Best Jewish Food Restaurants in Montreal, Quebec Canada

Two years in and it is nonetheless a shock to seek out myself dwelling in Canada. Back in 2019, I adopted my Houston-born spouse from Brooklyn to Toronto for her job. I’ve no connections up this manner, however Rachel’s household historical past offers me and the youngsters on the spot Canadian roots. Unfortunately, on the bagels-and-lox, pastrami-on-rye entrance, these roots have not achieved a lot to transform this New Yorker to the northern variations of these cherished immigrant meals.

My Toronto neighbors shook their heads. If I needed to be efficiently evangelized to Canadian Jewish delicacies, they mentioned, I wanted to go to Montreal, their capital of kosher-style eats. So final September I rented a automotive, threw my toothbrush and a defibrillator in the trunk, and headed off for a weekend marathon of nitrates and carbs.

This form of gastronomic pilgrimage known as for a non secular information. Who higher than my Montreal-born father-in-law, Louis, who might give me the household historical past whereas we ate karnatzel at his beloved Snowdon Deli and tucked in to the time-honored breakfast of hungover McGill college students—the “mish-mash” at Beautys Luncheonette? I known as Louis in Texas, the place he is lived for almost 50 years, and instructed him to hop on a airplane. 

Two pictures from Montreal, together with a cream cheese and salmon bagel and a deli menu board

From left: Cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomato, and onion on a bagel at Beautys Luncheonette; the menu board at Lester’s Deli, a research in old-school Montreal. | Credit: Dominique Lafond

Louis and I began out early on a Saturday in the outdated Jewish neighborhood of Mile End. St.-Laurent Boulevard, which cuts by it, was a type of immigrant thoroughfare a century again. With the French settling to the east and the English to the west, Greek, Chinese, and Jewish immigrants had been crowded alongside the boulevard in the center. This is the place Louis’s grandparents (and my youngsters’ great-great-grandparents), Litvaks from Belarus, opened their fruit stand and the place Louis’s father grew up. 

Peek at a aspect road and you may’t assist noticing a winningly weird architectural characteristic of this very wintry metropolis. Perilous-looking and sometimes stunning outside staircases and landings are affixed to the fronts of the homes, as should you took the widespread areas that go inside a constructing and caught them outside—which is actually what they did. I did not even get to ask what occurs once they freeze earlier than Louis instructed me the story of his father, as somewhat boy, tumbling down a flight of these icy stairs.

We met Mélissa Simard, our information from ‘Round Table Tours, exterior St.-Viateur Bagel, a storefront empire that churns out a thousand dozen bagels a day. You could also be questioning: if I invited Louis alongside for that very function, why would my information want a information? First, he is been in the States so lengthy he would not have any details about something that occurred in the province of Quebec after 1969. And second, Mélissa’s Jewish Montreal tour got here so extremely really useful that we could not resist. I’m glad we did not. Every minute was pure pleasure.

Two pictures from Montreal Canada present bagels at St Viateur and a sandwich at Beautys

From left: St.-Viateur bagels, recent from the wood-fired oven; the breakfast soften at Beautys: bacon, eggs, cheese, and tomato on grilled challah. | Credit: Dominique Lafond

Inside St.-Viateur, three folks work the wood-fired oven, the rings of dough going in on one aspect, and a mountain of scorching sesames resting on a type of off-ramp to the cooling bin on the opposite. No must worry the weekend-morning bagel line in Montreal. It simply strikes and strikes. There’s no scooped-out-oat-with-a-light-shmear-double-toasted-with-onion-tomato-and-a-black-coffee-please at this location. You simply get your bagels and go.

My first hot-out-of-the-oven St.-Viateur sesame was a really transcendent, totally spiritual expertise. I do not know what the time period for polyamory is in the bagel world, however—with due respect to my house metropolis—a honey-boiled, wood-fired, crisp on the surface, gentle and chewy on the within, St.-Viateur’s sesame delivered a life-changing first chunk. I used to be in love!

