As their website says: Montreal’s Best Middle‑Eastern Fast Food: Served up with a smile!
And they are right.
Chicken Shawarma (Shish Taouk) – grilled chicken, all-dressed is wonderful. The whole sandwich is grilled, which gives the pita a nice crusty texture.
If you feel like rice and potatoes added, go for the Chicken Plate.
Or the Creation – the Ultimate Pita, which contains eggplant and potatoes along with the standard fillings.
They have multiple locations, the two downtown are 2020A (Basement) Crescent St (corner of Maisonneuve) and 19 Ste-Catherine E (corner of St Laurent).
Montreal has many places with good shawarma, one in nearly every city block, yet another point in favor of what makes this city fun to visit.
Most of these places are open very late, until 4AM on weekends.
Grillade Farhat – Sandwiches are the best choice, available with brochette of merguez (spicy sausage), chicken, kafta (spiced ground beef on skewers), brochette de boeuf (beef pieces), foie d’agneau (lamb liver).
Order the sandwiches tout-garni – all-dressed. They are fantastic with the harrisa (chilli paste), aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and tomatoes, onions, etc. The key to the taste here is that all the meat skewers are grilled after an order is placed which does mean a 15-20 minute wait. For repeat visits, power tip: call ahead with your order so it is ready by the time you arrive.
For a final touch, they will also grill the whole baguette sandwich after it has been stuffed giving the bread a nice crispy texture.
All the grilling is done over charcoal (grillades au charbon). The baguette sandwiches are around 9 inches, easy to eat one, two if one is hungry. This place has a few tables, but don’t look for decor here. The merguez, chicken, kafta sandwiches are best, the grilled beef meat is avoidable – tough and too much gristle.
Sandwiches are an incredible price – CAD$6 or so . Plates can also be ordered – with one, two or more brochettes, for around CAD$4 per brochette. Plates come with sides of harissa, aioli, hummus, along with a salad and pita. But the grilled sandwiches are much better, the grilled bread makes all the difference.
[2016 Note: They recently relocated, the old address was 5595B Côte-des-Neiges, 514-738-4999, (three blocks west of Côte-des-Neiges metro). All the web information, include Google results, have the wrong address. Use the new address above!]
These bagels are the best in New York City and therefore in all of the US. 🙂
Perfect combination of chewy exterior and light interior. And they taste great too. Of course, people who like their bagels dense and chewy may not appreciate these bagels, but try these once and you might just change your mind. My second choice bagel place in NYC is Russ & Daughters at 179 East Houston Street, near Chinatown. Have tried all the usual other well-known places, but Absolute Bagels has the best bagels.
Mornings – especially weekends, be prepared for long lines. And if you want sesame bagels, arrive a few hours before closing – they usually run out. This is important for me since every few months or so I buy a dozen plus bagels from NYC to carry back to Boston – really a downer when they run out of bagels. Best to call if you are going to get there late afternoon or evenings. There have been a couple of times when I had to leave without sesame bagels.
Sometimes they have the dough ready and can bake up bagels in under 20 minutes which they did for me once!
When taking a dozen or more bagels home, be careful to let the bagels breathe. Warm bagels will steam up and the steam should be allowed to escape otherwise it will flatten the bagels at the bottom of the bag and make the bagels go all crooked.
Unlike Montreal bagels, NYC bagels are pretty big. Which actually may be what allows them to freeze very well. They easily last 3-6 months in the freezer, and thaw out nicely, and still taste great. No need to slice them before freezing too, in fact, they are better off not sliced beforehand. Montreal bagels are good too, but they just don’t freeze well – they don’t taste as good after a stint in the freezer, have to eat them fresh.
Absolute Bagels Price for a dozen: $12 (2012), $15 (2016). They have a small seating area, and also offer the usual toppings – cream cheeses, salmon, etc.
Is this one of the best foods in the world, or what!
Schwartz’s Jewish Deli on Boul St-Laurent and its smoked meat!
As I write this paragraph sitting in Boston, I am reminded of the taste of those excellent smoked meat sandwiches — tender, succulent meat that falls apart easily with the touch of a fork, the exquisite mild pepper spices… accompanied by a black cherry soda or hot tea, it is truly an unique experience! Take a seat at the bar-stool at the deli counter, and enjoy the food amidst the hustle and bustle. The interior of Schwartz’s is kind-of run-down, but that, with the extremely busy waiters, and the tables where you will find yourself doubled up with strangers because space is so tight, is what creates the unique atmosphere of enjoying smoked meat at Schwartz’s.
