Even though they produced Celine Dion, I can always forgive Quebec, since they also gave the world Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches. With that in mind (and a craving to satisfy), I stopped for lunch on Friday and today at two different MSM shops.
Friday's lunch was at Smokee Lee's, formerly known as Big D's Smokehouse (the same lady seems to be running the kitchen, so I don't know what's up with the name change), also known as The MSM Shack In The Parking Lot. It's located at the corner of 6th Ave and 4th St SW, is open 10-4 on weekdays, and is literally a shack (maybe 6'x10') in a parking lot, right by the courthouses.
It's a small wooden shack, with a lineup outside for the entire lunch hour. You walk up to the window and order; your meal will soon appear in a plastic bag, which you can eat at the (1) picnic table if you don't mind eating in a parking lot next to a busy intersection.
In sharp contrast, Sunday's lunch was at Palace Of Eats, one of the most reputable MSM places in Calgary; located on 11th St between 14 and 15th Ave SW and open 10-4 seven days a week. It's total class; the inside is all old-school wooden panelling, taken from a lunch counter operating fron 1918-1964 by the downtown Bay.
At the Palace of Eats, you can get your meal in a basket to take to the park across the street; there was a farmer's market going on, so I chose this option.
To compare, I ordered the 7 oz. at Smokee Lee's, which was $8 (plus $1 for a can of Diet Coke). At Palace of Eats, I got the Regular 8 oz., which totaled $10.60 with GST (a can of soda is $1.50). First, let me deal with the side dishes.
Smokee Lee's comes with a Mrs. Whyte's Kosher half pickle and a small serving of plain ripple potato chips; Palace of Eats also includes a half pickle, along with a similar-sized serving of barbecue ripple chips and a small container of coleslaw. I prefered the pickle at Palace of Eats (crisper and fresher tasting), but I prefer plain chips with my sandwich, rather than BBQ. Palace wins the dubious victory of providing coleslaw; I suppose it's better than no coleslaw, but it's still just coleslaw.
As far as the sandwiches go, they're similar in form; two regular slices of rye bread liberally slathered with your choice of mustard (Smokee Lee's offers 3, Palace of Eats about 6), piled high with Montreal Smoked Meat and then cut in half. I preferred the bread at Smokee Lee's; it was a light Winnipeg rye and seemed much moister and fresher. In fairness to the bread at Palace of Eats (which was a slightly darker rye), I did visit it later in the day.
And now the meat. I personally far preferred Smokee Lee's; it was moist, more thickly cut (although still a good thickness) and had more flavour. The meat from Palace of Eats was very juicy and really finely shaved; to some, I suppose it would be "tender", although to me, it was just plain mushy.
So in conclusion, while I admit that Palace of Eats wins on class and decor (and on being open on the weekends), Smokee Lee's is still my choice for a really good sandwich at a decent price.
I'd welcome any comments, particularly from people who have tried the other well-known MSM joints; Cafe Metro down on Macleod, and Alberta King of Subs in my old Northeast stomping grounds.