HOME > Chowhound > Quebec (inc. Montreal) >


Montreal smoked meat--The Main v. Schwartz's

We recently visited and tried the smoked meat at both establishments.

Both were very good but The Main was truly superior. Much more moist, we got "medium" at both places, and much more flavor with more pepper and such. I can't figure out why people think Schwartz's is so much better.

The Main had much better fries too, they tasted like...potatoes! Really really good potatoes.

And the Main had more room around the tables. We have a baby so that mattered to us.

And the wait, well because people flock to Schwartz's (but why??) the wait is not long at The Main so maybe that is a good thing and I should shut up and count my blessings!

Just better!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I like the MAIN a lot. A lot of value for the money on steaks. I like the Main burger, all dressed with slices of smoke meat!!
    Their smoke meat taste a lot like the one from Schwartz except they are less salty. I have asked the owner if this was what he looked for in a smoke meat. He said, the slatiness varied on Supply and demand. When demand was big, the less time the meat stayed in their brine. In other words the MAIN does not have strick standards on their saltiness. Come to think of it the fries or more or less crispy depending on the day you go.
    My favorite smoke meat comes from Schwartz. Standards are strickly the same every day: always tasting the same. I like mine on the fatty side; The warmer they are the more moisture they have and the bigger is the taste. The bottom line to which is taste best is a matter of personal taste.
    I like the steaks better at the MAIN and the smoke meat at Schwartz.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Ruy Blas

      Consistency has been a problem at the Main for at least 15 years, and it's probably at least partly related to bigger fluctuations in demand vs. Schwartz's steady demand, as you suggest. (Though it shouldn't affect things like fries...)

      The inconsistency rarely results in a truly bad experience, but unfortunately the risk is always there.

      1. re: Ruy Blas

        Like Ruy Blas said, smoked meat is superior at Schwartz (its seriously no contest), but The Main is better at everything else (although I've always liked Schwartz fries too). I also love the burgers and steaks at the Main.

        1. re: Shattered

          I prefer the main steakhouse's smoke meat because for my taste buds it's less salty than schwartz. Everytime I eat schwartz, I wake up in the middle of the night with a dry mouth and drink a few glasses of water. That's the schwartz effect on me.

          1. re: maj54us

            I think with the Main the other brining flavors come through much more. It is more peppery and herbal. Just a nicer experience overall.

          2. re: Shattered

            I guess everyone can agree to disagree, but I'm with Shattered and Ruy Blas and +1 for Schwartz's smoked meat. The taste and texture of their smoked meat can't be beat.

        2. ya, Main's might be more moist... but Moist = fake plasticy texture ala Chenoys, Belle Province, or grocery store smoked meat

          Belle Province
          20 Rue Brunet, Mont-Saint-Hilaire, QC J3G4S6, CA

          Chenoy's Restaurant
          170 Rue De La Visitation, Saint-Charles-Borromee, QC J6E4N3, CA

          1 Reply
          1. re: J1836

            I'm sorry but main's smoked meat style and taste is nowhere near belle province's smoked meat. I would also bet that belle province serve what I would call the "commercial style smoke meat". Not the old fashioned style that schwartz and main have.

          2. There was a smoked meat crawl organised about 7 or 8 years ago & we taste tested hot medium fat sandwiches & plates from Schwartzs, The Main, Snowdon Del & Georges (can't remember if we also hit Abies? Vivre Manger - if you read this did we do Abies too?). Everyone agreed that Schwartzs was #1 by large margin, followed by Snowdon Del, Georges & The Main. We thought that the Main's smoked meat was too moist (artificial moistness maybe) and not as flavourful as Schwartzs. The Main ranked last.

            17 Replies
            1. re: RhondaB

              @RhondaB: Adresses for snowdon del and Georges would be nice

              What do you mean by artificial moistness? and how is that achieved?

              1. re: maj54us

                "Artificial moistness" happens when phosphates are injected into the meat. It then soaks up large amounts of water and gets that "wet" texture you find in cheap industrial ham.


                I've never heard of Georges.

                1. re: SnackHappy

                  Perhaps this? I found a few references in some other Chowhound threads. And one TripAdvisor review says they've got some former Schwartz's folks working there, not sure if that's accurate.

