Schwartz's was on my must visit list on a recent trip to Montreal. I went and it truly fits the bill - iconic, historic, atmospheric in its own way. You must go there, if only to fend off post visit incredulity on the part of kibbitzers. But for this purpose you only need to go there once. The food and most of all the smoked meat sandwich is what you would expect. It is good and does not disappoint. But as a friend and long-time Montrealer says, you can get just as good down the street or elsewhere in town without having to wait in line.
We did of course wait in line, but only for a short time. They say that timing is everything and in this case they are right. I would try to avoid coming at standard mealtimes when the line can become quite lengthy. At other times the wait is not too long.
Speaking of standard, we ordered the standard offerings - smoked meat sandwich with fries. Isn't that what most people look for at Schwartz's? And it was fine. I suggest ordering the medium fatty meat that naturally is more flavorful than the lean version. After all we're not going to Schwartz's to diet.
Service was friendly and helpful and we felt no pressure to hurry. Nevertheless, this isn't the place for a leisurely repast with wine. You want to get in there as quickly as possible, eat your sandwich and leave.
The place exists in some kind of time warp and thankfully no significant effort has been made to update the decor. Nevertheless, time and historical developments have taken most of the "Hebrew" (i.e. Jewish) out of what was in the old days one of the symbols of a vibrant immigrant. Now it's more like Montmartre in Paris - kept going for the tourists. Long may it continue.
Go visit this landmark and have your smoked meat sandwich for old time's take. But once will be sufficient.
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