Mélissa took us from there to Lester’s Deli, which is in a fancy-looking French-Canadian stretch of the neighborhood, although at that hour it was principally canine walkers on their morning constitutionals and Hasidim in massive fur shtreimels heading off to shul. Despite my sesame-bagel success, I used to be nonetheless nervous about attempting the deli. I calmed myself with the information that, ought to the eating places fail us, Louis and I might make our personal gefilte fish again on the lodge. We had been staying in a Four Seasons that lives on high of the Holt Renfrew Ogilvy division retailer. Both of our rooms had been outfitted with luxuriously large soaking tubs excellent for stocking reside carp (precisely as Louis’s grandmother did in a smaller bathtub not removed from the place we stood).

Two pictures from Montreal traditional deli restaurant Lester’s

From left: Slicing into the well-known smoked meat at Lester’s; the completed sandwich, in all its nitrate-steeped glory. | Credit: Dominique Lafond

I needn’t have apprehensive. Lester’s greater than delivered from the moment that its proprietor, Bill Berenholc, got here by to say whats up and pretended to squirt mustard on my father-in-law—a gag he’d clearly repeated infinite instances however that also killed. The deli itself has a 50s-era, sepia-toned inside, with tchotchkes and bric-a-brac on each non-table floor. The partitions are coated with pictures, together with the requisite signed headshot of William Shatner, captain of the Enterprise and Montreal’s favourite Jewish son.

When our tasting plates confirmed up, every had a half sandwich, chopped liver, and a frivolously cured lox. The half serving made sense, as we had many extra locations to go. Also, it was nonetheless solely 8:30 in the morning.

Then, expensive reader, I had my first style of a Montreal smoked-meat sandwich, on the softest rye bread I’ve ever had. This is what I had pushed all this manner for—and the smoked meat was completely astounding. It was moister and extra melt-in-your-mouth than pastrami, its New York cousin. Bill instructed me that they treatment their beef with a moist brine earlier than smoking after which steam-heat it. They use the brisket reduce, whereas pastrami comes from the navel. With no scarcity of pleasure, he mentioned that it is an deliberately extra tender cook dinner, earlier than tracing smoked meat’s historical past again to Romanian charcuterie.

After I cleared my plate (and most of Louis’s), Mélissa took us on a Jewish literary spin. We handed the properties of poets Melech Ravich (who translated Kafka into Yiddish) and Rokhl Korn, and stopped exterior a former residence of Mordecai Richler, Montreal’s most well-known Jewish author. The neighborhood library now bears his identify, and an artsy mural of Richler graces a small constructing close by. It’s a formidable tribute, so long as you do not evaluate it to the 20-story mural of Leonard Cohen over on Crescent Street.

Two pictures of Wilensky’s Light Lunch in Montreal, Canada, displaying the outside and the lunch counter

From left: The exterior of Wilensky’s Light Lunch; the Wilensky’s counter. | Credit: Dominique Lafond

Richler’s career-making novel, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, was made right into a film that was partly shot at Wilensky’s Light Lunch. Sharon Wilensky, whose father, Moe, was the restaurant’s founder, instructed me he appeared in the movie as “Sid,” the assistant to the actor taking part in his fictionalized self.

Wilensky’s is a superbly appointed time capsule, with a traditional lunch counter and a working soda fountain from which Sharon drew my first-ever chocolate egg cream, a drink I’d solely ever heard my Brooklyn-born dad wax lyrical about. 

Sharon had tears in her eyes when she shared that, regardless of taking up, it was nonetheless her father’s retailer. She continues to serve “the special,” their signature sandwich, composed of grilled salami and bologna on a roll that has likewise been grilled and, in the method, flattened. The sandwich comes with mustard—all the time. There was a stretch the place you can order one with out mustard for a nickel surcharge. Those loosey-goosey days are lengthy gone.

Louis and I mentioned our goodbyes to Mélissa and roamed town earlier than our meal at Beautys Luncheonette. Opened in 1942 by Freda and Hymie Sckolnick, Beautys is a glowing white-tile and chrome diner with sensational blue banquettes. We walked in on a candy scene, as three generations of Sckolnicks had been working that day. There was Larry, the gray-haired son of Freda and Hymie, together with Larry’s daughters, Julie and Elana, and Elana’s 17-year-old daughter, Ruby, in a white apron, ready on clients and studying the enterprise.