                  George's Deli Restaurant
                  3750 Boul. St-Martin Ouest, Laval
                  (450) 681-7957

                  1. re: kpzoo

                    Yes, George of George Deli was a ex-Schwartz's employee(not sure how many ex-Schwartz's employees work there). Abie's probably has the most ex-Schwartz's employees. Abie was a former Schwartz's manager & his father was a Schwartz's employee for several decades.

                  2. re: SnackHappy

                    I should add that phosphates are not necessarily injected. A regular wet cure that includes phosphate will increase water retention in the meat. Too much phosphate gives a gelatinous texture. Industrial meat curing operations are tempted to add too much phosphate because the extra water adds weight to the meat. That's why cheap ham so gross and gelatinous.

                    1. re: SnackHappy

                      "...not necessarily injected..." true, but if you're talking cheap, its almost always injected - speeding up the curing time for a quicker to-the-market, cheapo product.

                    2. re: SnackHappy

                      Thanks SnackHappy.
                      I never heard of deli snowdon before and now remember passing in front of it but never was attracted to try it. Will certainly donext time and report on my experience.

                  3. re: RhondaB

                    what about Le Roi due Smoke Meat on St.Hubert. I remember it being very good, mind you haven't been there in ages

                    1. re: randa_h74

                      come on nothing close to schwartzs!

                      1. re: kpaxonite

                        maybe my memories have been skewed after all this time! :)

                      2. re: randa_h74

                        Le Roi du Smoked Meat serves crap industrial smoked meat.

                        1. re: randa_h74

                          @randa_h74: Not discussing tastes but in my book, Le Roi du Smoke meat on St-Hubert is the kind of place that serves Commercial Industrial Red Smoked Meat or at least taste like it. But it's okay if you like it. You can't argue what people like. Hope I wasn't to mean this time ;)

                          1. re: maj54us

                            You're from Montreal & never heard of Snowdon Deli all these years? That surprises me, especially if you know about smoked meat delis.

                            1. re: BLM

                              @BLM: I'm not an expert on smoke meat. As mentioned before why I like main compared to schwartz it's because schwartz is to salty for my taste buds. What I noticed over the years is that each place have their own particular taste. It's either good or not for my taste buds. But one thing is sure, places that serve the one that taste like or is commercial stuff should be avoided.

                              I've never been to Snowdon Deli or DeliSnowdon. Was never attracted to go in and never heard anyone rave about it. Looking forward to go and try their smoke meat sandwich. I hope they are like Schwartz and Main and make their own smoke meat although rumors is that Main doesn't do their own anymore (to be investigated). Still a good sandwich although once in a while you get your hit and miss moment. They never caused any problem when I ask them to replace the sandwich.

                            2. re: maj54us

                              i'll give you points for being diplomatic...

                              1. re: randa_h74

                                not diplomatically mean I hope ;) lol

                          2. re: RhondaB

                            No you didn't cover Abie's if my memory is correct. Most people don't rank Abie's among the top 3 smoked meat delis in Montreal.

                          3. One more vote for Schartz's here - the best is simply the best!

                            1. I also prefer The Main, although I agree that the quality can be inconsistent.

                              The sandwiches from Schwartz's are often soggy, and there are sometimes hard chewy bits (tendon?) in the smoked meat.

                              1. I think the true test is to buy JUST the meat, take it home , put it on the same bread, same mustard. Schwarts wins every time.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: kpaxonite

                                  Agree - you can also just try the meat, with no bread or mustard.

                                2. Last time I had smoked meat from snowdown deli (5 years ago), it tasted industrialized... Am I wrong on this??

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: J1836

                                    If you don't specify, they give you regular smoked meat at Snowdon Deli. You need to ask for Old Fashioned smoked meat.

                                    1. re: BLM

                                      @BLM & J1836: Correct !

                                      I finally stopped at this institution that was never referred or praised to me all these years. weird!!! The waitress gave the choice of regular or old fashioned. When I asked what was the difference she said that Old Fashioned has more flavors and spices in it. So I went for the "medium old fashioned sandwich" with fries.

                                      My verdict was a very good sandwich that had a kind of sweet taste to it. It was very moist and quite tasteful. I liked it. It reminded me alot of the taste of "deli Lesters" on Bernard but less sweat. Unfortunately Deli Lesters on Bernard gives me stomach aches every time I eat their sandwich just like "Roi du smoke meat"

                                      So Overall Deli Snowdon was a good sandwich but not my favorite. If in the area I'll gladly go and eat there again. The fries were excellent. But again It's a completely different taste from Main or Schwartz. Each place have their own taste.