The protocol: order a medium (sandwich is understood), black cherry, pickle, and french fries. My exact order is a medium, hot water + tea bag, and a pickle (no fries).
The medium is a medium-fat sandwich. Lean is available, but what is the point? Fatty is available, but if you eat here 3-4 times a week, that would be foolhardy. They also have plates, with bread served on the side, but the sandwich is better with the meat warming up the bread, which tastes nicer.
Most people drink the Black Cherry Soda with it. But black tea without sugar or milk is definitely healthier (not that anyone comes here to eat healthy food!).
And easier to ask for hot-water and a tea-bag, since asking for just tea seems to cause the staff to be somewhat surprised.
Some guidebooks will mention that the waitstaff is curt, even rude. Not true in general, but there are some who do fit this description. One guy in particular, has been working here for decades, always refuses to serve hot, black tea, his response is – what is this, a hospital? ☺ Black hot tea actually goes very well with smoked meat, especially on cold winter nights. I continue to ask the guy for hot tea, and for years now, he has always refused to serve this item that is on their menu! [2008: I believe his name was Peter, and seems like he is now retired.]
In the sandwich picture, the slices that look whole will taste very tender, given the fat with it.
The broken-down crumbs are the lean variety, and there is an abundant amount of black pepper spices seen on the meat. So each bite can be medium, lean, spicy, just as you like it. And wash it down with the Black Cherry Soda, or black tea works well too.
It is this combination of hand-sliced meat, meat that fall apart easily, and the small slivers of lean meat, and the special spices that make the Schwartz’s experience so different from other smoked meat places which seem to have a more orderly, sameness in consistency all across, and spices not as good – Schwartz’s beats them all in taste and experience. The color is the first indicator – smoked meat that is pink or light red – and not dark red – never tastes as good as the dark red smoked meat.
Those with a larger appetite can order the small plate, which is equal to 2-3 sandwiches. There is also a large plate, but that is probably best when shared with multiple diners.
There is a marked difference between the smoked meat at Schwartz’s and other places in Montreal. Ben’s is the other place that is mentioned a lot, but it closed down in 2007. Lester’s at 1057 Bernard West, Snowdon at 5265 Decarie, The Main at 3864 St-Laurent, Reuben’s at 1116 Ste-Catherine, and Dunn’s at 1249 Metcalfe are other contenders. They have good smoked meat, but Schwartz’s is just much tastier. The difference is that Schwartz’s is spicier, and it has more interesting taste and texture. The marbling, the fat, is visible in Schwartz’s sandwiches, and they are a dark red color. Other places have meat that is more of a pink color, and the consistency of meat is too uniform. Of course, some people may like it, but if you like spicy meat, and looking for fantastic texture in the meat, stick to Schwartz’s. In a pinch, if cannot get to Schwartz’s, I will go to Dunn’s which has a very convenient downtown location just off Ste-Catherine, and their smoked meat is pretty decent, nice red color but it has a very uniform texture, lacking the character of the Schwartz’s variety, but sometimes and for some people certainly, that may be a good thing.
[2004-2008] I used to pack up a pound of the smoked meat for taking back to Boston, but since 2004 US customs no longer allows even cooked meat to be transported back into the USofA, sad state of affairs we find ourselves in.
 Meat import selectively lifted. Visit the US Customs Know Before You Go page for current information. Note: the customs officers at the roadway entry areas and the US pre-clearance at Montreal airport may apply different rules than the customs officers in US proper. So be warned that this whole thing is quite a mess…
As for Cott’s Black Cherry Soda (probably an off-brand, generic brand soda), I initially could not find it in any grocery store in Montreal, it but finally discovered that most Dollarama stores sell Cott’s Black Cherry Soda – 3 cans for $1 in 2004. [Same price in 2009 too!]
: So many years have gone by, but still a thrill to visit Montreal and eat this sandwich.
: Dollarama is no longer offering Cott’s. Dollarama seems to be moving upscale with $2 and $4 items now, so maybe they decided they could not use up space with 3 for $1 items. ☹
Sampling of the price of the sandwich in CA$ – an inflation indicator!
September 2006: $4.55
November 2007: $4.95
February 2012: $6.15
July 2013: $6.65
July 2014: $7.75
November 2014: $8.70
February 2015: $9.35, so more than doubled in 8.5 years. 9% annual rate of increase, higher than inflation which was 0.5% to 3% over this same period.
May 2016: $9.60