Bus: STM 46, 80, 160, 435, 935
Visit: February 26, 2013
Montreal AM Radio has had a huge impact on my life. Over the years, I’ve listening to such names as Ted Tevan, Peter Anthony Holder, and Mitch Melnick. One thing that all three of those names have in common is the fact that they’ve all spoke for various restaurants. I haven’t had the chance to visit the places they talked about, but there’s one that I would have never known of if it wasn’t for the hours I spent listening to AM radio. That place is called Lester’s Deli and it was finally time to see what the fuss was all about.
The first time I ever heard of Lester’s Deli, it was from a radio show hosted by two average women known as Olga and Laurie. Those two individuals have been blasted by some of the online radio forums, but to others, they gained a loyal following. When they debuted in the mid nineties, I stayed up on many Saturday nights to hear whatever they had to say. Over the years, they became the mouthpiece for many local businesses throughout the city. One of those places was Lester’s Deli. If it wasn’t for Olga and Laurie, I wouldn’t really have built up my expectations of the place that much.
Lester’s Deli, for those who are unaware, is another one of the players in a very heated smoked meat war. Next to the latest Montreal Canadiens gossip, the debate as to who makes the best smoked meat is the most scrutinized one in the entire city. While I don’t plan on putting more mustard in the pile, I’m just going to Lester’s to do what I do best, to sniff out burgers where ever they may be.
This well known deli is located on one of the richest restaurant streets in the entire city, Bernard. Boasting some of the bigger names in the city, it’s always a pleasure to try something new over there. Even if you stray away from the street a bit, you still have a lot of really decent options worth any amount of walking.
I entered Lester’s on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. I was greeted by a cashier who was working just about everywhere in the deli. I was allowed to sit just about anywhere I wanted and I made my way to this seat, where you could see the incredible view I had of the street.
Lester’s is partially a sit-down restaurant and at the same time, it is a place where you can pick up food to go. Throughout the time I spent there, the amount of people coming in and out was a good sign of the place’s reputation. Some of the people weren’t regulars, but those who were received the warm greeting.
There was even this customer who arrived seconds after me. Just upon seeing this person, the server knew exactly what to do, If you’re a regular, it’s nice to see that staff realizes it, no matter how big they’ve somewhat become. It’s evident that they have a good memory because the can of Pepsi was already on the way to the table, mere seconds after arrival.
When you’re in a restaurant, you get to do a lot of observation, especially when you’re alone and not anchored down by the conversation you’re half paying attention to. This same regular customer had a very unique method of dressing their fries. They took the spray bottle of vinegar and generously doused the fries as if it were a plant. Then, the salt cometh. I was perplexed at the vinegar spraying, but the second the salt was applied, it all made sense. That’s the kind of fodder I think about when I’m at restaurants.
One of the most unique things about Lester’s is the sheer amount of knick knacks that are decorating the walls. There aren’t very many places that like to keep things within reach. The first item I noticed was the Get Smart lunch box. That was enough for me to enjoy my experience at Lester’s without tasting anything. I’m a huge Get Smart fan and I’ve seen every episode. Would you believe?
As I was getting ready to leave, I managed to spot another nice element to the nice collection. I don’t make it a secret that I am a Montreal Canadiens fan. The sight of another lunch box with the iconic logo was another great site to see.
When I sat down, the first thing I asked for was a menu. The answer I was given was to look at the giant wall. Now, I’m sitting completely across the room and I didn’t really appreciate the response. I could have accepted that if there wasn’t a handheld version, but there was one. I was only offered that version after the really awkward silence that ensued after my request was denied.
That slight encounter leads me to some really interested banter between server and another staff member. For the duration of my stay, my dealings with the server were alright. What I couldn’t help but notice was the back and forth jabs that were being taken by these two individuals. They sounded quite demeaning and I could no longer think that they were playful because it went on for the better part of 30 minutes. It was quite uncomfortable.
This is your average poutine that I decided that I could not do without. I was contemplating putting smoked meat in it, but I figured that I was covering that already in my other selection.
Overall, I would say that the poutine was really worth it. At first, the dish was really streaming hot. It took a few good moments to really get the full sense of it. What really stood out in the end were the fries. There was something about the saltiness of them that I really liked.
Lester’s Smoked Meat Burger
I had a lot of high hopes for this. When I ordered this item, it was mentioned to me that it would be grilled. The menu, either on the wall or online, doesn’t really specify what you’d be getting. So, me being oblivious, I was thinking that I was getting a burger with smoked meat on top. That is what I thought.
As you can see, this is what showed up to the table. You had two hamburger buns and in between, you had a massive amount of smoked meat. That whole bundle of meat was split in half.
Now, over the years, the definition of what a burger is has been debated a lot. For me, this was a smoked meat sandwich. That was fine and I was more than willing to eat this. The meat tasted fine, but was a little too lean for my taste. It was a way to sample one more item to add to my experiences.
With that being said, I made a very difficult executive decision. The stuffed smoked meat burger and the poutine were two heavy items to put down, but I needed to make sure I met my own personal burger search standards, a cheeseburger was sent for.
This burger contains relish, mustard, coleslaw, and cheese.
At this point, without everything on the table being finished, I decided to order a simple cheeseburger. After all, it’s been nearly 3 weeks since I had another beef burger and I wasn’t about to let that dry spell go on any longer. The cheeseburger was all-dressed and we were underway again.
Structurally, the burger is fine and it holds up really well. What you have here is more or less a casse-croute burger with a bigger patty. The combination of relish and mustard on top of a bed of coleslaw is always one that brings me back to the burgers in my neighborhood. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but something that will be enough to put the exclamation point on a large meal.
Lester’s Deli is one of those places that has a loyal following and I could easily see why. It’s not the kind of place that you go to feel all warm and fuzzy. The food is acceptable and provides an alternative to the other packed places in the area, especially with the reasonable prices. Do they have the best smoked meat in Montreal? I’ll leave that to other people to debate.