                                      5625 Decarie 514-488-9129
                                      I don't understand why it's not in the chowhound database. They exist for more than 50 years.

                                      (Do not confused restaurant deli Lesters http://www.lestersdeli.com/ with the
                                      commercial brand "Aliments LESTERS Food" http://www.lesters.ca/en/company/
                                      it's 2 completely different companies and product


                                      Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen
                                      3895 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC , CA

                                      Lesters AAA Charcuterie & Smoked Meat (Mr Smoked Meat)
                                      1053 Avenue Bernard, Outremont, QC H2V, CA

                                      Le Roi Du Smoked Meat
                                      6705 Rue Saint-Hubert, Montreal, QC H2S2M7, CA

                                      Main Deli Steak House
                                      3864 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2W1Y2, CA

                                      1. re: maj54us

                                        Next on my list is Abie's....I'm hungry just typing this

                                        Abie's Smoked Meat & Steak
                                        3980 Boul Saint-Jean, Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, QC H9G1X1, CA

                                        1. re: maj54us

                                          Personally when I order smoked meat, I go for medium-fat(medium is still too lean for me). At Abie's you might recognize some of the ex-Schwartz's employees working there now. After that you might want to check out Georges Deli in Laval. It's at 3750 Saint-Martin West(cross street not too far from Boulevard Cure Labelle). I haven't seen any recent reviews on George's Deli smoked meat(my last time eating there was maybe 5 years ago).

                                          1. re: BLM

                                            Smoked Meat Pete in Ile Perrot could be another place to try on his smoked meat tour 2011

                                            Smoked Meat Pete
                                            283 1 Av, Les Cèdres, QC J7T, CA

                                          2. re: maj54us

                                            Stopped at Abies on St-Jean for supper with my kids today.
                                            Verdict: :( disappointing but an okay sandwich if prepared properly. Lack flavors very stringy pieces of meat and the disappointing part was that the brisket was not steamed enough. So it was kind of a chewy sandwich. Didn't taste bad or anything but lacked the taste of spices. The good side is that it was $2.99 a sandwich on special. I will give them another chance in the future.

                                            The texture resembles schwartz compared to other places like Snowdon but they have lots of work to get to that level. For someone who never tried a smoke meat sandwich it would be a good experience. For me much better than place likes le Roi du smoke meat or Lesters on bernard. I'm talking about taste and texture.

                                            1. re: maj54us

                                              You'll be disappointed again if you do give them a second chance. I've done Abie's a couple of times thinking that, and it's consistently meh. There is not enough traffic to be able to rotate the stock, and I find that there's less care in how they produce brisket (e.g. dont' make a sandwich for me when the brisket has a line of green in the middle that I can see).

                                          3. re: maj54us

                                            Glad you enjoyed Snowdon Deli's smoked meat. I personally find the Snowdon Deli smoked meat the most consistent(it's always very good-excellent). BTW, they close very early(something like 6pm daily).

                                            1. re: maj54us

                                              "It reminded me alot of the taste of "deli Lesters" on Bernard but less sweat."
                                              I've had sweaty baloney, but never sweaty smoked meat...is less sweat better than more?
                                              Hehe {;-/)

                                              1. re: porker

                                                lol lol typo: sweet was the word. Reminds me of a SNL skit sweaty balls ;)

                                                1. re: maj54us

                                                  Line up was very long at Schwartz so we went across the street to the Main for some hot smoked meat (medium). Service was great and we found the meat to be less salty.
                                                  Went back to Schwartz next morning.
                                                  Overall, our family of 4, including our young daughters, prefer the Main. And since it is also less expensive, going forward, we will be heading to the Main. Looking forward to trying out their steaks the next time we are in town.

                                        2. Finally decided to try The Main, unfortunately my experience was not memorable.

                                          First I arrive and the guy just says to grab a table anywhere, so I sit down. I wait a few minutes for him to bring me the menu, and other people start arriving. He goes to them immediately and brings them menu, then goes away. He comes back for them and takes their order, still ignoring me. Finally he decides to bring a menu, then I order.

                                          Order arrives, he forgot the fries, so I have to wait a couple minutes to get the fries.

                                          I try the smoked meat, it was incredibly peppery (and I love pepper), to the point of being almost inedible, completely overpowered the taste of the meat.

                                          Maybe I just had a bad day or something. I'll give them another try soon.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Werzoth

                                            ?!?!? peppery. Did you just ask for the crust?

