Monday, January 16, 2012

Leave The Cell Phone, Take The Cannoli

Fig.1. A burger at Mr Steer with a side of curly fries.

If I see one more hamburger, poutine, taco, pizza, or fish and chip joint open up within the Montreal area I’ll be one happy man. 
The majority of foodies tend to follow trends.  If an influential food “authority” proclaims the next best thing to be, let’s say, falafel, everyone jumps on board. Social media sites become plastered with falafel photos, a long falafel chat stream takes shape on Chowhounds filled with opinions on who makes the best falafel, and chefs from all over the city begin to think up new and exciting ways to serve falafel: falafel poutine, falafel pizza, and of course, falafel sliders.  Until such time when the once fashionable falafel goes the way of the cupcake, and that same influential, food shepherd tweets the phrase, “falafel? That was so yesterday”.
The food and restaurant scenes in most cosmopolitan cities have become less about food and more about image (and more often than not, the desire to be known and recognized by restaurant owners and glam chefs) we can thank television and our egos for that.

Fig.2. Yes I can eat what you see above by myself. Double burger with cheese flattened to perfection.

Take for example the ever-present hamburger rage.  There’s nothing new about a burger, like pizza in Italy during the 1800’s, the North American hamburger was something you ate if you were short on cash, or weren’t dressed well enough to go into a “real” restaurant.  But something happened to the Hamburger, it ascended up the food ladder and it’s status changed from Joe Hamburger to Charles VonHambuger the Third.  Present day burger palaces such as Mbrg, Mechant Boeuf and Brasserie T make a great hamburger no doubt about it, but along with the good food came an atmosphere conducive to be scene in: Food lovers became food socialites eager to tell the world where and what they were eating.  The trendy food joints now do more than fill our stomachs; they satisfy our esteem and make us visually valuable.  If your first thought when you walk into a restaurant is to get your “Tweet” on, for God’s sake it’s time to get hungry again.
Establishments such as Delallos, Dic Anns and Da Bologna have been making burgers any cow could be proud of for decades, but where’s their fanfare?  Sure these places—often referred to as “Montreal Institutions”—are tossed around Internet food forums; but these old, greasy spoons aren’t the spots certain people want to be seen in.  Walk into Da Bologna, log into Foursquare and nobody will give a shit.

Fig.3. Poutine at Decarie Hot Dogs.  They put the fork in the middle like that to prevent me from shoving my whole face in the poutine.

To enter a place like Delallos, Dic Anns, Momessos or D’Agostino’s means you’re there solely for the food.  It means that from the moment the food gets placed in front of you, you will stare at nothing but the glory on the plate.  And after you take that first bite, you won’t be worried about getting sauce on your chin or who’s sitting at the table next to you, or if the chef will appear from out of the kitchen, you’ll only be happy that you’re eating something wonderful, and proud that there’s sauce running down your arm. (and if you’re a hard-core fooder, you’ll lick that arm. Lick It Baby!)   
New restaurants are opening all around us, many of them pushing the food envelope and creating delicious stuff based on old ideas, and that’s great.  This hard-core food lover however will begin 2012 by paying homage to all the “old school” eateries in Montreal, the places where trends are both outlived and simply a way of life.

Please stand when I call out your name,

Dic Anns
Da Bologna
Shwartz Deli
Café Milano
Pizzeria Dimenna
Chez Ma Tante
Decarie Hot Dog
Chez Girard
Jarry Smoke Meat
La Banquise
La Paryse
Mr Steer
Chalutier MLM (For their fish and chips only)

If I’ve forgotten any, and I’m sure I have, please let me know.

Fig. 4. A burger at Copoli. I shared this burger with someone upon my first visit to this  old Westmount establishment, next time, I'm having one to myself.