread and a jar of mayo. Larry David also started eating sandwiches with mayo when he becomes a Christian on Curb - an obvious nod to woody allen. Nevertheless, we do put mayo in things like egg, tuna, chicken , potato salad. And I am sure that there are plenty of jews that like mayo on deli sandwiches - not me. In fact, I wish more places would forego mayo in place of mustard.

                                                                                                    And I do agree about the spicy brown mustard. I always pick up a jar or 2 of gulden's when i cross-border shop...the sad fact is there are no good spicy brown mustards sold in Quebec.

                                                                                                  2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                    About the bagels, I have been eating bagels since the first bagel shop opened up in my neighborhood in the Bronx about 45 years ago. The owner was genuine, a Jew from the Lower East Side; he knew his bagels. The guy who owns the B&B we stayed at last August is a former Bronxite who moved to Montreal over 30 years ago. He had me so hyped on the Montreal bagel I could barely wait for our first breakfast. The only thing that made it a bagel was its name and shape. I found it too light (fluffy) and doughy tasting. Since we are both from the Bronx I felt I could be straight-up with him without offense and told him what I thought. The bagel was used as a fast breakfast bread which is supposed to be heavy to sustain the working-class-lower-east-side clientele in the early part of the 20th century. The Montreal bagel has a slightly different recipe and was not popularized until the latter part of the 20th century. The other major difference is the water. NYC traditionally has the best municipal water in the world. Her goes another discussion (can of worms) as the Canadians and particularly the Québécoise will say their bottled water is the best and that may be so but we do not make bagels with bottled water. New York City drinking water is world-renowned for its quality. Each day, more than 1 billion gallons of fresh, clean water is delivered from large upstate reservoirs—some more than 125 miles from the City—to the taps of nine million customers throughout New York. The conclusion to the matter is that they are two different tastes for two different peoples and traditions, as it is with the meat.

                                                                                                    On the subject of the meat, I like both the New York Style and the Montreal style, probably because I don't expect the other one when I am ordering it. I have eaten at Katz's (which is NOT kosher), the 2nd Ave Deli (original owners), Noah's Ark Original Deli, the Carnegie Deli (just closed) in Manhattan, Ben's Best in Queens, Liebman's and Loeser's in the Bronx, Noah's Ark in Teaneck, Foster Village Kosher Delicatessen in Bergenfield, Tenafly Kosher Caterers in Tenafly, Epstein Kosher Deli in Yonkers, Le Roi du Smoked meat in Montreal and a whole lot more. They all have their good and not so good, their fans and detractors.

                                                                                                    I don't think we are going to get a consensus on any of this but it sure is entertaining reading everyone's opinions.

                                                                                                    1. re: YoPaulie

                                                                                                      "New York City drinking water is world-renowned for its quality. Each day, more than 1 billion gallons of fresh, clean water is delivered from large upstate reservoirs—some more than 125 miles from the City—to the taps of nine million customers throughout New York."
                                                                                                      -of COURSE it is if the City of New York says so, right?

                                                                                                      Independant sources might say otherwise...
                                                                                                      "In the New York City water tested there were eight contaminants that exceeded health guidelines, including Dichloroacetic Acid, Chloroform, Bromodichloromethane, Trihalomethanes, Haloacetic acids, Trichloroacetic acid, Bromoform, and Dibromochloromethane....Maybe it is time to reconsider whether New York City really has “world-renowned water quality” and what the cumulative effects of exposure to these contaminants means for its over 9 million residents."

                                                                                                      I'm not saying Montreal or Quebec water is better than NYC water. I'm just suspicious that NYC water is "traditionally... the best municipal water in the world" just because the water authority says so.

                                                                                                2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                  If they film a woman having an orgasm at Schwartz's (I dunno, Celine?), I bet they can charge $8 for the same sangwich....

                                                                                            2. Why hasn't anyone mentioned Le Roi du Smoked Meat? Terrific smoked meat, huge portions, great and friendly service and the atmosphere just like a New York Kosher deli.

                                                                                              18 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: YoPaulie

                                                                                                I've been to Le Roi and it's only "terrific" in the second, archaic sense listed in my dictionary: "causing terror".

                                                                                                  1. re: YoPaulie

                                                                                                    I wish everyone that posts here would just give up eating at Schwartz's and comment on the best smoked meat in Montreal and let me suffer away at Schwartz's alone in the crowd.Take a trip to New York and revel in the garden of Katz"s.

                                                                                                    1. re: Lolaray

                                                                                                      your are talking about two processes here. One meat is smoked the other is cured.

                                                                                                      Schwartz has a production problem, with the volume the smoked mead is I guess not smoked enough ? I don't know but texture and taste is different from before it was sold. Maybe they should buy more smokers and bring it back to what it was.

                                                                                                      Have you tried MAIN smoked meat? It is a much better option than Schwartz's these days.

                                                                                                      1. re: maj54us

                                                                                                        the main is the least consistent restaurant that i have ever been to - not just in terms of preparation but the types of briskets they used.

                                                                                                        sometimes processed rubbery crap, other times the good stuff

                                                                                                        it is a crap shoot.

                                                                                                        1. re: catroast

                                                                                                          @catroast: I agree but also it applies to most smoked meat restaurants. I do return my sandwich when not satisfied and that has never been a problem.

                                                                                                          many factors make a sandwich go wrong. It has to do with the steaming time, exposed part of the meat in the steamer after it has been cut and and what part they are cutting.

                                                                                                          That's why I always order my sandwiches medium. I never order a lean sandwich. But like every where else it often a hit an miss.

