When I lived in Montréal some years ago, myself, friends, and journalists, would end up late nights, more like early mornings, at Bens restaurant, a kosher-style delicatessen. We’d munch on its thin-cut smoke meat piled high between slices of rye bread.
Bens – never an apostrophe – was open 23 hours a day, closed one hour for cleaning. On frequent trips to Montréal later I’d never miss dropping by, its walls packed with black & white photos of famous personalities who ate there, from Liberace, Bette Midler, Leonard Cohen to Justin Trudeau’s father.
Some 8,000 customers would line up before noon in those heady days for a tasty deli lunch. After nearly one hundred years it closed in 2006 when its servers picketed outside wanting a union affiliation. It never opened again.
Don’t despair, there’s stillSchwartz’s, Dunne’s, Rueben’s and several others to fill the gap left by Bens.
And take heart, you who pine for such sumptuous fare, especially those living in Toronto and the GTA. There’s always Centre Street Deli, west of Thornhill, and just beyond the Promenade Mall. It has as wide variety of appetizers, stuffed cabbage rolls, seafood or Julien salad and a main course which includes corn beef, grilled chopped sirloin.
I dropped by for breakfast last week, waiting for a friend at a doctor’s office across the street. and ordered orange juice, lox (smoked salmon) on a bed of fresh lettuce, red onion rings, a large dollop cream cheese. And a toasted bagel, should I want to make a sandwich. Endless coffee.
AUTHORS COMMENT: For those of you, like me, who are curious if lox is another word for smoked salmon, here’s the scoop. Smoked salmon is the blanket term for salmon: wild, farmed, fillet, steak, cured with hot or cold smoke. Lox is cured in salt-sugar rub or brine then cooked with heated wood smoke. Whereas nova is…
Enough, Yet? My absolute favorite at Centre Street Deli – maybe not for breakfast – is without question, Smoked Meat Old-Fashioned (not Mild) with Dijon mustard, hand-cut fries and a Coke in a can. The special smoked meat comes directly from Montreal. Made the old way.