Where to eat smoked meat in Montréal
When traveling to a new city—and especially to Montréal—extensive research is required to find great attractions, museums, shows and/or shopping. In truly metropolitan cities, there are endless things to do, but what lures most travelers to Montréal is the food. The city has been deemed a “foodie destination” and several Montréal restaurants have a dedicated clientele that borders on a cult following. This is especially true when it comes to the city’s signature dish: Montréal smoked meat.
What is Montréal smoked meat? The exact history of this type of beef is shrouded in mystery, with many conflicting stories attempting to explain who first introduced the delicacy to Montréal. The general consensus is that we owe the dish to the Jewish diaspora from Romania or Eastern Europe. Montréal smoked meat is brisket brined for up to 14 days in savoury spices like whole peppercorns, coriander, mustard seed and garlic, then smoked and finally steamed for hours before plating. Not to be confused with New York style pastrami—although eaten the same way: on rye bread with yellow mustard—Montréal smoked meat uses the entire brisket, which includes variably fatty parts of the muscle. In contrast, pastrami uses the navel cut which is inherently leaner.
With a few major players in the smoked meat scene, people who pledge alliance to a particular restaurant will shamelessly argue with anyone who opposes their discerning palate.
One of these institutions is without a doubt Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen. This landmark on St. Laurent Boulevard has been slicing up smoked meat since 1928. It boasts a 10-day brine, which in tandem with their spice mix, produces the signature taste exclusive to Schwartz’s. Here, you can order your meat on a scale of “lean” to “fat,” but locals usually order “medium-fat,” the sweet-spot at which die-hard smoked meat aficionados swear the stars align and magic happens. – 3895 Saint Laurent Boulevard
Directly across the street from Schwartz’s is another just as famous Montréal landmark, The Main Steakhouse. With their own smoked meat recipe and equally secretive preparation technique, this casually famous diner has remained friendly and neighborly for the past 40 years. – 3864 Saint-Laurent Boulevard
Another Montréal smoked meat institution is Lester’s Deli in the Outremont neighborhood. Still family owned and run (for over 60 years!), this spot offers a great patio in the summer and kitschy tchotchkes on the walls that would rival any bubbi’s china cabinet. – 1057 Bernard Avenue
Briskets Montréal is located in the Quartier des spectacles downtown. Founded in 1901, it's one of the oldest brasseries in Montréal. It is primarily known for its famous brisket. A perfect combination of family ambiance, warm décor and impeccable service makes Briskets Montréal a destination for smoked meat.
It’s a bold statement when restaurant’s motto is “You can’t beat Pete’s meat.” Luckily, Smoke Meat Pete has the chops to back it up. This popular spot is the ultimate smoked meat outpost just off the western-most point of the island. Pete’s meat is worth the drive and the place is known for being on par with the some of the city’s best, but with parking. – 283 1st Avenue, in île Perrot
Le Roi du Smoked Meat (“The King of Smoked Meat”) is the best smoked meat destination in the Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie neighbourhood. Located along the iconic covered mall on Saint-Hubert Street, this modest spot serves traditional diner fare along with its own signature smoked meat. – 6705 Saint-Hubert Street
Smoked meat and more
Located on one of the busiest intersections in the city, Fameux Viande Fumée et Charcuterie serves up outstanding smoked meat on the Plateau. The restaurant is open until 4 a.m. on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends. Check out a classic smoked meat sandwich or some of their other menu items that feature this Montréal favourite. Smoked meat on poutine, rigatoni, pizza, lasagna or submarines. There’s even smoked meat mac and cheese. You name it, they probably serve it—with smoked meat! – 4500 Saint-Denis Street
Dunn’s Famous Delicatessen is also a name that’s synonymous with Montréal smoked meat. Myer Dunn founded the original deli in 1927, but it wasn’t until 1955 that he opened the flagship restaurant at 1249 Metcalfe Street in the heart of downtown. Gone are the large deli fridges displaying cold cuts and pickles, but the nostalgia remains with colourful murals and walls adorned with newspaper clippings documenting Dunn’s history. Serving more than just smoked meat, their menu doesn’t stray far from what they built their name on, including interesting items like smoked meat spring rolls and smoked meat fried rice. – 1249 Metcalfe Street
Reuben’s has long been a favourite with locals and visitors alike. Located in the heart of the Golden Square Mile, Reuben’s celebrates the time-honoured tradition of hand-cut smoked meat—as evidenced by the clicks and clacks coming from behind the deli counter, where expert carvers show off their craft. The restaurant’s proximity to the Bell Centre makes it a popular spot for a pre-game or post-concert bite. – 1116 Sainte-Catherine Street West
Wherever you get your fix, a trip to Montréal isn’t complete without stuffing your face with our famous smoked meat. Go ahead and order your sandwich with mayo if you’re brave enough to face the glares from locals, but whatever you do, don’t call it pastrami!
Jason Lee, blogger
Jason is a food eater and picture taker. As the blogger behind Shut Up and Eat, he covers everything food, from recipes to reviews. Jason has vowed that he will not stop until he has officially eaten his way across Montréal. It’s a big claim, and it’s one he’s making.
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