A motion-blur photograph of a restaurant holding plates in a diner

Breakfast is served at Beautys. | Credit: Dominique Lafond

I swooned over their cheese blintzes earlier than digging in to the aptly named “mish-mash,” an omelette with every little thing thrown in. There are peppers and salami and scorching canine and onions, together with a aspect of house fries and a toasted bagel to your troubles.

For each multigenerational restaurant like Beautys maintaining the religion, there is a new one bringing its personal twist to Jewish deli traditions. Arthurs Nosh Bar is the shining star on that entrance. I’d eat every little thing there, together with the pink neon signal hanging over the door. Its house owners—Raegan Steinberg and her husband, Alex Cohen—magically flip every little thing beneath their roof into one thing each scrumptious and visually gorgeous. I went for the “latke smorgasbord,” which consists of a pressed challah roll, scrambled eggs, gravlax, a latke, and Israeli salad. We could not resist ordering the syrniki, their terribly fluffy cottage-cheese pancakes, for the desk. In the phrases of my folks, they’re to die for!

On Sunday, Louis and I checked out of the Four Seasons, telling ourselves we could not reside there endlessly. (Though, with quite a few flooring devoted to flats, apparently some folks can.) We had cleared the day for the family-history tour, which meant a go to to the cemetery and Louis’s faculties, in addition to pilgrimages to different ancestral websites. Then we would partake of the sandwich that had been constructed as much as me greater than any of the others. Lunch could be at Snowdon Deli, Louis’s lifelong spot, whose smoked meat I’d been listening to about ever since Rachel launched me to the dad and mom.

To get to the opposite aspect of city we crossed Mount Royal, the mountain in the middle of town after which Montreal is known as. It’s house to an enormous park designed by none aside from Frederick Law Olmsted, of Central Park fame. At the highest there is a scenic overlook, a straightforward spot for Louis to level out the St. Lawrence River, in the center of which the island of Montreal sits. And not solely is Montreal an island. It’s a part of an archipelago—which makes it sound prefer it needs to be extra tropical than it’s.

Two restaurant house owners in their restaurant in Montreal

Alex Cohen (left) and Raegan Steinberg of Arthurs Nosh Bar. | Credit: Dominique Lafond

On the west aspect of the mountain, beside a Gordian knot of freeway interchanges, a fetching three-story orange sits in the center of a car parking zone, like a rising blood moon. This construction is house to Gibeau Orange Julep, the one place to which my spouse requested I pay homage. To her, skipping it might be like visiting Paris with out seeing the Eiffel Tower. Louis handed me my cup with a bottoms-up look, and we each took a pull off our straws. The drink that Orange Julep churns out is neither shake nor juice. What it tastes like is the milk you’d get should you mated a Holstein cow with a navel orange after which fed the offspring a food regimen of pure sugar.

It’s a brief drive from there to Louis’s childhood house. After probably horrifying the present house owners with our lurking, we walked to the one and solely Snowdon Deli. From the surface—nicely, for example it has the façade of a well-maintained medium-security jail. But inside, it is all heimishe communal heat. A waitress known as me “sweetie,” and the hostess made certain we had been cozy in our sales space.

At this level, I used to be apprehensive for my father-in-law, for his Proustian smoked-meat recollections, for the exalted claims he had made. We ordered two sandwiches, kasha and bow ties, poutine, and, to high it off, a karnatzel—a dried sausage particular to Montreal Jewish delis—since you should not starve.

Without generosity or favoritism, I can inform you it was a unprecedented smoked-meat sandwich. Better even than I dreamed. Louis’s deli didn’t let him down. And I implore you, even should you’re staying by McGill or Mile End, it is price crossing the mountain to get to Snowdon Deli. The sandwich is that good. 

Two pictures from Beba restaurant, in Montreal, displaying the house owners and a guinea fowl dish

From left: Brothers Pablo (left) and Ari Schoor in the eating room of their Argentine-inspired restaurant, Beba; guinea fowl with chanterelle mushrooms and poached livers at Beba. | Credit: Dominique Lafond

By afternoon, I felt just like the deli model of a coal miner on the finish of his shift. My fingers had been half-cured themselves, and I had mustard lining my nails. That’s once we hit Schwartz’s, essentially the most well-known of all of the delis, which is partly owned by Celine Dion. Rumor has it that she sings and picks up everybody’s checks when she pops by. We ate our sandwiches after which checked in to the newly renovated Le Germain Hotel. The redesign has a Nineteen Sixties theme, in order that, for Louis, it is a trendy, Peloton-equipped embodiment of his Montreal heyday. The loos are wallpapered with pictures of former Habs hockey greats. I used to be sincerely blissful for him, realizing he might brush his enamel whereas looking at his hero, Big Jean Béliveau.

