Sample the best Jewish food in Montreal on a tour of the city’s delis, bagel shops, and luncheonettes.
If wanted to be successfully evangelized to Canadian Jewish cuisine, visit Montreal, their capital of kosher-style eats.
With the French settling to the east and the English to the west, Greek, Chinese, and Jewish immigrants were crowded along the boulevard in the middle. This is where Louis’s grandparents (and my kids’ great-great-grandparents), Litvaks from Belarus, opened their fruit stand and where Louis’s father grew up.
Peek at a side street and you can’t help noticing a winningly bizarre architectural feature of this very wintry city. Perilous-looking and often beautiful outdoor staircases and landings are affixed to the fronts of the houses, as if you took the common spaces that go inside a building and stuck them outdoors—which is literally what they did.
Inside St.-Viateur, three people work the wood-fired oven, the rings of dough going in on one side, and a mountain of hot sesames resting on a kind of off-ramp to the cooling bin on the other. No need to fear the weekend-morning bagel line in Montreal. It just moves and moves. There’s no scooped-out-oat-with-a-light-shmear-double-toasted-with-onion-tomato-and-a-black-coffee-please at this location. You just get your bagels and go.
My first hot-out-of-the-oven St.-Viateur sesame was a truly transcendent, fully religious experience. I don’t know what the term for polyamory is in the bagel world, but—with due respect to my home city—a honey-boiled, wood-fired, crisp on the outside, light and chewy on the inside, St.-Viateur’s sesame delivered a life-changing first bite.
Lester’s Deli, which is in a fancy-looking French-Canadian stretch of the neighborhood, though at that hour it was mostly dog walkers on their morning constitutionals and Hasidim in big fur shtreimels heading off to shul.
When tasting plates showed up, each had a half sandwich, chopped liver, and a lightly cured lox.
You can taste of a Montreal smoked-meat sandwich, on the softest rye bread I’ve ever had.