Oh my god. I get back from a week in France (more to come on that front), and receive an email that Schwartz’s…the Montreal temple of smoked meat that is known for sticking with the formula, is actually expanding. It won’t be massive, it won’t be crazy, just a little more space for takeout in the most cramped deli on earth…but still, this is huge. I mean massive, I mean Carnegie sandwich sized titanic.
The Montreal Gazette reported the story. Read below.
Cramped landmark to be less so
MIKE BOONE, The Gazette
Published: Friday, June 20
….For the first time in a history that stretches back its Dec. 31, 1928, opening, Schwartz’s will mimic its customers’ waistlines:
The restaurant is getting bigger.
Renovations are under way one door north at the former site of Mondo Fritz….
The new facility was supposed to be open already. But work – stop me if you’ve heard this before – is a bit behind schedule.
“Between waiting for stuff and all the rest of it,” Schwartz’s owner Hy Diamond said, “we’re hoping for the latter part of July, (or) the beginning of August.”
Things were falling apart outside and inside,” Diamond said. “We fixed them, but we made sure everything would look the same.”
It’s a fine line between decrepit and quaint. And Schwartz’s is tackling another subtle distinction, between anticipation and frustration.
“It’s the lineups,” said Silva. “Tourists don’t mind waiting half an hour, but a taxi driver passes by, he can’t stop for that long. In the summer it can be 45 minutes, an hour sometimes for takeout.
“That’s been our biggest problem. People get frustrated, waiting an hour for one sandwich, a french fry. That’s not right.”
“My friends drive by,” Diamond added, “and they see a lineup, they say, ‘Forget about it.’ ”
So when adjacent space became available after what Diamond calls “the St. Lawrence disaster” of a year ago, he decided the time was right to expand.
“It will be basically takeout,” Diamond said. “And then once people start coming in we’ll add some products they may want. We’ll play it by ear and see what develops.”
Now, a big part of me is excited for this. A little more space, a little less hassle, perhaps even a little more time to sit and savor the atmosphere. Katz’s expanded, as did Langers, Rascal House, and the original 2nd Ave Deli…and all remained true to their core. So there’s little here that gives me cause to worry, but still, when the last true holdout of tradition starts to change, even in the smallest way, it makes you hold your breath just for a second. Wait and see friends, wait and see.