Wow. So I’m a little late to this, but last week, newbie Montreal-style deli Mile End (named for the neighborhood I lived in during college) won Zagat’s prestigious “Best Deli in NYC” accolade, beating out total fucking institutions like Katz’s and Carnegie Deli.
This is really kind of crazy, when you think about it:
The place has been open for a year and is dedicated to infiltrating the New York food scene with a foreign food culture. Sure, I love me those Montreal bagels, and the poutine I had at Mile End is the best I’ve ever had outside the province of Quebec (including the rest of Canada), so I think it’s great. But what’s going on here, people? What’s happening? Have New York delis gotten complacent? Too concerned with getting signed photos of b-list celebrities on the wall? The answer to both those questions is probably yes.
I reached out to the restaurant critic at Montreal’s alt-weekly, the Mirror, Mark Slutsky, for his thoughts on the triumphant event (disclosure: Mark was actually my roommate in college for a couple years):
Ok so Mile-End. It’s certainly piqued my interest but I haven’t yet been. Every time I come to New York everybody asks me if I’m going to go, but I usually ask them “If you were visiting Montreal, would you go to a restaurant called Williamsburg?” I’m curious but there’s always something else edible to check out. I’ve heard good things, but honestly, if they can make a better smoked-meat sandwich than [iconic Montreal deli] Schwartz’s I’ll eat my toque. Plus, I’ve seen pictures of their “Ruth Wilensky” sandwich online and I was shocked to see it cut in half. If you’ve ever been to the real [other iconic Montreal deli] Wilensky’s you’ll know their mantra is “They’re always served with mustard/They’re never cut in two. [emphasis mine]“
So there you have it, further evidence that Canadians use the word “toque” whenever possible, and that they generally pass up the opportunity to gloat. (And btw, I’d probably love to go to a restaurant called “Williamsburg” in a foreign city, just to see what the hell they’d serve.)