Schwartz Montreal: A Montreal Smoked Meat Deli Review

Schwartz Montreal: Bottom Line

Schwartz's Deli is Montreal's best known smoked meat joint.
Finn O'Hara / Getty Images

Truth be told, Schwartz's Deli isn't the end all of Montreal smoked meat. There's more than a few joints specializing in that distinct Montreal flavor but for some reason, Schwartz's gets all the attention.

And, if truth be told again, its smoked meat sandwich deserves all the free publicity it gets. But there are two things you must do to maximize said sandwich and your Schwartz's experience: show up at 11:30 a.m., or earlier, and get the "fatty" version of Schwartz's smoked meat sandwich. On a diet or squeamish about too much fat in your meat? Fine, get the medium-fat. Or medium. Any leaner and you'll miss out.


Schwartz Montreal Smoked Meat Deli: Pros

  • great smoked meat
  • large chunks of smoked meat and spices available to go
  • served any way you like it: choice of fat, medium-fat, medium, medium-lean or lean
  • affordable prices: less than $12 a person for smoked meat with fries (note: portions are much smaller than at New York's Katz's)
  • a takeout counter allows clients who either don't want to sit down or just want their order to go the option to bypass lineups


Schwartz Montreal Smoked Meat Deli: Cons

  • annoying lineups
  • though it's a technically a Jewish institution, meat is not kosher
  • quality of the fries is inconsistent
  • no-linger policy if joint is packed (which it almost always is): place your order, eat, and get out
  • service can be abrupt (you know, with the deli being almost always packed and all)


Schwartz Montreal: A Schwartz Montreal Deli Review

Nestled in Montreal's Plateau neighborhood, Schwartz Deli is a landmark on the Main, an establishment management swears is the oldest deli in Canada, open since 1928.

Oldest deli or not, it's kind of hard to pass by without noticing Schwartz's usual slew of tourists and locals dutifully waiting their turn in lineups that can span a block on a warm summer's day. And yes, many claim it's worth the wait, but I'm one of those who would rather eat second best than be forced to linger an hour before getting served so I plan my trips accordingly: some afternoons after 2 p.m. are manageable but there's no lineup-free guarantee quite like getting there at 11:30 a.m. Or earlier.

Another perk of getting there before noon is you're much more likely to land a coveted seat at the counter where all the meat cutting and employee banter occurs. Otherwise, resign yourself to the wooden tables and be happy you got a seat at all in the spartan, old-school diner where you're about to eat the (arguably) best smoked meat in Montreal.


Okay. Okay. We Get It. Schwartz's Makes the Best Smoked Meat in Montreal.

Wrong. Schwartz's makes the best smoked meat in the world. Cured and/or wet brined, smoked and/or baked, steamed, or not, or all of the above, copycats would have to replicate the spices and traditional preparation process to even begin dreaming of giving Schwartz's a run for their money. Whatever that is. I've read/heard so many different explanations on how Schwartz's works its meat without any mention of who was interviewed to get that information, even in high-profile news reports, that I refuse to buy one explanation over another. Regardless, all the replicating in the world won't work unless you score the proper cut of meat from the right supplier: think tender, marbled brisket from the chest, with muscle fibers barely held together by a web of evenly distributed fat that injects flavor into every bite of that crumbly, flaky, perfect mess.

Hence my insistence you order a medium cut or fatter. No fat equals no web. No web equals less flavor and moisture. In other words: if you're going to sample the best smoked meat on the planet, do it right. At least the first time.


Schwartz's Deli

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