                                            1. re: maj54us

                                              I didn't, just asked for a regular smoked meat.

                                          2. I just discovered this clip about The Main on vimeo

                                            1. The Main used to be really good consistently a long time ago. I have to say that the last time I went there was the last time for me! The meat was gnarly fatty and part of it had green coloring. Schwartz's is overrated but usually very good. It hasn't gone down in quality like The Main, Dunn's and Ben's (years before it closed) have/had...or like non-smoked meat places like Magnan's and Chalet BBQ have with their respective specialties. Chenoy's is decent and safe, from what I tasted, but the one I used to go to in LaSalle closed down. Tried Le Roi once and eeehhhnnnn...standard general bit of everything type restaurant fare. I don't mind Snowdon Deli but find its meat is dryer than most of the other places. I would have said the Reuben's on Ste, Catherine near Peel was the single best place for smoked meat, but it has not been as consistently good as of late, so I'd say that it's sort of a tie between Schwartz's and that Reuben's as to which is the best, depending on when you go, who cuts the meat, how hungry you are, etc. I haven't been to the other non-affiliated Reuben's a bit further East in ages. Don't get me started on how bad Nickel's is!

                                              Chenoy's Restaurant
                                              170 Rue De La Visitation, Saint-Charles-Borromee, QC J6E4N3, CA

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: donster

                                                Seems not too many people mention Quebec Smoked Meat when this particular discussion comes up. On Center St. in Pointe St. Charles, they do some decent, in-house smoked meat (and other meats as well). I mentioned somewhere on the board that they only sell the smoked meat, not offering sandwiches, but someone said differently. I haven't been in awhile, so can't confirm this.
                                                A litle off topic, but theres a good deli a few doors east on the other side of the street - Wayne's Polish Deli.

                                                1. re: porker

                                                  How's to the sandwich at Quebec Smoked Meat? I've always bought hunks of meat to steam and slice at home. I wonder if they just use cold meat cut on their deli slicer. That would be a shame.

                                                  Québec Smoked Meat does deserve a mention, though. Their smoked meat is the bees knees.

                                                  1. re: porker

                                                    I mentioned before it and rumor is that main buy his from them. They used to make it on the second floor but not anymore. When you go to the restroom you often see the door open on the kitchen with the diabolic smoke meat machine gathering dust ;)

                                                    At Quebec smoke meat you can order a sandwich and they will heat it in a micro wave. Sounds like a major insult to the meat gods! But they are a butcher place that offers a sandwich and not the opposite.

                                                    1. re: maj54us

                                                      I have been going to Schwartz's since I was a boy and they had sheets of wood planks as floors.

                                                      I go less and less as I find so often I am disappointed.
                                                      Over the years the quality has greatly dropped and the consistency is non-existent.
                                                      The quality of the meat changes drastically, although my order is always the same, large plate med fat.

                                                      I was there this past Friday and it was terrible, super dry, stringy, tasteless.

                                                      Like throwing the dice at the casino you never know what you are going to get, but when it’s good it’s in my opinion the best in town. That said, unlike the casino your meal shouldn’t have to be a gamble.

                                                      Unfortunately the past years it tends to be more of a miss then a hit.

                                                      1. re: InterFoodie

                                                        I so thoroughly agree with you.

                                                        My dad, born into an apartment on Saint-Urban street in 1941, and frequenting Schwartz's throughout his lifetime, also agrees with you.

                                                        Dry and bland. Occasionally you land a good one, but hardly legendary. The aromas (and particularly the tinge of molasses smoked into the rind) give the place tremendous aromatic aura, but the actual meat ... MEH!


                                                        Surprise, surprise. I don't care how treasonous or commercial this makes me sound, but the best smoked meat in Montreal today is served day in, day out, (and all night too!) at DUNN'S on DECARIE.

                                                        If you don't believe me, go there, and get a pound to go. Tell them you want it medium, and you actually get medium, not lean + a few hunks of fat like at Schwartz's.

                                                        I have had Dunn's Decarie takeout 4 or 5 times in the past couple of years and have been beyond ecstatic with every last bite. And NO -- in no way am I connected with them... I just thank'em for making it!

                                                        I tried their Ste-Agathe location but didn't like it nearly as much... not sure why, as I assume the brisket had been prepared centrally.


                                                        Oh, and as for the Main, it's pretty good... I love the fact that it's 24 hours and you can sit like a human being and enjoy generally good grub.

