Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen: The Story
Bill Brownstein

Véhicule Press

In Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen: The Story, Brownstein tells the story of Montreal’s legendary smoked meat hot spot. The delicatessen’s denizens, and those of the surrounding Main, are a colourful lot, and Brownstein depicts the scene in all its funky glory.

Bits of the history of Schwartz’s, as well as tidbits of smoked meat lore (but no recipes), are tucked into this deli biography. Reuben Schwartz, the founder, was a “difficult and demanding” boss, and would have gone bankrupt if not for the musician Maurice Zbriger, who became his silent partner. Zbriger would show up with his classical music coterie, all decked out in evening dress, to grab a table and sing arias, completely ignored by the regular clientele. Zbringer in turn left Schwartz’s to Armande Toupin Chartrand, his right-hand woman. Parisian-born and bred, she liked to have her friends in at Schwartz’s for high tea in the late afternoon, and insisted that her table be covered with a checked tablecloth. She later sold the deli to its current owner, Hy Diamond. Diamond has turned down opportunities to franchise Schwartz’s because “it wouldn’t be the same.”

This deli, once as famous for the rudeness of its waiters as for its delicious smoked meat, seems to attract characters, from Schwartz himself to Ryan Larkin, unofficial doorman and subject of an Oscar-winning animated documentary. Brownstein vividly captures them all. mRb