If you are a resident of Montreal’s hip neighbourhood the “Plateau” on the Main, you’re fated to spend at least a few moments of your day dodging tourists lined up outside Schwartz’s, a historic Montreal deli.
The area now houses a slew of coffee shops, local theatres, fancy boutiques and a few pharmacies while Schwartz’s stands as a representation of Montreal at the beginning of the 20th century. Schwartz’s has been proud to serve as a Montreal establishment for over 90 years. It was founded in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania. The deli hasn’t changed locations since, and still displays its original name, “Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen” beneath its newer moniker.
Walking through its doors is a time warp, as well as a sensory overload. The potent smell of decades of meat marinating fill the air while black and white photos of past patrons adorn the walls, between which tourists and some locals alike munch on cheap grub. The deli is proud to serve all chemical- and preservative-free items. While a few other delis remain in the area, Schwartz’s continues to be one of the most frequented in the city. The secret is in the Schwartz’s speciality spices, not to mention the timely process of cooking the meat. The meat is smoked daily and then marinated for ten days.
So beloved is the restaurant that when Quebec declared the official language of the province to be French, Schwartz’s was specifically allowed to retain the apostrophe in its name despite no such grammar mark being used in the language. The gesture may seem small, but it is quite telling in the fiercely Francophone province.
Celine Dion and her husband Rene Angelil, along with the well-known restauranteur Paul Nakis, bought the establishment for 10 million dollars in 2012. There is no news yet on whether the new ownership will change anything about this iconic deli.