                                                                                                          Have you ever had a take out sandwich and only eat it the next day after it spent the night in the fridge. No matter what restaurant you had it from, it's the must disgusting thing to eat. Even if you try to nuke it in the microwave. You can try to steam it back but will never have the same experience from the restaurant. (I'm not taking about commercial chemical smoked meat brands here).

                                                                                                          1. re: maj54us

                                                                                                            A bad sandwich should stop at the pass. Those excuses are lame.

                                                                                                            1. re: catroast

                                                                                                              maybe lame but reality. Do you have a place where the smoked meat sandwich is perfect everytime ? Let us know I'm still searching.

                                                                                                              1. re: maj54us

                                                                                                                smoked meat pete's is pretty consistent

                                                                                                                1. re: catroast

                                                                                                                  Not for me, the gladly changed a sandwich that was at par.

                                                                                                                2. re: maj54us

                                                                                                                  I've never had a bad old fashioned smoked meat at Snowdon Deli. Maybe going there semi-regularly off & on for at least 10 years.

                                                                                                                  1. re: BLM

                                                                                                                    been there a few times and I was wondering who made their smoked meat. It was more on the commercial style but was actually not bad.

                                                                                                                    1. re: maj54us

                                                                                                                      You tried Snowdon Deli's old fashioned smoked meat? Because if you don't specify, Snowdon Deli gives you their their regular smoked meat(which is more like commercial style). I even like Snowdon Deli's regular smoked meat.

                                                                                                                      1. re: BLM

                                                                                                                        I remember the lady asking us if we wanted Old fashioned and we said yes. It had a similar to Lesters without the side effect. I like it, not on top of my list but was good.

                                                                                                      2. re: YoPaulie

                                                                                                        Yes, to each his own. And to me, le Roi serves the same wet, rubbery industrial product served as a thousand other places. I'm guessing that's why nobody's mentioned it until now. If you like that, more power to you -- you've got a thousand good places to go.

                                                                                                        I live 3 blocks away and would sooner walk the 45 minutes to Schwartz's or the Main (hit-and-miss though it is).

                                                                                                    2. re: YoPaulie

                                                                                                      what is the atmoshere of a ny kosher deli?

                                                                                                      1. re: YoPaulie

                                                                                                        The reason nobody mentions Le Roi is because their smoked meat sucks. It's factory made industrial crap. The same stuff that passes for smoked meat at every greek deli in the province. Don't let the name of the place fool you.

                                                                                                        They do make a pretty good Montreal-style pizza, though.

                                                                                                        1. re: SnackHappy

                                                                                                          I agree. But here's the deal with them they have been on st-hubert for so long that some people are addicted to that taste They don't know better. I hated it so much. One other scary place is Jarry smoke meat on jarry and langelier. Their smoke meat is now literally like the taste and color of baloney.

                                                                                                      2. what is so great?
                                                                                                        everyone is lined up outside because they are sheep.
                                                                                                        the food is terrible.
                                                                                                        please stay away.
                                                                                                        ( i enjoyed being able to walk in without a line)
                                                                                                        sheep flock off!

                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Lolaray

                                                                                                          i guess their production problem hasn't been solved. What a shame. Are they becoming just another tourist trap ?

                                                                                                          1. re: maj54us

                                                                                                            I think I've been misunderstood.Schwartzs is the the Parthenon of smoked meat.Love it or leave it.

                                                                                                            1. re: Lolaray

                                                                                                              And you haven't noticed the drastic drop in quality ?

                                                                                                              1. re: maj54us

                                                                                                                Sorry no.It is never the same but I haven't noticed a difference in 50 years.Could be my fading memory so don't take my word for it.Many a time I've sworn I'll never eat here again but I have a hard time driving past.

                                                                                                                1. re: maj54us

                                                                                                                  My memory doesn't go that far back - about 10 years consistently (every few months at least), and almost 20 since I first went - but I'll second Lolaray. I haven't noticed a "drastic drop" in quality. Prices have crept up, although they are still very reasonable, and the plate seems to have less meat, although it is still a bargain for a group of 3-4 (or one or two very hungry) compared with individual sandwiches. But as far as actual quality goes, it the same the ever. Which is to say, it's still the best, absolutely no contest.

                                                                                                                  p.s. Agree with the comment upboard by catroast that The Main is hugely inconsistent. Sometimes I've had sandwiches that are just delicious, then the next time it tastes like supermarket crap and I vow to stick by my rule: Schwartz for smoked meat and The Main for steak, liver, burgers, latkes.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Shattered

                                                                                                                    My only guess for the drop in quality is a production problem. They never been so busy since they sold it. The Texture and taste is not up to par. Don't know if they fixed that since the last time I went with visiting friends 3 weeks ago.

                                                                                                            2. re: Lolaray

                                                                                                              was there in October, big disappointment. The smoked Meat did not have much flavor, the restaurant was very dirty and unpleasant.

                                                                                                              1. re: mdietrich

                                                                                                                I think "very dirty" is a judgement call and pleasantness is highly subjective.
                                                                                                                I'm just sayin.

                                                                                                                1. re: porker

                                                                                                                  no dirty is not a judgement call but we give schwartz's a pass because it is beloved.

                                                                                                                  1. re: porker

                                                                                                                    It's all subjective especially if you're a tourist who heard all about legendary Schwartz and thought it must be some kind of fine dining experience. And I meet them all the time. They've heard it's the place to go, they ask me with straight face: "Oh, it's sandwiches? Huh. What is 'smoked meat' anyway? What kind of animal does it come from?"