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Peter Morentzos

Peter Morentzos is behind the development of more than 50 restaurants, with the Queue de Cheval always serving as the flagship. Others included   Moe’s Deli and Bar, Weinstein and Gavino’s and 40 Westt Steakhouse, just to name a few 

La Queue de Cheval Steakhouse and Raw Bar, (www.queuedecheval.com), located at 1181 Avenue de la Montagne, has been a powerhouse for 22 years. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Morentzos tried to develop a curbside pickup service. The food was delicious as always, but economically the format was not sustainable.

Morentzos tells me that he fears La Queue may never open again. Last summer he was supposed to open a Toronto edition, right in the heart of the popular theatre district. That project is off for good as well. However, the pandemic has not resulted in a total loss. In 2014, while he was preparing to reopen La Queue in a new building, Morentzos launched a new brand called QDC Burger in the back alley on Avenue de la Montagne. It was such a hit that he placed the burgers on the regular La Queue menu and then opened standalone locations at 210 St. Viateur Ouest in the Mile End District and another at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport in Dorval.

QDC Burger is a throwback concept that has a down-to-earth feel.  Burgers are simply spectacular as they are uniquely created with a secret recipe of USDA Prime & Canadian AAA “steak-cut” along with QDC a signature brioche bun. Amazingly delicious! The taste profile on its own has the ability to create a loyal cult-like following the menu has two options: Build Your Own Burger, for adventurous foodies, or, choose one of the Chef’s selections of 10 mind-blowing burgers. From crowd favorites like the Surf n’ Turf or the MOB Burger to the health-conscious Kong Burger (Ahi Tuna) or the creative À Louer Burger (Organic King Salmon). Really hungry? No problem add two bucks and go from the large 1⁄4 lb to the extra-large 1/3 lb of USDA steak-cut beef.

This is where Morentzos is focusing his attention now. The airport locale has been closed since the spring, but business at St Viateur is booming. I recently did a pickup for the family and it is an understatement to say how fabulous these burgers are.

There was Peter himself cooking the burgers and placing them into neat containers. I dropped a classic half pound burger and fries at my mom’s first and then went home. It was about 35 minutes door to door.  At my household the selections were Lefty’s Burger, the Steakhouse Burger and the Jefferson. I added the lobster roll sandwich for the following day as an extra treat.

 “QDC Burger is shining for us during this dark period,” says Morentzos. “Business is up 40 percent over last year.”

And yes expansion is on the agenda. Another location will open in Old Montreal by the end of November. That will be followed in December by what Morentzos calls a “dream spot” downtown on Cyprus Street, between Peel and Stanley, right near Le Windsor ballrooms. In the spring QDC will land on trendy Monkland Avenue in NDG.

“It is an amazing kind of business,” Morentzos says. “You get a high-end quality product in between some bread for less than $20. Of course, we look forward to opening our doors again to dine-in customers, but pickup and delivery work well for us and the clients.”

Morentzos paints a dreary portrait of the future. “Big-box restaurants will not be back for three to five years,” he predicted. “Everything has changed.”

QDC Burger is located at 210 rue Saint Viateur Ouest. Opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday from Noon to 9 pm, with a  curbside service takeaway menu and delivery available via Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes and Door Dash. For more information go to www.qdcburger.com or call (514) 312-0321

Editor’s Note: Below is a review of the curbside pickup procedure that was in place at La Queue de Cheval. As of May 4, this service has been discontinued until further notice. If it does resume, this story still will share the appetizing items on their special menu. 

By Mike Cohen

Since the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic there are a lot of experiences people miss dearly. Going out for a nice meal at a restaurant is certainly one of them.

Restaurants are presently only permitted to operate for take-out and delivery service. The iconic 

La Queue de Cheval Steakhouse and Raw Bar, (www.queuedecheval.com), located at 1181 Avenue de la Montagne, has been around for more than two decades. Before the coronavirus battered the economy, founder Peter Morentzos was happily preparing to open a new Toronto location. That is now on hold and in jeopardy of not proceeding.

Peter Morentzos in COVID-19 safety attire.

Always a visionary, Morentzos has never been one to sit still. Take-out and delivery was never part of his plan. The restaurant has been in its present location since September 2014, an exquisite historic three-level building that can accommodate up to 300 diners at a time.  No stranger to challenges,  Morentzos had a licensing agreement in place with the company that owned his original Boulevard René Levesque location. It concluded on June 31, 2012, at which time he closed for almost two years and constructed his present facility from scratch. His former landlords tried, in the interim, to put another steakhouse there. It failed and Morentzos took his time resurfacing, inheriting all of his loyal clients and more.

