Save the Deli

Schwartz’s in France (kinda)

We all know (or should know) Schwartz’s, that shrine of smoked meat in Montreal where the briskets are cured, smoked, and hand-cut in house. Oh heaven, oh rapture. The beauty of Schwartz’s is that it’s a lone wolf, never a chain, and a unique, one of a kind place. Others have tried to copy and replicate it over the years, some with decent success, but nothing equals the original.

One of the reasons for this is that Schwartz’s (and Montreal delis in general) is as French as it is English. The French Canadian tongue loves garlic, salt, fat, and spices, and so their adoration of le smoked meat is one of the keys to Schwartz’s greatness and longevity.

So it should come as no surprise that someone in Paris, France is trying to open a Schwartz’s there.

Oui, oui mes amis, c’est vrait.

This week I received an email from Barry Lazar, one of the producers of the stellar Schwartz’s documentary Chez Schwartz (check it out). Last week Lazar was in the Jewish Marais district of Paris, filming something else, when he saw a restaurant under construction with a logo similar to Schwartz’s, and the same name. He went in and found a “Big place. Very retro (1950s) style, more American diner in look than Schwartz’s, although the logo is the same.” He was told it would use kosher meats, was inspired by the original in Montreal, and would be open seven days a week.

Lazar sent me a link to the upcoming deli’s website schwartzsdeli.fr, which still lacks a lot of info, but what it does say is this:

Un peu d’histoire pour tous ceux qui se demandent ce qu’est un “deli” ; tout a démarré au 19e siècle ou les ” delicatessen ” étaient principalement tenus par des allemands et des alsaciens. Le mot lui-même provient de l’allemand et se traduit par des « délicatesses » (des mets délicats). Finalement, au fil du temps les juifs se sont approprié progressivement ce type de boutiques en alliant les fonctions de traiteur et d’épicerie fine et en faisant découvrir aux new yorkais l’expérience alimentaire juive « kosher style »

Aujourd’hui, SCHWARTZ’S fait voyager le Deli en s’installant en plein cœur du quartier historique du Marais. Ainsi on y retrouve tous les produits traditionnels comme les charcuteries (pastrami, pikel, saucisson de Cracovie…), les poissons fumés, les bagels maison, les vodkas de l’Est ; mais aussi tous les classiques des « diners » new yorkais comme le brunch and breakfast, les burgers, les New York STK, les Hot Dog ou encore l’incontournable Cheesecake.

Donc en modernisant ce concept, SCHWARTZ’S se place en précurseur et s’adapte à toutes les générations pour faire partager aux parisiens cette expérience venue tout droit d’outre Atlantique. Nous sommes désormais à votre disposition pour vous réserver une table, passer une commande au traiteur, organiser vos buffets ou répondre à toute autre demande.

Which translates very very roughly into this:

A little history for those who wonder what a “deli” is. Everything started in the 19th century, where the “delicatessen” was mostly owned by German and Alsatian Jews. The word itself comes from the German and translates into “delicacies”. Finally, over time the Jews have turned this type of shops from places where one found catering and fine foods to the experience of New York Jewish “kosher style” food.

Today, Schwartz’s Deli is taking deli into the heart of the historic Marais district. Here you’ll find all the traditional products such as meats (pastrami, pikel, Krakow … sausage), smoked fish, bagels, vodkas, but also all the classic “diner” dishes like the the New York brunch and breakfast, burgers, New York steak, Hot Dog, and the inevitable Cheesecake.

SCHWARTZ’S will be a place for all generations to share in this experience, direct from the other side of the Atlantic. We are now available for you to reserve a table, place an order at the caterer, arrange your buffet or answer any other question.

I called Paris and spoke very briefly to the restaurant’s owner, David Schwartz (that’s where the name comes from). David has spent some time in Montreal and is very much inspired by Schwartz’s, and claims the smoked meat will be similar. He’s also seen Chez Schwartz a few times. He says the food will feature American style deli specialties but also other diner food, and will offer smaller portions with less fat (European tastes).

I called my friend Michel Kalifa, the buther of Marais and one of the finest deli men I know, whose own store is just a few meters away from the new Schwartz’s deli. He says the design, both of the font and of the interior, is very very similar to Schwartz’s in Montreal, and that it’ll be a higher class type of place, somewhat of a yuppie hangout for the fashionable Marais.

Hy Diamond, owner of Schwartz’s in Montreal, hadn’t heard about it, but wished them luck. The Schwartz’s brand isn’t licensed to the new owners, and they have no connection to the original, aside from inspiration.

So what do I think of this? Ahh mon ami, that’s a tough one.

A part of me is somewhat skeptical, as I always am with grand concepts like this. Any imitation or even ode to the original Schwartz’s is setting themselves up for disappointment, and I really don’t see the need for an American style deli in Paris. The city has some of the finest Jewish food, deli meats, and charcuterie I’ve ever tasted, with a culinary tradition that’s unique and wonderful.

But that’s also why I have a glimmer of hope for this. The Marais has seen its delis fade and disappear, along with its other Jewish businesses. It’s become a trendy neighborhood, filled with exclusive boutiques and restaurants. So to see it gaining a new, swish deli is heartening. Perhaps this Parisian Schwartz’s will combine the sophistication of Europe’s Jewish food with Montreal’s accessibility. Either way, I think it’s a good thing. Bonne chance Schwartz’s France!

6 Responses to “Schwartz’s in France (kinda)”

  1. Zeva B Says:

    I’m a Brooklyn-born Jew living in Paris for the last ten years. I’ve long awaited the day that a Schwartz of some kind open here to nurture my nostalgia for great deli dining, so when I heard about this new place last week I literally rearranged my plans to test it out. The resto definitely has a nice vibe, spacious booths, and a delicious deli counter that makes my Brooklyn heart flutter. There is a peculiar Italian twist, however, since two of the three owners are Italian. So alongside chopped chicken liver and herring with onions you have stuffed peppers et al. Bizarre, yes, but what can you do? I tried the hot pastrami sandwich on rye. The flavors were spot on but the serving was kiddie-size. Owner explained that it’s to not freak out the French, but for 14E, it was a rip off. It was their first week so I’ll definitely give them some time to work out their kinks. They also have burgers, pancakes and lots of egg dishes, so it’s more diner than deli for sure. I was also told that they’re going start making their own bagels downstairs, and for that, my dear friends, I support them body and soul.

  2. JF Says:

    “Oui, oui mes amis, c’est vrait” should read “c’est vrai”, no “t”…

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