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Montreal Classics

Wow! This summer is gorgeous and hot. The weather in Montreal is no exception. We are heading out this morning to Beauty’s Luncheonette, recently featured on The Layover with Anthony Bourdain. Beauty’s has been serving classic diner fare for breakfast, lunch and dessert since 1942. The luncheonette holds an unassuming spot on the corner of St. Urbain and Mont Royal. Hymie Sckolnick, the original owner is still greeting customers and gets you a “great” seat at 90 years old. He is Beauty.

We sit in a classic booth. Waitresses are younger and clad in jeans and Beauty’s tees but it is still a diner without irony. Our server brings excellent coffee and fresh-squeezed OJ.

We order the Beauty’s special to share and I chose a country omelet with bacon cheese and potato, while Rob chose the mishmash, an omelet with onion, green pepper, salami and french-cut hot dogs, grilled hard on the flat top so they have a nice caramelized finish.

The omelets are very good but the star of the show is the Beauty’s special – a Montreal bagel loaded with cream cheese, red onion, tomato and smoked salmon. Happy Mouth.

Beauty’s is a place I would visit for that sandwich alone. However be forewarned, Beauty’s is not as Beauty’s does…this was a $65 breakfast for two, albeit including an extra Beauty Special — the smoked salmon sandwich that we shared. The real kicker is that the beverages — a coffee, a diet Coke and an OJ cost $9.00 together. These are not diner prices.

Back to the hotel to dump off cameras and head off to my rendezvous with Louis Vuitton. I have been drooling over his carry-on luggage for way too long. Time to commit. Rob went clothes shopping… or something, no one cares.

This evening the skies opened. We need the rain, but wow! Luckily we can get to Place des Arts mostly inside and then run across the street to the venue to see Jim Gaffigan at the 30th anniversary of Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. The show is great, all new material and a few favorites that the crowd wanted to hear. After an encore, Jim leaves and we are peckish. Time for a late dinner. Schwartz’s.

Schwartz is a Montreal institution going on 84 years now. One of the few places open for late night dining on a Monday, the deli is busy. We once again grab the last parking spot in front and manage to find two seats together. Schwartz is not a large place. Tables are grubby and slow to be cleared. 80-plus years of grime layer the joint – and you just know the food is going to live up to expectations.

We get seated and our server “Artie from the Sopranos” breezes by twice to let us know he’s getting to us. When he finally does we order fries, coleslaw and dill pickle to share and medium (half-fat-half-lean-you-need-a-little-fat-with) smoked meat sandwiches each, and I order the recommended Cott’s black cherry soda.

Our food begins to arrive. Coleslaw is excellent oil and vinegar slaw, fries are good, and the garlic dill is perfect. Our sammies arrive next. Smoked meat piled high on soft rye, with a little yellow mustard. Excellent. They’re “fall apart in your hands good”. I also appreciate the size of the serving. Schwartz delivers a hefty sandwich, with plenty of meat, but doesn’t  overdo it  a la  New York City’s Carnegie deli which seems to pride itself on big, excessive and inevitable waste.

Fatboy’s Roars into O-town

When it rains it pours. Ottawa, after having existed in a BBQ vacuum for so long, now has a third joint gracing the real BBQ landscape and we have heard unconfirmed rumours of yet another joint to open on Bank. Fatboy’s Southern Smokehouse opened this week on the Byward Market. Rob and I headed down there last Satuday to check it out.


Fatboys Southern Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

The entrance is warm and beckoning and we were immediately greeted by friendly staff. The interior is brightly lit, bustling, charming and traditional with a warm faux wood floor, accented with a  brick wall painted nostalgia-style with the Fatboy’s logo, featuring pine planking and steel accents, red checkered tablecloths, comfy padded armless chairs, and a bright open kitchen showcasing a monster Southern Pride smoker that holds 750 pounds of meat. They have a smaller one elsewhere as well. The large bar area with stools and tables propped up on real Jack Daniels casks is cheery.

Flatties featuring sports abound. The opposite wall features a replica 1914 Harley Davidson. More Harley and Jack Daniels paraphernalia complete the decor. The bathrooms at the rear of the restaurant are marked by huge cans of Bud light and Budweiser. Fun, but the server has to explain to each customer which is which. Still, fun.

We are seated and I order Waupoos, which they don’t carry. They make up for this by having a small but decent beer menu including Rolling Rock and Shock Top. Fatboy’s also offers small pictures that hold two beers worth and saves you half a loonie. Rob and I both order a 1/2 rack each of St. Louis cut pork side ribs. We decide to share the Campfire Baked Beans, Kansas City Cornbites with Maple Butter, Tangy Coleslaw and Picnic Potato Salad. The menu features some other genuinely southern items like Fried Green Tomatoes  Warm Cinnamon Apples, Catfish and Memphis BBQ Spaghetti. These are all items I will definitely be back to try.

Fatboy’s serves the sauce on the side. Memphis Traditional. They offer 3: Memphis BBQ (Sweet, brown sugar, molasses) Hillbilly Heat (Memphis BBQ with a nice mild kick) and Memphis mustard (yellow mustard and brown sugar, non traditional). Hillbilly Heat was the clear winner at our table where we tend to like a sweet heat style of BBQ.

Our food arrives shortly. The ribs look amazing. We dig into those first. They have great hickory smoke flavour, a nice rosy smoke ring and a most excellent bark. The real deal. With the exception of the potato salad, the sides are good but not outstanding. The beans are sweet with chunks and bits of brisket with little or no heat. Very traditional. They just were not as sweet as I like them and seemed a bit bland. As per my rule regarding BBQ beans, if they are not excellent I don’t eat more than a spoonful or two. I did not eat them. The Tangy Coleslaw was simply not. It appeared to be completely undressed. I loved the cornbread but it was not Rob’s favorite. Fatboy’s cornbread is of the cakey sweet variety. I also love the coarser, lightly sweet cornbread. I’m happy either way. I was however hard pressed to find any maple flavour in the maple butter.

The Picnic Potato Salad was by far the best side we tried. And one of the better potato salads I’ve had anywhere. The potatoes are just slightly undercooked and the salad is lightly dressed with chunks of bell peppers. The highlight of the meal was the meat and I would go back in a heartbeat for the ribs and some hillbilly heat. The sides are fine but we would probably opt for different ones next time. A notable missing component of all the BBQ joints in Ottawa is crunch. There is no crunch on any of the plates. In the south you are often served a few slices of pickle and sometimes a slice of red onion on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our server let us know that the restaurant was still experimenting with the dessert menu. Today they offered a Southern apple dumpling. Rob and I shared the small portion which was good but it was only marginally better than a PC frozen apple blossom. To finish we had a shot of Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey. Awesome. Fatboy’s is one of the only places in town that carries it.

Ok. What you have all been asking. Which is better? Fatboy’s or SmoQue Shack? There is no better. They are both very different and both are welcome to fill us up with awesome BBQ. SmoQue Shack is a little more on the “boutique” side, offering a taste of world BBQ including Texas beef ribs and Jamaican jerk, with slightly more exotic ingredients gracing its sauces. Fatboy’s is down-home Southern: fried green tomatoes, catfish, and sweet heat on the side. Can’t wait for their patio to open! We look forward to visiting both for a long time to come.

Fatboy’s takes reservations. Buh-bye Baton Rouge. Ottawa knows better now.