Review of Augie's Montreal Smoked Meat Pop up [Oakland]
I'd like to start off by saying that keeping a customer waiting 50 MINUTES for a sandwich and poutine during lunch hour is NEVER acceptable. (at least give your waiting, starving customers a snack while they're waiting)!
My husband is a big fan of Montreal Smoked Meat (as in, his eaten it in Canada), so I was excited to take him to the Augie's Montreal Smoked Meat pop up at Beauty's Bagels today. I worked from home for the day and we drove from El Cerrito over to Temescal to grab a quick lunch.
First thing everyone should know - if you are a vegetarian, your only option is...pickles. So you've been warned. The pop up wasn't very busy (only about 10 customers), so we put in our order for 1 smoked meat sandwich and an order of poutine. And then the waiting began. After 30 minutes (and seeing orders come out about once every 10 minutes), I started to get pretty annoyed - I was starving at this point. When I went to check on the order, I was told by the nice ladies taking orders that they were overwhelmed on their first day by the success of the pop up (again, there were literally 10 customers in this place, so I guess they're pretty easily overwhelmed). I was told out order was up next (ie, half an hour after we placed the order, they hadn't even STARTED on it yet).
And this is the point that really really bugged me - if you know that your orders aren't coming out in a timely manner (like the customer will be waiting a minimum of 30 minutes), then you should warn people ordering, so you can't hold them hostage waiting for food, and they have the option of turning around and eating elsewhere.
As we sat there and continued waiting, I looked around and realized that most of the customers sitting there didn't have food, and not many of them looked pleased about that. After another 10 minutes, I just couldn't take it anymore...I was STARVING...so I walked down half a block and ended up ordering a sandwich from a corner store (which was delicious by the way - they used some type of addictive spicy sauce). I also moved my car, since we didn't expect to be parked for so long...and after that point, our food was finally ready. We ended up getting packed up to go since we both had to get back to work
And after our wait - here's a photo of our food below. When my husband opened the box his response was "We waited 50 minutes for this?" Seriously, I'm not gonna bother reviewing the food, except to say, my $6 turkey sandwich from the corner store that took 3 minutes to make was infinitely better than what we got from Augie's Smoked Meat.
So no, we won't be back, and if you do decide to try it, don't get your hopes up too high... just another overhyped Bay Area pop up.
I arrived at around 11:20 and looked to be the first customer of the day. The wait for me was somewhere around 10 minutes and since the meat is pre-cooked I guessed it was the cooking of the fries causing the wait.
Sandwiches come with either 7 or 12 ounces of meat ($9 & $13 respectively) on Wise Son's Deli Rye with choice of yellow (traditional) or spicy brown (CA style) mustard. I saw after I ordered that you can choose MEDIUM or FAT. In addition to smoke meat sandwiches, they also have fries ($3), poutine with curds and gravy ($4.5), and poutine with smoke meat ($8).
The sandwiches come with two pickle spears and the mustard is slathered on just the top piece of bread. I didn't bring my scale, but it felt like a *very generous* 7 ounces of meat.
The sign outside described their process and product as follows:
"Montreal Smoke Meat is beef brisket hand cured with a mix of herbs and spices for 7 days, then gently cold smoked, baked and seasoned with a pepper and coriander based rub. It's got the spice of pastrami with the tender cumbly texture of corned beef."
The meat was fatty on the edges and had a strong smoky flavor and nice flavors from the spice rub. The texture was still quite firm and chewy, not the tender texture that I was hoping for. Maybe more steaming time needed?
The $4.50 poutine serving is also generously sized. The double-fried fresh cut fries had a nice crispy exterior and soft interior, and the Oakdale Cheese Company cheese curds were good as well. The curds were about the same thickness and in many cases longer than the fries; cutting them into smaller pieces would make the dish easier to eat. The gravy is imported St Hubert poutine sauce and there are cans of this on display on the counter. It seemed a little thin and most had collected on the plate below the fries.
Very friendly staff. The chef (owner?) came out of the kitchen to chat and asked for honest feedback and I did tell him about the texture issue.
While I was there it looked like most of the people who came in didn't know about the pop-up and then more than half left when they couldn't get the bagel they were looking for.
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I gave it a shot last week, but the 90 pounds of meat sold out by 1pm before I arrived. So, I'd say that Augie's has found its audience.
The plan is to continue the Monday pop-up into September, so more chances to try this.
After a couple weeks to settle in I gave Augie's another try. Luckily I got there an ahead of Melanie.
Looks like word is getting out. They were significantly busier than August 5th. @11:45am - I got into a line of around 7 people. While I waited it streched to the door. It took a couple of guys over 5 minutes to order . . . and they only have like 5 items on the menu! It is that hard to decide?
Not that it mattered, because the kitchen was already starting to get backed up.
Anyway, I ordered a little before noon. They said 20 minute wait. They lost my order somewhere as I saw people who ordered after me were getting their food, "Hey wait, shouldn't that be my sandwich?".
I was about to ask about my order, but one worker saw the forlorn look on my face, inquired on what I ordered, and a few minutes later had my L'Original (7 oz sandwich) just under 30 minutes after ordering.
Pros since last time
- Switched from Wise Sons to Acme Rye which is more "rye-y" and denser so held up better in the sandwich.
- Meat *much* more tender than last time. You can see from the cross section picture that it's more "flakey" for lack of the technical term.
- Much smaller sandwich than last time. Both the surface area of the Acme bread slices (Acme actually says the thin shape is to suggest pastrami sandwiches http://acmebread.com/bread/rye) and the total amount of meat. Neutral because, truth be told, this was probably on the mark for advertised 7 oz vs. last time.
- Still good flavors from the rub and smoking.
- Much more rub than last time, bordering on quite salty in some bites.
At around 12:25 they announced it's a 30 minute wait for food. I guess going from 20 minutes to 30 minutes is the inflection point for waiting on your weekday lunch. The line went from almost to the door to 2-3 people in seconds.
Which may have been a good thing because a few minutes later they ran out of bread. I heard the order taker say they would do meat plates . . . and it sounds like they ran out of meat soon thereafter.
Their Facebook now says hours are 11-2pm instead of 11-3pm. They're not increasing the amount of meat (90 lbs) so that still might be optimistic.
got here before 12 @8/26. few people in line. only a few tables occupied in dining area.
opted for poultine with smoked meats (8) which had double fried kennebec potatoes, cheese curds, and "generous" serving of smoked meats. (choose this to sample a cross section of the menu).
-first noticed no meats anywhere in order, (they forgot)
-meats, 10ish small pieces, briny, chewy, salty, reminded me of tuff corn beef
-fries, tasty but soggy
-cheese turds dense, chewy just plain, no virgin taste
-everything has a lite sauce to it.
-pleasant service, food not encorable unless one loves sodium.
-foods had a briny, salty edge.
-5 minutes to order, at most 10 minutes wait for food + a few minutes to retrace "missing" meats. (it took me a few minutes to walk back, meat immediately replenished.)