While the pandemic has already cost the operations over $500,000 in lost revenue, Morentzos wanted to find a comeback route. He has attempted to do so with a flashy curbside pickup promotion, with a new moderate menu and offerings, along with the great steak cuts that we know. Until restaurants reopen, what a treat it is to enjoy the fine cuisine of such an extraordinary restaurant. 

The procedure is simple. Go to their website at www.queuedecheval.com  and click on Curbside Pickup under Menus. You can text, email, or call your orders into info@queuedecheval.com and select your timeslot. There is a 10  percent discount for ordering the day before.  If you do so on the same day, you are asked to send it in two hours in advance. Upon arrival merely call or text 514-390-0091 and they will bring the order right to your car and place it in the trunk or the seat.

 Morentzos said he did not open for curbside pickup until he could be sure that all of  the necessary safety precautions  related to the pandemic could be taken. Any staff working in the restaurant  has their temperature taken before they start their shift with an infrared thermometer.  They  also wear masks and gloves, changing the latter frequently. The kitchen, overseen by a small crew, is being disinfected constantly. There are also washing stations for staff. 

You can also order steaks from the butcher  (all steak cuts 25 percent off retail price)  to bring home and cook yourself and wine from their list  (15 percent off).

“The Montreal restaurant scene has been the backbone inspiration to many cities around North America for the last 40 years,” says Morentzos. “We have dedicated ourselves to the cultures around us and have always stood apart from the rest.  We are facing something that many of us, or all of us never thought could be possible The entire industry is facing a monster that we can’t see. It is essential that our communities everywhere support our local restaurants.”

With that in mind, the Queue will be contributing 100 percent of the sale of gift certificates proceeds to the employee’s rescue fund until the end of April 2020. 

“The first three months of the year in Montreal, and in most provinces are the worst three months of the year,” Morentzos said in a letter to staff. “We budget to lose money traditionally, so when this disaster hit, coupled with the three weakest months…we find [ourselves] in a situation where we need to work with everyone to see this [through].”

There was scrutiny with staff not being paid, and other hard allegations, but it was clearly explained that many have been paid and continue to be paid. La Queue de Cheval and the Morentzos team are no different than any other restaurant operator in the world. Business stopped and staff had to be laid off.

A Fantastic Meal

I must say that half of the fun for the three of us was making our order for curbside pickup and seeing many of our old favorites on the menu.  My request was for a 5:45 pm arrival. I called and Demetra from the Queue was out in minutes with everything very nicely packaged. I made it back home in less than a half-hour. We set the table and sat down to an absolute feast!

We started off with the Dungeness Crab Crake Tempura Balls, with spicy dipping sauce and the BC King Salmon Poke,  with marinated wakame, smashed spicy  avocado, tomatoes, enoki mushrooms, sesame seed oil and mirin dressing. For our main course the three of us shared our favorite 32 ounce porterhouse,  medium rare, dry aged in their meat lockers for over 60 days and grilled over Maplewood charcoal. We had leftovers for the next night it was so large.  In addition, we divided up the beef short ribs. They are slow cooked, containing USDA prime ribs, garlic roasted mashed potatoes, butter sautéed peas and short-rib jus. This dish cut like butter and melted in our mouths.

 We also added in, as a side, sage mushrooms: large button mushrooms with butter and sage. And yes we certainly chose a dessert, the decadent fresh berries shortcake.

They also have salads, hamburgers, chicken, fish and pasta available.

For anyone who is a regular at the Queue or any high end steakhouse, why not treat yourself to something special like this?

See their video for the service

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-3BobxDSAf/?igshid=sp2q7ja4yfcp

 The Queue de Cheval is located at 1181 Rue de la Montagne. The hours of operation for curbside pickup are 4 pm to 9 pm daily, with lunch service as well from Noon to 2 pm weekdays. For more information   log on to www.queuedecheval.com or call 514-390-0091  

Mike Cohen is in paradise at La Queue de Cheval Steakhouse and Raw Bar

    La Queue de Cheval Steakhouse and Raw Bar, located at 1181 Avenue de la Montagne, represents a special place when it comes to writing restaurant reviews. It is the only dining establishment I update my readers on at least once a year without fail. That has been the case now going back more than a decade.