                                                        And Snowdon Deli... god, give me a break! Two strikes, they're out. The last time I went, the meat was worse than at Nickels, and if I had to analyse it, I'd say it was nitrified shoulder meat with nothing but coriander seeds. BLEH... I would have preferred a Wendy's double stack from across the street.

                                                        Chenoy's if you're desperate (their cheesecake, mind you, is great!, or at least it was 10 years ago).

                                                        Le Roi du Smoke Meat -- hahaha -- I actually tried this place, and I'll say this: if you like the pinkish style (and some people do -- the kind who usually like Lester's) it's probably the best one in town. Much as it was probably cured in a laboratory, it did taste quite good and was super juicy. Leagues better than Lester's... but still not real smoked meat by any stretch of the word. Probably a lot like corned beef.

                                                2. Did a head-to-head comparison of Schwartz versus Main after Christmas, and tried Main again last week. I prefer the taste of Main. Main medium looks and tastes correct. I don't prefer the stinky, dirty atmosphere at Schwartz in the winter. Why they can't keep the place clean all day is beyond me. The takeout shop is a bit newer and cleaner. The lady server at Main is really helpful and it's nice to get a table right away -- and a private booth, not shared, with plenty of elbow room! I get takeout from Main to take back to Ontario.

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: Food Tourist

                                                    I'm a Montrealer and I had never been to Schwartz in my life. Last week I went to Le Comptoir on St-Laurent and order their "smoked meat", my boyfriend thought it was ridiculous to get there a smoked meat when I could get THE smoked meat at Schwartz. I went on ordering their more fancy smoked meat, which was very very good. A couple of days later I decide it was about time for me to try what people were raving about for decades... We had 1 medium smoked meat each to go from the takeout Schwartz. I was very excited to finally get to taste the real thing. It was disgusting and I'm being nice. I'm not a fan of smoked meat but my parents are and I had my share of good smoked meat when I was young, and I can also recognize something when it's good. Let me explain what we got... I ask for medium of course, we got super fatty! I remember from my youth the slice of meat being paper thin... we had 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick slice! + a pile of shredded fat mixed with meat. On top of that it was totally tasteless, I'm not joking. We didn't even finished our sandwiches...
                                                    Maybe we both got their worst sandwich of the day, of the year. Please tell me we just had a bad day smoked meat?
                                                    I think they are over rated and unfortunately they're probably surfing on their reputation, which a restaurant should never do.
                                                    Eventually I will try the Main but I'm in not hurry.

                                                    1. re: isasa

                                                      I think you just don't like smoked meat. Paper thin is never going to happen at a real smoked meat place because the brisket is cut by hand and not in a slicer like those industrial packets from the supermarket. Medium means it's cut from the fatty side of the brisket, so there are going to be bits of fat. What you got was a standard smoked meat sandwich. The sandwich from the Main is pretty much the same if only a bit more artificially moist.

                                                      1. re: SnackHappy

                                                        I'd have to agree.

                                                        As a kid growing up next to Montreal, my folks never went to Schwartz (my mom, now 73 still hasn't gone). My idea of smoked meat was either something bought from the grocery lunchmeat counter, or a prepackaged, boil-in-pouch product (Hygrade? Lesters?). Don't get me wrong, I loved this stuff as a kid.

                                                        I first ventured to Schwartz in my 20s and was perplexed. "How could this be smoked meat?" I asked myself, as its nothing like the stuff I was used to. I wasn't too keen on it either, finding it dry.

                                                        I tried it again, knowing what I was getting into. The again and again.

                                                        After awhile, my value-set had done a 180, realizing that the smoked meat of my childhood was more a mass produced item (again, don't get me wrong, I still like the stuff) and Schwartz was more like an artisanal product.

                                                        Schwartz is certainly a mecca of Montreal smoked meat, but is it the end-all of all smoked meat? I'd like to say yes, and sometimes it is, but it can be un-even. I do agree with isasa that they do surf somewhat.

                                                        Is Schwartz worth all the hype? Can you get comparable or better smoked meat elsewhere in the city? Again, I say sometimes (to both) and personally, so what?

                                                        1. re: porker

                                                          I think porker and SbackHappy resumed it really well. There's a big difference between the thinly-sliced and the "real" smoked meat.

                                                          It took me some time as well to get used to the real deal as I'd never had it before moving to Laval. When you get used to it though, it is really really good.

