Le Gros Jambon

Late July finds us in Montreal once again for Just for Laughs, the hugely popular ,and largest, comedy festival in the world. Friday night had us take in Ron White and one of our faves, Mike Birbiglia, two immensely different comedy styles, making for a very entertaining evening. Saturday, is packed with Greg Proops, the self-styled “smartest man in the world”, Mark Maron and the very edgy Jim Norton at midnight. Because our day and a half whirlwind tour is so packed with comedy, we have little time to have a leisurely meal in one of Montreal’s many high end establishments. We are on an eat and run schedule. We also are spending most down time at the bar in the Hyatt, where you are more likely than not to run into the talent, comedy giants who are happy to say hi. These are the superstars of the comedy world, hanging with each other, busting each other’s balls and without entourage to keep the plebs away, so we grab a cocktail, blog and people watch.

We get a rare morning to sleep in Saturday with no furry assault alarm clock. After a leisurely start to the day we head off to Rue Notre Dame to a little real-deal diner, Le Gros Jambon.

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We arrive just before the late morning rush and grab stools at the open kitchen/short order station. Waitstaff is friendly and serves us in lightly accented English. Indeed most of the customers appear to be English speaking.

The diner is narrow and offers diner stool seating only. Gold flecked formica bar tops, Route 66 wall paper, creamy yellow and mint green walls, license plates, a lack of A/C and a respectable amount of built up “patina” give the resto an authentic aura. But Le Gros Jambon is not a throwback. The menu and the soundtrack are updated and modern.

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We get settled in with menus and coffees and OJ. I spy chicken and waffles on the menu and am tempted. We are headed on a two week road trip to the Southern USA in a month where they invented this culinary giant that has been making it’s way north. And so with that in mind I go with the interesting option, Mushroom Toast, which I have never seen anywhere on any menu. Rob, it seems, cannot wait it out and succumbs to the chicken and waffles.

From our vantage point we watch the cook dip fresh chicken and drop it in the pressure fryer. Meanwhile a second cook manning the flat top is doing the dance with several patrons orders. He then dunks Texas toast in a creamy mixture, I assume is mushrooms, and fries it like French toast. In a saucier pan he cooks the finishing sauce, which smells heavenly like a classic mushroom, cream and white wine concoction.

The Mushroom Toast arrives plated on a pig shaped dish. The bread is nicely done and topped with a perfect runny egg, a good amount of smoked meat and then topped with the creamy, delicious sauce. On the side is a hash brown, a loose, home made potato patty, crisp and dark from the flat top. A small container of what can only be canned Libby’s beans also graces the plate. I don’t mind that the beans aren’t home made. They are lightly sweet and go perfectly with the toast. Would have liked more beans. This could be a happily vegetarian meal without the smoked meat. Sorry no pic…I screwed it up :(.

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Rob’s chicken and waffles came with the same beans and hash brown, a large, round, crisp, chewy waffle topped with a leg and breast of freshly fried chicken and doused in a grainy mustard maple syrup. The chicken was surface-of-the-sun hot as it was right out of the pressure fryer. Giving it a little time to cool, beans and hash browns were sampled, and photos were taken. The chicken was perfect with the sauce providing a sweet and vinegary bite.

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With contented tummies we pay the bill as the diner begins to get quite crowded and a little bit too hot. Pro tip: turn on that oscillating fan. Off to enjoy our second day at Just for Laughs.

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