My dear friend Gwen and I have dinner together about once a month, and since I’m the obsessive foodie of the duo she leaves the choice of restaurant up to me. Back in the day when Brooklyn restaurant Mile End had just opened its doors, I emailed her with this suggestion….
There are a few places I’d like to try, one of which is the highly hip Mile End, on Hoyt Street off Atlantic. They have “Montreal Smoked Meat” — in other words, I’m told, their take on Jewish deli. Jewish deli? There are Jews in Montreal? Who knew? Isn’t it too cold in Montreal for Jews? Did they get lost on their way to Florida? Were they holding the map upside down? Reading it from right to left? (Congregational hazard.)
I suspect the only things worth ordering are their specialties, the meat and the poutine (Canada’s proof that even though it is French-identified, they inherited their culinary training and tastebuds from the British).
Because I had heard about their stellar reputation, I went over there one afternoon at about 1pm — I reckoned I was going to beat the rush; in theory, there was inevitably a queue extending outside the door populated by savvy New Yorkers baying for a scrap of this transcendent meat. Indeed, when I arrived, there was no line. There were also no available tables. But there was a hastily scrawled sign on the door which read, “Out of Meat.” I ventured in anyway.
“Would you like to sit at the counter?” the tattooed, pierced and bespectacled Canadian hipster chick inquired.
“Um, I don’t know. You’re out of meat? I mean, that’s pretty much all you sell, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. We always run out of meat by this time. So would you like to sit at the counter?”
“But if you always run out of meat by this time,” I persisted, “why don’t you prepare more in anticipation of the hungry hordes?”
“Well, we’re going to be getting another smoker soon so we’ll have two. That should help.”
“I should think.”
“I guess so. I’d like to try the poutine.”
“Oh, you know about poutine?”
“Well, I’m a foodie. I know about pretty much anything you can eat and have it not kill you. And there are some exceptions to that, too. Any foodie worth his Fleur de Sel knows about poutine.”
“Are you from Montreal?”
“No. Why do you ask?”
“Because you know about poutine.”
“I see. I think this is where I came in. Very well then. The counter it is! One order of your finest poutine, mon amie.”
“We’re out of poutine.”
“I said we’re out of poutine.”
“Poutine is just a pile of french fries with cheese and gravy dumped on it!” By this time my voice had ascended at least an octave. “Which one are you out of?!” I wailed.
“All of them,” she muttered.
I took a deep breath. “I see. Why, then, did you not append the word ‘poutine’ to your otherwise informative placard on the door?”
“Well, nobody would come in to eat then, would they?”
I surveyed the customers solemnly munching their salami sandwiches. Salami sandwiches which they might as well have procured from the C-Town across the way.
“I’ll come back,” I sighed.
“Come back for lunch tomorrow,” she chirped. “We’ll have more meat then!”
“Yeah. Right. See you around noon.”
“Um, better make it before 10.”
As they say in Montreal, oy.