Even should you eat eight lunches, dinnertime comes regardless. We pointed the automotive towards a restaurant known as Beba, out in the borough of Verdun. When Louis was rising up, Verdun was a working-class, “dry” county. It’s not the place he’d look forward to finding a cutting-edge bistro. 

We pulled as much as Beba, somewhat gem on the nook. Though I used to be blissful for a romantic dinner with my father-in-law, I used to be already dreaming of coming again on a date with my spouse. Beba’s house owners, Ari and Pablo Shor, are Argentine Jewish brothers who moved to Canada as boys. They opened in the summer time of 2019, that means they’d a scant few months earlier than the pandemic shuttered the place they usually discovered themselves promoting empanadas out of the entrance door.

Ari, the chef, is humble regardless of a formidable kitchen pedigree. He describes himself as “cooking the food of immigrants.” True to the brothers’ heritage, the restaurant has an Argentine-Jewish-influenced menu, which permits for Ashkenazi, Spanish, and basic Mediterranean and South American flavors. The eggplant arrived, topped with end-of-the-season romano beans, ajo blanco, and brilliant, roasted crimson peppers, which Ari mentioned are precisely as his dad and mom all the time made them.

Two pictures from Montreal, displaying a skyline scene, and the large orange sphere at Gibeau Orange Julep

From left: Rue de la Commune, a boulevard in the Old Montreal neighborhood; Gibeau Orange Julep, a roadside fast-food joint often called a lot for its spherical 1945 constructing as for its signature orange drink. | Credit: Dominique Lafond

Whenever Ari describes a dish’s origins he says one thing like, “We were doing it this way, then someone in the kitchen had an idea and I said, ‘Let’s try it.’ ” Beyond being charming, his open-mindedness infuses the entire place with a collaborative really feel. Nothing summed that up greater than the day’s particular, impressed by a pal of Ari’s in Hong Kong. It was Beba’s tackle drunken rooster—a plate of guinea fowl au jus, brined for 2 weeks and served with chanterelles and poached livers. I’ve been writing for greater than 20 years, and I do not assume I’ve typed this phrase earlier than, however right here it’s: that dish was straight-up chic.

All the whereas, Pablo labored the wine, providing up dizzyingly nice decisions. We drank a Vermentino from Liguria known as Meigamma, adopted by a glass of a super-smooth volcanic crimson. Louis thought the wine an ideal complement to our entire weekend. “Some sulfites to go with our nitrates,” he mentioned at first sip. 

It was a dream closing dinner that introduced all of it house. The ancestral meals. The family-run kitchen. And all of it served with a aspect of domestically sourced Canadian culinary gumption—each dish a testomony to a tradition-loving and ever-changing Montreal. 

Eat Your Way Across Montreal

Where to Stay

Four Seasons Hotel: This 169-room property close to downtown gives true class. Doubles from $380.

Le Germain Hotel: A contemporary lodge steps from McGill University. Doubles from $244.

Where to Eat

Arthurs Nosh Bar: A brilliant-stylish area. Don’t miss the syrniki! Entrées $9–$15.

Beba: An elegant Argentine bistro. Entrées $33–$64.

Schwartz’s: The most well-known smoked-meat deli. Entrées $6–$19.

Snowdon Deli: A family-friendly spot off the vacationer monitor. Entrées $6–$18.

Wilensky’s Light Lunch: The star is “the special”: salami, bologna, and mustard on a roll. Sandwiches $4–$6.

What to Do

‘Round Table Tours: Eating and consuming adventures, together with Mélissa Simard’s 3½-hour Jewish Montreal tour. From $58.

A model of this story first appeared in the February 2022 concern of Travel + Leisure beneath the headline From Bagels to Brisket.

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