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Oct 28, 2002 03:14 PM

The city's best sandwich?

  • c

What's your nomination for the best sandwich in Montreal?

Note that I'm not asking for the name of the best sandwich shop--a subject worthy of a separate thread--but the single best sandwich. And, for purposes of discussion, I'd like to suggest we declare Schwartz's smoked meat sandwich "hors concours" (it wouldn't make it onto my list anyway...).

Definition of a sandwich: a piece of bread or pastry (slices, loaf, roll, bun, croissant, pita, bagel, etc.), often spread with a sauce, on or in which is placed one or more savory and/or sweet ingredients and which is usually topped with another piece of bread of pastry. Often served cold or room temp, sometimes heated.

After much agonzing, I cast my vote for a legendary sub from the Italian butcher on the southwest corner of Jean-Talon Market (Capitol?). It was a two-person affair, made to order (actually we saw them assembling one for another customer and simply said "the same, please"): a narrow loaf of crusty Italian bread, split lengthwise, three or four types of coldcuts, none of them too spicy; a double layer of freshly sliced provalone; paper-thin slices of ripe tomato; pickled hot peppers; a fluff of shredded lettuce; and a drizzle of vinaigrette. While feasting on it during the intermission of one of the plays in the Les Atrides cycle, we received many a covetous look from other theatre-goers and even a member of the cast. We talked about that sandwich for days, and yet I've never ordered another one. Hmmm... maybe this weekend!

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  1. I had a lot of thoughts; the Pepper Island at Santropol (ham, cheese spread, jalepeno jelly on that great brown bread of theirs); bad shish taouk at 3AM; the burger at p'tita pitata; or even my burgers. ;)

    Then I realized that the best sandwich has got to draw you back to it: The grilled beef vietnamese sandwich at Hoang Oanh (one of the first places on the left as you walk south into Chinatown). Some grilled beef, pickled (vinegared?) carrots and onions, a little pate, cilantro, nouc dam* and a few hot peppers. I eat about one a week. 3 bucks.

    (*That Vietnamese fish sauce--or thats what I think they squirt in. Asian cooking east of Inda mystifies me. I can't get it right, and so have stopped trying to really understand it as deeply as I get French.)

    3 Replies
    1. re: John Green

      That sammich sounds like a winner, John. What kind of bread is it served on? And the resto's on your left as you walk south into Chinatown on St. Lawrence? My stomach's growling...

      As I said, I agonized before nominating the sub. My shortlist included the chicken sandwich at Coco Rico, a beef burrito from whatever that taqueria on the west side of St. Lawrence just below Marie-Anne is called these days, a cheese and veggie panini at the Cafe International on St. Lawrence in Little Italy (hmmm, what is it about St. Lawrence and sandwiches?) and a sandwich from a long-gone Drummond St. shop in the now-demolished building just north of the old YMCA: an 8-inch baguette, split lengthwise, topped with drained, oil-packed tuna, garnished with pitted black Morrocan olives at 1-inch intervals, the top piece of bread smeared with homemade harissa. Austere but elegant and beautiful: the black dress and string of pearls of the Montreal sandwich world.

      You're right that Far Eastern cooking is mysterious, especially here in Montreal, where all the Thai restaurants are owned and staffed by Chinese and most of the sushi joints are run by Vietnamese. A book I've found useful for getting my bearings is Charmaine Solomon's Encyclopedia of Asian Food.

      1. re: carswell

        "where all the Thai restaurants are owned and staffed by Chinese..."

        In my experience, it's a split between ethnic Chinese and ethnic Vietnamese. But not all: The Thai place ("Thai grill"?) at the northeast corner of Laurier and St-Laurent has a Thai chef. And, in my experience, the best Thai place in Mtl is owned and run by a Thai family: I think it's called Bangkok something on the upper level of the Faubourg Ste-Catherine shopping mall on Ste-Catherine.

      2. re: John Green

        By the way, I wonder what Santropol is doing now that St. Lawrence Bakery has closed (that's where they got their bread, isn't it?). What a shame.

        Also want to retract the indirect recco of the taqueria on St-Laurent just south of Marie-Anne (its current name is Taqueria Mex). Dropped by for supper last week and was underwhelmed. The corn tortillas were stale (they used to have a tortilla machine), the cheese a mix of orange and white cheddar (they used to use Monterrey jack), the meat was oversalted, and their prices were high: a chicken taco, cheese quesedilla, side of iceberg lettuce with a couple of avocado slices, and a glass of Boréal ran $13. Also, they made the taco with two corn tortillas stuck together with melted cheese. I should have known something was afoot when they delivered my order less than five minutes after I placed it; they used to cook everything from scratch, which meant a 10 to 15-minute wait before you were served. Service was not with a smile, either. The flavours (except for the tortillas) were still pretty good and I don't know where else one can go for a quick taco hit, but it's no longer worth making a detour for.

      3. It's difficult to think of ONE sandwich in particular, but I'll choose the merguez sandwich at Sekso on Bélanger (near Louis-Hébert, if I remember well). There is no simpler sandwich: a few merguez sausages (made with lamb meat, as it is always supposed to be), in a small baguette. No condiment, just a small salad served on the side. Very satisfying.

        Plus, the place is in the kind of neighborhood I like to go to: out of the way, in an unremarkable area that has nevertheless many hidden jewels that you will never see advertised or reviewed in the paper.

        1 Reply
        1. re: quincy

          Thanks for the recco, quincy. Will keep it in mind the next time I'm in the 'hood. I do love merguez.

          >a few merguez sausages (made with lamb meat, as
          >it is always supposed to be)

          Had to laugh when I read this. A new Lebanese resto in my neighbourhood is actually making a big deal of the fact that *their* merguez are 100% beef. Infidels! Guess where I haven't eaten...

          >Plus, the place is in the kind of neighborhood I like
          >to go to: out of the way, in an unremarkable area
          >that has nevertheless many hidden jewels that you
          >will never see advertised or reviewed in the paper.

          Exactly. Discovering some hidden jewels, places you'll learn about only by word of mouth, was the idea behind my original post. While I'm disappointed that it generated only two responses, that's two sandwiches I didn't know about before. Thanks again for the lead and the interesting comments.