December 1, 2012

Morning at Schwartz's

Schwartz's, Montreal's world-famous smoked meat deli (in business for nearly 85 years, and as popular as ever). During business hours, it is very common to see a line of people waiting to get in.

On my last morning in Montreal, I had time to kill until I had to leave for the airport. At 8 in the morning, I had the brilliant idea to go to Schwartz's for breakfast, although I had to be back by 9:45 am.

When I walked in at 8:30, the restaurant looked like this. Yet, there were two men sitting at the counter, so I sat down. The man next to me informed me that hot meals were not available until 10:30 am, but they could sell me cold smoked meat by the pound. Feeling horribly embarrassed, I could not bring myself to tell him that the last thing I needed to buy before taking an international flight was a bunch of meat.

For some reason, the man took pity on me. (Maybe it was because I told him I'd eaten there before. "The place was packed," I said, and he shot back, "Yes, because it was open.") After a brief negotiation with the guy at the counter, I had my very own cold smoked meat sandwich and a cup of tea in front of me.

The man left as I was happily tucking in, and I was informed a bit later that he was actually the owner. No wonder. I felt doubly lucky when, just as I was leaving, I saw another Asian girl wander in with a camera, and sit down on the counter expecting to be served. She was very politely told that they were not yet open, and that there was a breakfast diner open down the street.

All the while, the guy at the counter was quietly and efficiently preparing for the day's rush. Considering that they are open from 8:00 am (takeout only) until past midnight every day, it's no wonder they could not afford to attend to every single curious tourist who wandered in. (At the register, I asked the girl if this happened a lot, and she replied, "Yes.") The moral of this story: do not attempt to do what I did!

Dreaming of my next visit, when I will order something other than the sandwich for the first time. 

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