An All-Time Great Sandwich from Schwartz’s Deli

Schwartz's Deli
Location
: 3895 Saint Laurent Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec
Website: https://schwartzsdeli.com/

It’s been over a decade since I’ve been to Schwartz’s, Montreal’s legendary purveyor of smoked meat, and I wondered: is it as amazing as I remembered?  Sometimes nostalgia can turn rosy memories into an unobtainable ideal, and of course, legendary restaurants like Schwartz’s run the risk of being overhyped.

Schwartz's Deli

Well, it turns out that Schwartz’s isn’t quite as amazing as I remembered — it’s even better, somehow??  Their smoked meat sandwich might literally be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Schwartz's Deli

I should note that I ordered the sandwich fatty, which is clearly the way to go: the fat here is creamy and luxurious, basically melting in your mouth like unctuous meat butter.  It’s so good.

Schwartz's Deli

The ultra-tender meat is crazy delicious; I don’t know what’s in the spicing, but it’s absolutely perfect.  But then everything here is absolutely perfect: the meat is super tender, incredibly flavourful, and just the best thing ever.  The absolute best.  The sandwich has the perfect amount of meat, too — it’s generous, but not a comically tall pile that’s impossible to eat.

Schwartz's Deli

I got a side order of coleslaw, which was crunchy and zingy — the perfect counterpoint to the indulgent sandwich.

Hot tip: if you’re planning on coming here (and yes, it’s worth the drive to Montreal for this place alone), arrive early.  I showed up at about 10:30 in the morning; the place was already quite busy, but I was able to get a counter seat immediately.  By the time I left, the place was packed and there was a line out the door.

Seed to Sausage Meatery at the Food District in Square One

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square OneLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Website: https://www.seedtosausage.ca/

The Food District in Square One is the latest in the recent trend of upmarket food courts that have been popping up throughout the city.  This is one of the more delightful food trends of late.  All the convenience of a food court, but with above average food?  Yes please.

Or is it above average?  Maybe not.  Enter: Seed to Sausage Meatery, which has an “award-winning” Montreal smoked meat sandwich on their menu (though the menu isn’t forthcoming on what this mysterious award might actually be).

Award-winning or not, I can’t say no to a smoked meat sandwich.

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square One

Alas, it’s not great.  The meat is very thinly machine-sliced; normally I prefer the more satisfying thickness of hand-cut meat, but in this case, that just isn’t possible.  If you sliced this meat too thickly, it’d be like trying to eat your belt.  It would be completely inedible.

It’s tough.  The fat is just barely rendered, and the meat is dry and sinewy and difficult to bite through.  And yet somehow, it’s absolutely dripping with grease.  It might be the greasiest smoked meat sandwich I’ve ever had.  The grease soaked through the bread and turned it into mush in parts.

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square One

It’s too bad, because the flavour is actually pretty good.  It’s a touch too salty, but it’s nicely spiced and has a mild but satisfying smokiness.  And the fresh, tasty bread was way above average — it was the best part of the sandwich by far.  So there’s definitely potential there.

I got a salad on the side instead of fries, which was clearly a mistake.  I went with the field greens salad, which comes with a vinaigrette that’s so intensely sweet you could put it on ice cream.  Remember Tahiti Treat?  I hadn’t thought about that soda in years, but as soon as I tried the dressing here, I flashed right back.  That’s how sweet it was.

It’s technically food court fare, so at least if the meal had been cheap, it might be possible to overlook some of its issues.  It isn’t; it’s $15.95 for the sandwich and one side, which makes it more expensive than unambiguously superior restaurants like Centre Street Deli and SumiLicious.

Decent BBQ at Beauty Barbecue & Smokehouse

Beauty BBQ & SmokehouseLocation: 2901 Bayview Avenue, North York
Websitehttps://www.beautybbq.com/

Judging by Toronto’s restaurants, really great barbecue must be the toughest thing to get right.  Because there are a lot of BBQ joints in the GTA, and very, very few of them are much better than okay.

You can add Beauty Barbecue & Smokehouse to the “okay” list.  It’s fine.  I didn’t dislike eating there.  It’s certainly not great, but I’ve had worse barbecue in the city.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

I tried three things and a couple of sides: smoked + roasted pork shoulder, Torontreal smoked meat, and baby back ribs, along with grilled cornbread and kale coleslaw.  I was really hoping to try the brisket; alas, it was sold out.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The pork shoulder was the oddest of the bunch.  It didn’t even vaguely resemble the pulled pork you might be expecting from a barbecue joint.  Instead, it was thinly sliced and tasted more like porchetta than something you’d find in the American south, with an overwhelmingly herby, rosemary-tinged flavour.  I suspect it hadn’t seen a smoker in many hours (if not days) as it had zero smokiness and a mildly gamy reheated pork flavour.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The Torontreal smoked meat was a definite upgrade over the pork.  Though it can’t compete with the best smoked meat in the city, it was nicely spiced and had a surprisingly smoky flavour.  But the meat was tough and the fat was vaguely rubbery.  Despite the fact that it was sliced very thinly, it was disconcertingly difficult to cut with a plastic knife.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The ribs were the best of the bunch.  They had a good level of smoke and a nice texture — tender, but with a bit of bite.  Something about them wasn’t quite clicking (I think maybe the rub?), but the vinegary-sweet sauce was tasty, and it was overall a quality rack of ribs.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

As for the two sides, they were both solid.  Neither particularly stood out, but the coleslaw was nice and zingy, and the cornbread was sweet, buttery, and satisfying.