                                                          1. re: Werzoth

                                                            you can get thinly sliced smoked meat at snowdon deli, schwartz's and the main - however, you will get cold slices, not hot.

                                                            1. re: celfie

                                                              well maybe you are right, I don't know what a "real" smoked meat is... someone mentioned Dunn's... Would you say they serve the "real thing" there?

                                                              1. re: isasa

                                                                i would say snackhappy is correct in that you dont like smoked meat. it's not the end of the world.

                                                        1. re: celfie

                                                          I think you can also get hand sliced hot smoked meat for take-out from places like Schwartz's, Snowdon Deli and The Main.

                                                          1. re: celfie

                                                            I always buy the meat at schwartz and make my own sandwiches at home; tastes as good as what they serve at schwartz and I eat in a nicer place....and no line.

                                                            1. re: kpaxonite

                                                              Smoke meat is made to be eaten right away. It loose all it's moisture as soon as you make it a take out. Worst if you store it overnight in the fridge, it's a totally different experience. Unless you have a steamer at home to give some moist back.

                                                      2. Within the last couple of months I've been to the Main twice.

                                                        First visit, smoked meat was very good. Still no trace of the pink, slippery industrial product that people have been claiming to have had there for years.

                                                        Last night, finally had the pink, slippery industrial product in my sandwich. Still sliced by hand, but this stuff could easily have been done paper-thin on the slicer and probably would have been better that way. Not truly terrible, but a far cry from good old-fashioned artisanal smoked meat.

                                                        I wonder what's up. Does the quality of the briskets from their supplier vary greatly? Does the product take on that "industrial" quality if not handled properly in the restaurant (either steamed too much or not enough)?

                                                        Anyway, I have no recent comparison with Schwartz's but consistency and quality continue to be issues. I'll probably always have a soft spot for the place, but it isn't what it used to be.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Mr F

                                                          Smoked meat sandwiches have always been a hit and miss no matter who no matter where. I received a sandwich once that was literally sand paper and I started laughing. They changed it and it was perfect.

                                                          I was told, the first time I had a smoked meat sandwich to always order medium fat and never order a lean sandwich.

                                                          Here's the deal with a brisket, there is only a part of it that will be perfect. So if your cutter is a professional individual and he sees on his order ticket that MEDIUM is mentioned, he will make sure to cut the proper pieces of meat for you.

                                                          Unfortunately many of them have no clue or they don't give a f.... anymore after cutting a few hundred sandwiches in their day.

                                                          I had a main smoked meat this week right after lunch hour at 2pm and it was just perfect. Medium, juicy, felt the flavors of every spices. hmmmmm my mouth is watering right this moment.

                                                          Alas there's strong rumors that the real old fashion ways are out the door now. Briskets already made and smoked delivered and probably finished with some extra handling to give them their own personal touch. I'm talking about Main and Schwartz.

                                                        2. I am not sure what all the excitement about Montreal smoked meat is. Tell me in the Katz's vs. Schwartz string I just opened:

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: foodlovergeneral

                                                            different products, different taste, different textures. different spices mixtures, Apples and oranges
                                                            I like both but they are just not same.

                                                            and we can't find you page link is obsolete it seems.

                                                          2. Me and a few other people went to the Main recently and it was ok, but not as good as Smoke Meat Pete's (haven't been to Schwartz's yet), I found the meat comparable to the grocery store stuff. The fries were nice and sweet and crispy, I really liked the poutine sauce, and the burger was good, but I wouldn't go back for the meat.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Chocolatesa

                                                              If I may: Asking which is better is useless. People have their chosen favourite and no one will retrench their ideas. Both have positives and negatives. The ultimate answer is what you prefer. Try both and see. I like that at the Main I don't have to wait; but, I find the service is often discourteous and can be downright rude while at Schwartz's you'll wait an hour to have a sandwich flung at you. Some like that. Some don't. Either way, the smoked meat are both excellent. If they weren't one would be out of business (proximity and all that).

                                                              People will fight to the death defending their preference.

                                                            2. Has their been any changes at Schwartz's since the change in recent Schwartz's ownership?

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: BLM

                                                                Prices up very slightly on the eat-in side (maybe 40-50 cents more per sandwich than a year or so ago), and more on the takeout, although they were going up before the purchase. Lb of hot smoked meat to go is $15 now, at least a buck up in one shot, and I coulda sworn it was $12-13, just 2-3 years ago. So the takeout hikes have outstripped inflation, but then again, since it was barely more than grocery store 'smoked meat' a few years a back, they're actually just catching on to what the market is, and are still a bargain.

