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In Montreal, each nibble is a narrative, every plate a passport to the past. Especially when focusing on typical Quebec dishes! Introducing the fab four of Montreal’s deli scene, the culinary landmarks that stitch together the city’s historical and cultural quilt. Carved out by centuries of immigration and shaped by the hands of time and tradition, these eateries stand as vibrant testaments to Montreal’s melting pot of influences.
Here, the fare is far from just nibbles or high-brow bites. It’s genuine, hearty, and soul-warming grub that serves as the perfect antidote to the city’s bone-chilling winters. Especially if you’re only in town for just a few days!
La Binerie: for a taste of traditional Quebec brunch
4167 Saint Denis Street / Plateau Mont-Royal
Nestled in the bustling Plateau, La Binerie has been a beacon of Quebecois comfort food since 1938, making it more than just a deli—it’s a piece of Montreal’s soul. Under the watchful eyes of Philippe Brunet and Jocelyne, his culinary wizard of a wife (except when it comes to his legendary baked beans), this snug eatery feels more like a family gathering than a restaurant.
Here, traditional dishes like shepherd’s pie and the sweet delights of blanc-manger sing tales of Quebec’s heritage, all made from scratch with love and a sprinkle of humor, claiming to be “calorie-free.” It’s a place where stories are shared over hearty meals, and you’re treated not just as customers, but as part of the La Binerie family.
Schwartz’s: for Montreal smoked-meat
3895 Saint-Laurent Blvd / Plateau Mont-Royal
A pilgrimage site for smoked meat aficionados, Schwartz’s deli is where the magic of meat meets the mastery of marination. Since 1928, this landmark has been crafting the most succulent smoked meat that has even celebrities lining up for a taste. Céline Dion is even part-owner of the restaurant!
The secret lies not just in the spice blend but in the ritual—the meat is marinated in barrels, smoked for eight hours and steamed for another three. Between lean, medium, medium-fat or fat, most clients opt for medium and let the simple yet sublime flavors of Montreal’s signature dish unfold with each bite. Alone or in a sandwich, the smoked meat is served with pickles and basic condiments so that its flavour and secret blend of spices can be enjoyed to the fullest.
Schwartz’s isn’t just a meal; it’s a rite of passage for anyone visiting Montreal.
Wilensky’s Light Lunch: for a leap back in time
34 Fairmount Avenue / Mile-End
Step into Wilensky, and step back in time. This deli is a slice of Montreal history, serving up nostalgia with every bite of its famed Wilensky Special. With a steadfast rule of “all our sandwiches are served with mustard and never cut in half,” Sharon, daughter of owner Ruth, who, at the age of 92, still greets customers each day from behind the counter. The main meal consists of a salami and bologna sandwich with, you’ve guessed it, mustard.
Wilensky’s charm is in its simplicity and its story. From its eclectic past as a barbershop and general store to its current status as a culinary institution, Wilensky’s has been more than just a deli since 1932—it’s a community cornerstone where everyone is family. And with every sandwich sold, a piece of heart goes to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Quebec, blending delicious food with goodwill.
Paul Patates: for poutine in Montreal
760 Charlevoix Street / Verdun
Paul Patates stands as a testament to the simple joy of family dining, a beacon of comfort in Verdun since 1958. This diner, with its hand-peeled potatoes and spruce beer tradition, is a journey to the heart of Montreal’s culinary spirit. Potatoes are hand-peeled for a poutine like no other, and hamburger patties are made with Angus Prime mince.
Meals are accompanied by spruce beer, a non-alcoholic beverage prepared using yeast that’s been produced by the Native Americans for centuries. Paul Patates carries on the tradition, brewing the drink and bottling it on-site. To think it was once fermented on the restaurant’s rooftop, in a vintage bathtub! Try the float as a drink or for dessert: a spruce beer with a floating scoop of vanilla ice cream.
With its vintage jukebox setting the soundtrack, Paul Patates offers more than just a meal; it offers an experience—a chance to create lasting memories over the shared love of food.