The Best Jewish and Kosher Restaurants in Montreal
Schwartz’s Deli is known for its Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches | Courtesy of Schwartz's Deli
Home to a synagogue founded in 1768, Montreal has a long-established Jewish community that has evolved along with the different immigrant groups that have come to call the city home, and they’ve brought their culinary traditions along for the ride. From Ashkenazi brisket to crispy Mizrahi falafel and Sephardic mezze, there are plenty of Jewish and kosher bites to nosh on.
Restaurant, Moroccan, $$$
Courtesy of Sumac
There are oodles of North African Sephardic Jewish flavors at this go-to restaurant in the Saint-Henri neighborhood, where chef Raquel Zagury mixes in the Moroccan ingredients from her family. Though casual, Sumac is a nice sit-down spot where you can order simple cocktails like gin tea to accompany hoards of mezze. Portions are generous and meant to be shared, so grab some friends and get to ordering pepper-based muhammara, garlic labneh and beef kefta. Another favorite is the traditional Iraqi Jewish Shabbat dish sabich that combines fried eggplant and hard-boiled egg in a pita, along with plenty of bright pink pickled turnips for a tart, acidic hit.
Like a phoenix rising from the shawarma ashes, this kosher Israeli staple reopened in 2018 on Queen Mary Road and serves up some of the best meat on a spit in town. The decor at Benny & Fils might have been updated with exposed brick, hip lighting and hanging plants on the wall, but the food is still the high-quality, tasty stuff it used to be, and you’ll have to remind yourself to not wolf it down too fast. For a little something different, try the pulled beef burger with customizable toppings like caramelized onions and mushrooms, or stick to classics like a hearty kefta pita sandwich slathered in hummus and topped with purple cabbage and pickles.
Located in the heart of the Plateau’s historic Jewish area, this bright and airy café also doubles as a museum that hosts walking tours and cultural exhibits. However, at Fletchers, learning isn’t confined to the walls. Dishes tell plenty of stories by mixing culinary traditions from across the Jewish diaspora, especially at events and workshops like Persian Purim or learning how to make bagels from scratch. Head over to their monthly klezmer brunch for bagel boards served with gravlax cured in Moroccan spices and a side of preserved lemon cream cheese or challah French toast – all to be enjoyed with a side of trombone music from the house musicians.
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This Saint-Viateur Street eatery is the perfect spot for a hearty vegetarian lunch. Actually, aside from the sabich sandwich made with egg, the menu at Falafel Yoni is completely vegan. Salad plates are piled high with fresh greens, crunchy purple cabbage, tahini dressing and dotted with bite-size, perfectly crisp falafel. Get them in a sandwich or on a plate served with creamy hummus, grilled pita and plenty of pickled goodies. During the warmer months, opt for the to-go route of a picnic in a nearby park. Pack your basket with a tub of their spicy Yemeni zhug sauce that mixes plenty of fresh herbs and chilies and a few of their chocolate-tahini balls for good luck.
Montrealers can’t have a conversation about local steakhouses without this Jewish institution coming up. Moishe’s has been beefing it up since 1938, so it’s one of the oldest restaurants in town and legend has it that it came into the original owner’s possession during a card game. With cuts of meat regularly creeping into the CAD$60 (£34) range, this glitzy spot on Saint-Laurent Boulevard remains a special occasion type of joint. However, they do have a more affordable menu after 9pm, so you can make your rib steak and fries or filet mignon and Monte Carlo potato a late-night affair.
Since 1932, this little snack bar in the Mile End neighborhood has been serving the same simple sandwiches that have become a local staple and must-try for any visitor. Sure, you can order a couple of hot dogs with a milkshake or sides of sour pickles and karnatzel dried beef, but what’s been drawing crowds here for decades is the Special: an all-beef grilled salami and bologna sandwich on a roll with mustard, and the option of adding cheese. Family-run Wilensky’s has some hard rules written on the wall: when ordering the Special, they won’t cut it in half, and the roll always comes with mustard, so don’t bother asking them to change their classic ways.
Lining up at this Notre-Dame Street brunch favorite is worth it, and somewhat inevitable, even on a cold Sunday morning. Once you find yourself inside Arthur’s Nosh Bar’s colorful throwback-inspired space, all memories of shuffling around on the sidewalk will be replaced with smells of latkes hitting the pan and kosher salami getting grilled up for breakfast sandwiches. The house-smoked salmon is a staple worth its weight: order it with the Russian potato salad or as a straight-up tower served with bagels and all the fixings. Co-owner Alex Cohen’s Sephardic roots also make their way onto the menu with shakshuka (eggs cooked in a spiced tomato sauce) and sumac dressing.
Though it’s known far and wide for its smoked meat sandwiches, Schwartz’s is anything but overrated. There are a handful of other spots in town that sell towering beef sandwiches, but this is a classic for a reason. It’s the oldest deli in Canada, so tradition should be a logical part of your order. Go in on two sandwiches with a friend, order one fatty and one medium-fat and eat half of each so you can taste the most delicious option without immediately needing a nap. If you really want to do things right, get a kosher pickle and a cherry soda to go with it: acidity and fruity sweetness are the perfect pairings for all that salt and fat.
Takeaway, Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Late Night
Bakery, Restaurant, Dessert, Vegetarian
Courtesy of Hof Kelsten
Though people love this spot in the upper Plateau area for its beautiful challah loaves and flaky baked goods, the meals are worthy of your time, too. If you’re looking for a hearty brunch, Hof Kelsten’s shakshuka served with spicy merguez sausage will hit the spot. However, the kitchen really shines at lunch: they serve a perfect bowl of matzoh ball soup with chunks of veggies and chicken, and their sandwiches made with the house bread are some of the best in town. Their VLT layers in veal bacon for a kosher alternative to a classic, while the beef brisket is seriously saucy thanks to tangy homemade Thousand Island dressing made with homemade ketchup, mayo and pickles.
When it comes to Jewish breakfast, Beautys Mont-Royal Avenue diner has been a staple since 1942. Owner Hymie Sckolnick personally directed patrons to blue vinyl booths until he passed away in 2017, but his legacy of latkes and lox lives on. Waffles, sour cream-topped blintzes and classic bagels with a schmear and smoked salmon are all here, but if you’re looking for a hangover cure, the mega Mish-Mash has your name on it. Packed with hot dog pieces, beef salami, peppers and onions with home fries and a bagel on the side, you’ll feel right as rain (and very full) in no time.