For Montreal lovers of smoked meat, the last few weeks have not been filled with very good news. First, we learned that the Main Deli on St. Laurent Blvd. was shutting its doors after nearly 50 years in business. To add insult to injury, Quebec Smoked Meat, a family business in Pointe-Saint-Charles that has sold wholesale and takeout “old-fashioned” smoked meat for decades, announced that it will close at the end of June.
Over at my “go to” spot Dizz’s Bagel and Deli, owner Steve Dizgun spun into action. In business on Côte St. Luc Road near Grand since 1995, Dizz’s (originally a REAL Bagel) was a client of Quebec Smoked Meat. Steve came up with an idea and he got on the phone with Billy Berenholc, owner of the nearly seven-decade-old Lesters Deli (https://www.lestersdeli.com/) on Bernard Street in Outremont, as well as Mr. Smoked Meat (https://www.mrsmokedmeat.com), a purveyor of upscale smoked meat in the wholesale sector. Via his Mr. Smoked Meat brand, ( an agreement was reached in moments. Now, not only can you get this extraordinary smoked meat to take home – Dizz’s (https://www.dizzsbagel.com) offers you a smoked hot smoked meat sandwich between two slices of rye bread, with mustard, and a soft drink for $13.99. For an extra dollar, you can also get a pickle. I was invited over for a tasting and yes folks this was quite a treat!
I always wanted Lesters Deli to open up closer to the West End. Now it has happened thanks to Mr. Smoked Meat.
Steve and his manager Jeff Greenblatt, who has also been his closest friend since age 12, are thinking of getting some tables for the summer to create a makeshift terrasse. Customers are rolling in for this new item, adding to the already solid lineup of freshly made bagels out of the oven, home-cooked meals, cakes and cookies, other cold cuts, smoked salmon and of course, their in-house made cream cheeses. The Pointe-Claire location on Cartier Avenue should be adding the smoked meat option too down the line.
Dizz’s follows the sous vide method for the Mr. Smoked Meat deliveries, low-temperature cooking where food is vacuum-sealed and slowly cooked in a water bath. French for “under vacuum,” sous vide uses heated water to gently cook food so that it stays juicy and flavorful. The water temperature is well below simmering, anywhere from 125 degrees F to 195 degrees F.
As for Berenholc, there is a Lesters Deli Express at the Montreal Trudeau Airport and Mr. Smoked Meat is very busy on the wholesale and catering circuit. “Mr. Smoked Meat is what people have called me since I was 20 years old,” he says. “At 40, I trademarked it, simple as that. I still run the family deli that I inherited from my father. I still am referred to as Mr. Smoked Meat, and now I have Mr. Smoked Meat Inc. sweeping Quebec’s food service industry one bite at a time.”
Could this move by Dizz’s be the prelude to more expansion? “I am 66 years old,” says Berenholc. “I don’t think expansion is something I am focusing on right now. I’m happy to see the new connection between Mr. Smoked Meat and Dizz’s.”
I must confess that I have never eaten at Lester’s in Outremont, despite having known Berenholc for many years. Thus tasting, though, has really tempted me for the full experience.
Lesters Deli, by the way, has no connection to the manufacturer of beef, deli products and hotdogs, which operates out of a huge warehouse in Laval.
REST IN PEACE ANDREW: I was saddened to learn that Andrew Lakos passed away over the winter. For anyone who ever went to Dizz’s in the late evening or early morning, Andrew was one of the kind characters who worked the all-night shift. He greeted everyone with a smile, a joke and warm conversation.