                                                              2. i went to the main for lunch on friday. besides the incompetent service, the smoked meat was dry and terrible.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: catroast

                                                                  Slow, incompetent service a hallmark of The Main. In a strange way, part of the charm. You just have to relax and spread out in the booth and enjoy the change of pace from the cramped, ultra-speedy Schwartz. It's the chill & chat (& licensed!) smoked meat joint, not the scarf like hyenas smoked meat joint.

                                                                  1. re: Shattered

                                                                    i don't usually mind the service but we ordered 2 sandwiches and they left them to sit on the pass to die. then when they finally picked them up, they brought one sandwich to our table and another somewhere else. the second sandwich came 5 minutes later. it wasn't even crowded. making matters worse, both sandwiches were absolutely terrible.

                                                                    1. re: catroast

                                                                      You can't really compare Schwartz's to any other "smoked meat" in Montreal. The others are more like corned beef, more pickled. Schwartz's is what I imagine I would eat for my last meal if I was on death row, and what I would be served in heaven after being electrocuted!

                                                                  2. re: catroast

                                                                    Whenever it happens to me, i ask for another one.

                                                                    Did you ask for another sandwich? Even a schwatz or any other place, you get the dry and terrible one. also never order a lean sandwich. go medium or fat.

                                                                    1. re: maj54us

                                                                      i usually do too but the service was so bad that i couldn't get a glass of water or the coleslaw that i ordered.

                                                                  3. I have only been to main once and although the food was pretty good the guy who served me was a complete jerk. Due to this, I am never going back

                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                    1. re: juliangen

                                                                      I too have only been to the Main once - about 20 years ago. I mentioned on another thread that it was the odor - a cross between moth balls and cat urine - that kept me from going back. Someone on the other thread said "20 years?, get over it!" which may be true....
                                                                      Which brings me to my question, whats the restaurant smell like today?

                                                                      1. re: porker

                                                                        Aw, no fair, it's perfectly fine. I am cow intolerant so going for smoked meat is just a painful experience in self-control for me. But I went to the Main this week and had the baby back ribs and enjoyed them a lot. They were tender and bathed in a sauce that was surprisingly like a sweet soy sauce called ketjap manis. Fries were good, coleslaw tasty, pickle fine and oldest child declared his smoked meat perfect. He prefers the Main as the medium is less fatty than the medium at Schwartz. Service was brisk and efficient. Next time, I'll try the hot chicken sandwich. At Schwartz all I can do is have a turkey cold cut sandwich that is very dull or just lots of french fries. And the best part? No long lineup.

                                                                        1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                                          Mean-spirited is not my intent (although the post seems harsh), but for me, its an honest response. And I really want to give it a go - I pass by the joint often enough on the way to various watering holes - but that olfaction memory is strong and vivid.....
                                                                          Maybe I'll take it in baby steps, stop in for karnatzel and go from there.

                                                                          1. re: porker

                                                                            The karnatzel is the very same Melo brand karnatzel that Schwartz's sells. If you want to try the Main in baby steps (and/or are cow intolerant) I'd suggest knishes, latkes, verenekes, and the matzoh ball soup.

                                                                            1. re: EaterBob

                                                                              And I just discovered this short film, Birth of the Smoked Meat, which is quite charming

                                                                              1. re: EaterBob

                                                                                Thanks for that!
                                                                                Interestingly enough, they gang-needle the cure, then wet brine.

                                                                                1. re: porker

                                                                                  I've been eating smoked meat in Montreal for over fifty years and have had a decent sandwich from all the above.I used to enjoy two full fat sandwiches at Schwartz' but the stomach can't handle that anymore.Bought some medium fat yesterday to go and enjoyed it even tho it wasn't the best.All in all there is no substitute for Swartzs.

                                                                        2. re: porker

                                                                          I'm happy to say that I
                                                                          1. stopped into The Main for a take away sandwich.
                                                                          2. liked it enough to stop in with Mrs. Porker for dinner. We liked it very much including the variety of the deli menu. (no cat pee smell at all).

                                                                          Will be returning.

                                                                          1. re: porker

                                                                            Glad you had a good experience.

