It’s difficult when someone you love lets you down.  You feel hurt, betrayed…a little embarrassed.  I am sure I will get over it…eventually. 

Upon reflection, I should not have been so bold.  “Schwartz has the best smoked meat sandwiches…EVER.”  I declared to Paula.  When she asked how they compared to The Main, I scoffed.  I’d never even heard of The Main.  Who goes to The Main?  Bah!  I challenged her to a sandwich-off.  First Schwartz (I did not want to fill up on her sandwich), then The Main.  Clearly, my bravado did not intimidate her.

We sat at the counter and ordered a single sandwich “medium”, with fries, pickle and a Coke to share.  I am not sure what it is – but for me a smoked meat sandwich must be accompanied by an ice cold Coke.  Some will tell you Black Cherry – that’s not for me….but then again, now I am starting to question everything.

We quizzed the guy behind the counter, and he revealed that fresh meat arrives daily, the briskets are marinated upstairs for ten days, smoked for six hours, and then steamed 2-4 hours depending on the size of the brisket.  The tender, juicy, steaming briskets are then placed in a picnic cooler (high tech) to keep them warm until an order comes up.  Finally, they are sliced and placed between ultra-fresh and squishy light rye (a rye with a wonderfully chewy crust).  After a smear of yellow mustard (don’t even think about any other kind) they are ready to be devoured.

I couldn’t wait….it had been well over one year since last meeting my favourite sandwich of all time.  And that’s when it happened.  Mr. Schwartz let me down.  I better explain.

You would never order your smoked meat “lean”….it would just be, well…lean!  It’s not like you have a smoked meat every day (maybe in heaven you do), so you gotta go for it and order it medium.  The fat imparts flavour, juice and pure pleasure.

I knew it was too fatty.  Paula knew it was too fatty.  She was kind, she was gracious.  What I will tell you next, you may find hard to believe.  Paula did not finish her half sandwich.  A Schwartz sandwich, barely touched, sitting there, exposed and unwanted on her plate.  My plate was empty, even though I knew it was wrong.  I couldn’t help myself.  It happens sometimes.

We stepped across the street to The Main.  “It must be good, it’s been here forever – plus its open 24hours!”  Paula advised me.  I managed a weak smile.  The ambiance reminded me of Swiss Chalet circa 1981.

We duplicated our order from Schwartz, this time adding in a “lean” sandwich, strictly for research purposes.  It seemed the right thing to do under the circumstances.

The sandwiches arrived – and were quite simply scrumptious.  The bread was soft and squishy, the smear of yellow mustard generous, but not overbearing.  I cannot share any details about how the briskets are prepared, the waitress made it quite clear she was not in the mood to chat – she did after all have one other table to look after besides the two of us.    What I can tell you is that the meat was delicious – and the sandwich was everything it should be. 


Maybe I had been blindly dedicated to one smoked meat sandwich for too long.  Maybe you’re not meant to be with the same sandwich your whole life.  I had cheated once and visited Smoked Meat Pete’s on the West Island – and it is a veritable marvel – but I am not sure it counts.  What happens on the West Island stays on the West Island.  This was different – so blatant – I could see the briskets in Schwartz’s window – maybe they could even see me sitting in the Corinthian leather booth!

Upon further reflection, anyone can make a mistake.  Maybe it was not him – but me.  Maybe I should have pointed out to the friendly guy at Schwartz that the meat was too fatty, and just asked for another. 

Ending the relationship after thirty plus years is not the right solution.  I think I just need a little space….get back to Toronto, have some time to think, some time to eat some really sub-par sandwiches.  Then I’ll go back, and see if we can pick up the pieces and make things work again.