Schwartz's (French: Chez Schwartz), also known as the Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen (French: Charcuterie Hébraïque de Montréal, Inc.), is a delicatessen restaurant and take-out, located at 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal, Quebec. It was established in December 31, 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania. Its long popularity has led to it being considered a cultural institution of Montreal.
Location within Montreal
|Established||December 31, 1928|
|Food type||Jewish kosher style delicatessen|
|Street address||3895 Saint Laurent Boulevard|
|Postal/ZIP Code||H2W 1X9|
|Other information||CAD$9.2 million (2014 revenue)|
The staff of Schwartz's credits the unique flavour of their smoked meat to their mandatory 10-day meat curing time, the high turnover of their meat, and their brick smoke-house covered with over 80 years' worth of buildup.
Schwartz's signature dish is a smoked meat sandwich served on rye bread with yellow mustard. The meat is served by the fat content: lean, medium, medium-fat or fat. Medium and medium-fat are the most popular. According to journalist Bill Brownstein, the classic Schwartz's meal includes a medium-fat sandwich, fries, half-sour pickle, coleslaw, red pepper, and a black cherry soda.
Bens, a Montreal competitor, had a longstanding and widely believed advertising slogan that claimed the restaurant had invented smoked meat, but this has been debunked by cultural historians.
Montreal steak seasoning
Schwartz's is also credited with creating Montreal steak seasoning or Montreal steak spice when Morris "The Shadow" Sherman, a broilerman working at Schwartz's in the 1940s and '50s, began adding the deli-smoked meat pickling spices to his own rib and liver steaks. It was so popular that it was copied by other Montreal delis and steakhouses.
The deli has passed through several owners since its foundation:
- Reuben Schwartz (1928–1971): Founded the "Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen" in 1928. Reuben Schwartz was described by many as a bad businessman and a supposedly nasty character (boozer, gambler, womanizer) whose family could not stand him.
- Maurice Zbriger (1971–1981): A violinist and composer, Zbriger was eventually made a partner, and eventually, sole owner of Schwartz's, until his death in 1981. He took Reuben Schwartz into his home and created him 'manager for life.' Zbriger made Schwartz's a great success, and with the profits from the business, Zbriger spent many thousands of dollars organizing free concerts of his music. His story was documented in the National Film Board of Canada production The Concert Man.
- Armande Toupin Chartrand (1981–1999): She began as a professional organizer and caretaker to Maurice Zbriger and through her service to him she was willed the delicatessen.
- Hy Diamond (1999–2012): The only owner who has had a business background; for many years he was its accountant.
- The Nakis and Angélil-Dion family (2012–present): The current owners of Schwartz's. A partnership consisting of Paul Nakis (involved in the Baton Rouge Restaurant chain among others); his granddaughter Anastasia; the late René Angélil with his then-wife Celine Dion; and Eric and Martin Sara (sons of Paul Sara, former owner, along with Angélil, of Nickels restaurant chain). Prior to the purchase, Dion and Angélil used to favor the Main Deli Steak House over Schwartz's.
Schwartz's is one of the six original Montreal delicatessen restaurants, the other five being Bens De Luxe Delicatessen & Restaurant (closed in 2006), Main Deli Steak House, Lester’s Deli, Dunn’s Famous Deli, and the Snowdon Deli. When the Charter of the French Language became law in 1977, the sign outside changed from "Hebrew delicatessen" to "charcuterie Hébraïque".
Several restaurateurs have offered to build Schwartz's as franchise operations in cities across North America, to which the owners have always refused. The idea of franchising Schwartz's just in Montreal has also been rejected due to customer opposition.
On 5 March 2012, the Nakis and Angelil-Dion families purchased Schwartz's, reportedly for $10 million. The new owners could franchise Schwartz's; however, they stated they have no intention of doing so.
On 28 February 2013, Schwartz's began using their trademark name on vacuum sealed pouches of smoked meat sold at IGA supermarkets in Quebec. This mass-produced (factory made) smoked meat product has since become available in other supermarkets across Canada.
In 2006, Montreal Gazette columnist Bill Brownstein wrote the book Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen: The Story, published by Véhicule Press. Schwartz's has also been the subject of numerous articles in Canadian and international publications. It has also been the inspiration for a theatre production about the deli: Schwartz's: The Musical. The restaurant has been the subject of two documentary films: The Concert Man by Tony Ianzelo and Chez Schwartz by Garry Beitel.
- Jamie O'Meara (29 June 2006). "Babylon, P.Q.: The meat of the matter". Hour Community. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
- "Menschlich Montreal". North American Travel Journalists Association. 28 June 2005. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
- Browstein, Bill (2006), Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen: The Story, Vehicule Press, ISBN 978-1-55065-212-3
- Sax, David (1 October 2010), Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, Mariner Books, ISBN 0-547-38644-3
- Note: "Old Man Kravitz, a shameless self-promoter ... Throughout the years Ben claimed that he introduced the smoked meat sandwich to Montreal. But it is a well-known fact that the British-American Delicatessen Store had been dispensing quality smoked meat sandwiches for a period of four years prior to the establishment of Fanny's Fruit and Candy Store. Old Man Kravitz also implied that he introduced smoked meat to Montreal, but we know that is a pile of baloney". Eiran Harris, Montreal-Style Smoked Meat: An interview with Eiran Harris conducted by Lara Rabinovitch, with the cooperation of the Jewish Public Library Archives of Montreal, Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures: Volume 1, numéro 2, 2009.
- Joe O'Connor (7 May 2012). "Schwartz's for sale: Iconic Montreal deli could be sold to group that includes Celine Dion and husband Rene Angelil". National Post. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- Ianzelo, Tony. "The Concert Man". Documentary film. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
- Nestruck, J. Kelly (28 September 2006). "May the Schwartz be with you". National Post. Archived from the original on 6 December 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2007.
- "It's official... Schwartz's Deli sold to Montreal business families". CNW Group. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
- WYATT, NELSON (11 March 2012), "Celine Dion: Montreal's Schwartz's will go on", The Chronicle Herald
- Kurlansky, Mark. Salt: A World History. Penguin Books. p. 404. ISBN 0 14 200161 9.
- "Schwartz's famed deli serves up takeout counter". CBC News. 6 November 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
- "Schwartz's smoked meat now sold in supermarkets". CTV Montreal News. 28 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Search Results: Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen: The Story". Véhicule Press. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
- Latimer, Joanne (4 November 2010), "Phantom of the Deli? Smoke-lahoma?:A newspaper column about Schwartz's deli in Montreal has inspired a musical", Maclean's
- "The Concern Man". Documentary film. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- Official site of the "Chez Schwartz" movie
- Dixon, Guy (21 October 2006). "Poetry Chez Schwartz's". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 5 February 2014.