This is another in a series of posts evaluating various factors which vistiors might consider in deciding where to eat during a trip to Montreal.
Probably Montreal's single-most famous eating landmark. Period. If you want to add it to your list, by all means, go.
Schwartz's is all about smoked meat. While they offer steaks and other items which are reported to be good, these items are for the locals. For tourists, there's no point in going to Schwartz's unless you get smoked meat.
And, the smoked meat sandwiches merit their reputation. They are indeed delicious. Customers have three options: (1) lean (which the waiters warn is a bit on the dry side); (2) medium; and (3) fat. My wife had the medium and I had (what else?) the fat. Excellent. Similar to pastrami, but with a few differences which I am unable to put into words.
Side orders must be ordered separately. The frites are good, but not exceptional. The vinegar-based (no mayo) cole slaw is excellent. Some of the best in memory.
Cherry cola to wash it all down, of course.
All of this being said, if you have regular access to pastrami and corned beef of the quality of Katz's or Second Avenue Deli in NYC, they may be sufficiently similar to Schwartz's smoked meat that you will want to go elswhere during your visit.
Good and bad.
On the one hand, it is a charmingly no-frills hole in the wall jam-packed with carnivores, with lines out the door year round. I like the look of the place.
On the other hand, a substantial majority of customers were tourists. Schwartz's reputation is both a blessing an a curse. If you seek to eat among the locals, you may find more Montreal residents elsewhere. Of course, you could make up for all the tourists by eating at the counter, which seems to be de facto locals-only.
Worth a visit if you lack easy access to world class smoked meat.