The Reuben at Maker Pizza

Maker PizzaLocation: 59 Cameron Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.makerpizza.com/

A Reuben pizza is one of those things that’s simultaneously ridiculous and oddly compelling.  It probably shouldn’t work, and yet… as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to eat it.

Here’s how Maker’s menu describes it: “Montreal smoked meat, mustard béchamel, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, everything bagel crust.”

It sounds absurd (and amazing).  It looks absurd (and amazing).

Alas, it’s just absurd — it’s not particularly amazing.

Maker Pizza

I will say that the (non-absurd) pizza at Maker is some of the best in the city.  Even in this particular pie, that’s fairly apparent; the crust is outstanding.  It has an amazing flavour, a good amount of char, and an absolutely irresistible crispy/chewy/bready texture.  I was afraid that the everything bagel elements would overwhelm the crust, but they actually work quite well.

The crust also manages to not completely collapse under the deluge of meat, sauerkraut, cheese, and sauce, and it manages to do that without feeling overly substantial.  That’s no small feat; certainly, it’s a testament to how good the crust is here.

Maker Pizza

And while the Reuben elements are all tasty (the thinly-sliced smoked meat is a little bit tough, but the Reuben flavours are otherwise perfect: it’s meaty, cheesy, salty, sweet, and vinegary, with everything balanced really well), it never quite coheres as a pizza.

It just feels like too much stuff.  It needed more bread to balance out the voluminous ingredients, like… oh, I don’t know, a sandwich??  It probably would have worked better as a calzone, but then that wouldn’t have been nearly as Instagrammable, which I imagine is half of the point of this thing.

And that’s the problem — even though all of the elements are really good, it’s a food mashup that never should have been mashed up.  It’s a gimmick.  I would have rather eaten a Reuben sandwich or a regular pizza.  This takes two great things and makes both of them less great by combining them.

Mind-blowing Smoked Meat at SumiLicious

SumiLiciousLocation: 5631 Steeles Avenue East, Scarborough
Websitehttps://sumilicious.ca/

Holy crap, SumiLicious.  Holy.  Crap.

I knew I’d have to check the place out as soon as I read this thread on Chowhound.  A new smoked meat place?  Yes please.  Started by someone who worked at the legendary Schwartz’s in Montreal for 18 years?  You had me at “new smoked meat place,” but now I’m really sold.  And it’s delicious?  Buddy, I’m sold already, you can stop.  I’m there.

SumiLicious

I’m kind of glad this place is such a trek from where I live, because if it were nearby, I’d be there every single day.  It’s smoked meat perfection.

I can’t emphasize this enough: the smoked meat sandwich at SumiLicious is absolutely magnificent.  It’s the best smoked meat sandwich that I’ve had in ages.  Certainly, it’s the best smoked meat in the city, and it stands side-by-side with any sandwich I’ve had in Montreal or New York.  It’s ridiculously good.

SumiLicious

The sandwich is a heaping tower of intensely flavourful, ultra-tender, hand-sliced goodness.  It’s quite fatty, but that fat is so perfectly cooked it’ll make your knees buckle.  It just melts in your mouth like unctuous, luxurious meat butter.

And the meat itself is almost absurdly tender, but retains enough texture that it never feels mushy.  It’s perfect.

SumiLicious

The flavour is really unique, too.  It’s got enough of the classic smoked meat seasoning to be pleasantly familiar, but it’s also got its own thing going on; they’re obviously doing something a little bit different with the spice blend (but don’t ask me specifically what — I’m terrible at identifying spices).

It’s a bit less salty than your typical smoked meat, which lets the beef’s natural flavour shine through more than you’d expect.  It’s something special, that’s for sure.

But I mean, don’t take my word for it.  Just look at this close-up:

SumiLicious

Sexy AF.  Downright NSFW.  And it’s just as good as it looks.

I also tried the coleslaw, which is a tad too sweet, but otherwise has a nice vinegary bite and is a good foil for the heavy sandwich.

Oh, and it’s delightfully affordable, too: it’s nine bucks (not including the coleslaw), and considering the quality and the sheer size of the sandwich, that’s a crazy deal.

SumiLicious

Of course, the question is whether or not they can keep up this insane level of quality.  The last couple of high-profile smoked meat joints in the city — Caplansky’s and Ben & Izzy’s — both started out great and then slowly (or not-so-slowly in the case of Ben & Izzy’s) went downhill.

I’m very, very curious to see if SumiLicious can continue to pump out smoked meat of this calibre in the coming months and years.  I hope they do, but I’d advise you to go there now so that you don’t lose out on basking in its magnificence.