                                                                            My last experience at Main was amazing for me and my wife. The smoked meat was just perfect. I don't remember the last time I had such a moist a flavorful smoked meat plate. I love to have a steak and I was being an extreme meat lover by combining slice of smoke meat with my steak.

                                                                            My wife also loved her latest medium sandwich from Main.

                                                                            but as usual smoked meat sandwich is a hit and miss and don't be shy to tell them when the sandwich isn't to your liking either at Main or schwartz. I never had a problem getting another sandwich.

                                                                            On the other side with some visiting friends, my experience at schwartz wasn't great. Taste was different, texture was different.

                                                                            I believe that they are to big now and need to buy more smokers. How many brisket can you smoke at a time with the volume that goes out of there.

                                                                            They are obviously cutting corners with the smoking process because it ain't the same meat it used to be.

                                                                            1. re: maj54us

                                                                              And what do you find different?

                                                                              1. re: Lolaray

                                                                                as mentioned in my previous post about schwartz "Taste was different, texture was different."

                                                                                1. re: maj54us

                                                                                  do you think that if Schartz's closed there would be line ups outside the Main?

                                                                                  1. re: Lolaray

                                                                                    Moot point as it won't - it is a "destination".


                                                                                    I don't really like smoked meat. I'm not very fond of beef in general, unless it is braised in red wine.

                                                                                    Schwartz makes great smoked chickens, turkey, etc but I don't know if they are avaiable in the restaurant.

                                                                                    The Main has a far larger range of deli dishes.

                                                                                    1. re: lagatta

                                                                                      They don't sell the smoked turkey or chicken in the restaurant, unfortunately. The turkey sandwich has some dull coldcut on it but at least the staff does warn you when you order it.

                                                                                      Went to the Main today as I enjoy the non-smoked meat options. Smoked meat sandwiches were good, the ribs were good and I enjoyed my chicken burger even if it was a tad trashy i.e. deep-fried chicken patty. There was a lineup in the freezing cold weather at Schwartz and the Main was only half full. Funny.

                                                                                      1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                                                        Smoked chicken comes with the chicken combo platter - which also includes smoked meat, bread, pickles, coleslaw - but unfortunately they're often out of the chicken.

                                                                                    2. re: Lolaray

                                                                                      Interesting question but I don't think so. It all has to do with branding and history of the name Schwartz. Some people don't give a flying "phoque" what schwartz smoked meat tastes like all they care about is that it's the place that everyone should go to. I hope they adjust their meat and it doesn't become a tourist trap in Montreal.

                                                                                      I heard of stories where people had enough waiting that they just go accross the street but Main will never have the "aura" if I may so of the across the street neighbor. Even if they still have a charcoal grill. Schwartz is now gas grill.

                                                                                      Today I had a sandwich at Main with my cousin and his kids. My sandwich was on the "not" so moist so I asked for another one and it was perfect for my tatse buds.

                                                                                      1. re: maj54us

                                                                                        I remember a few years back.Myself and a few friends had gone to see the Pogues at Club Soda.Someone suggested we go to the Main.We ate and as we were leaving I pointed out Schwartz's across the street.Bummer."how could you bring us here when Schwartz's is across the street." oh well.

                                                                                        1. re: maj54us

                                                                                          One way or another for whatever reason Schwartz"s will continue to be the benchmark for smoked meat in Montreal.

                                                                                          Does anyone remember the gum machine that would dispense a stick of Dentyne for a penny?

                                                                            2. re: juliangen

                                                                              Some of our best foods are served in "un-charming environments" so if you get a craving do a take out...
                                                                              I take out smoked meat hot by the lb and pay no tax to marois too.. "But when traveling and need a quick bite it may not be easy"... Cheers!!

                                                                            3. My last 3 visits at Main was a really moist pieces of smoked meat. Man it was good. Actually the best I had in years for texture.

                                                                              But they are not perfect and sometimes you get the rubbeery pieces. Don't be shy and ask them to get another cut from the steamer.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: maj54us

                                                                                their fries are also quite often under or over cooked or old

                                                                              2. We had take out from the main. And it wasn't great, the meat wasn't moist as usual.

                                                                                Place has changed with TV on the wall and a new coat of paint. Makes you wonder if it wasn't sold to new owners. Feeling wasn't the same : (

                                                                                1. I was just wondering, do the other smoked items taste any more smokey than the smoked meat? Or is it just cured, smoked for questionable amount of time if at all and steamed?