Being an impatient control freak, I tend to avoid any eatery with a lineup and a no-reservation policy like the plague. Yes, I have come to terms with the idea of never trying popular joints such as Olive + Gourmando, Kazu or Kem CoBa; I find the notion of not knowing when or if I'll ever be seated nerve racking. In some instances, I have learned when to show up to increase my odds of securing a table.
Case in point; Saint-Henri's Arthurs, a game changer in Montreal's Jewish food scene, draws queues at its peak breakfast and lunch hours. But arrive in between those two say 11AM and you won't have to wait much. Such was the case for my wife and me on this Monday morning; as we visited what has become our favorite weekday-brunch spot in town.
Beloved and critically acclaimed since its opening just over three years ago a feeling I share as demonstrated by my first review and several visits since Arthurs shows no sign of slowing down. While we succeeded in avoiding a lineup, the small space was still packed to the brim; with a queue of patrons forming again closer to noon.
We were lucky to get a couple stools against the window bar in the corner, probably the only nook where we wouldn't need to rub elbows with anyone. The crowd still leans towards young and Anglo for clients and staff alike.
Accolades aside, Arthurs' biggest accomplishment will always be how it made Jewish cuisine particularly the Ashkenazi regional variant hip and trendy. There is so much to try on the menu from classics to signature dishes; my favorites are probably the salami in challah and chicken schnitzel sandwiches.
For those with a sweet tooth, the cottage cheese pancakes are fluffy to the point of heavenly and embody what Arthurs is all about; simple, traditional dishes crafted with care using quality ingredients. Since it was getting closer to midday, we decided to forego the breakfast menu and instead try out more lunch-y items this time around.
I'm a huge fan of iced tea but normally avoid it when it's homemade as it tends to be overly bitter. Boy, am I glad I rolled the dice this time; this one had just the right balance of bitter, sour and sweet.
I loved the idea of this salad but in the end it was just an assemblage of veggies and proteins turkey, bacon and egg with a basic vinaigrette on the side. I did enjoy the seasoning on the avocado though.
Add this to the stock of fabulous sandwiches here. An onion roll contained kosher salami, coleslaw and mustard with a runny, gooey fried egg added for good measure.
Another hard-to-resist item on the menu is these golden, crisp, double-fried potatoes. The malt vinegar is faint but you still get that tart acidity in your mouth.
The front of the house at Arthurs tends to be run by a cohort of youngsters. Our waitress on this visit was friendly, goofy and (overly?) happy. As busy and crowded as the pre-lunch rush was, she was always available and never failed to have a smile on. The kitchen was obviously on top of things too; as our food came out without much delay.
While I wasn't all that impressed by my salad today not to mention its $20 price tag everything else at Arthurs is a pure delight. The vintage look and edgy vibe mixed with the fresh take on Jewish staples make this nosh bar the best all-day-breakfast this side of the city. As for lunch, today's visit perpetuates its position on my current crush list.
In the end, is Arthurs worth lining up for? A resounding yes! But I might personally lose patience after ten minutes
Price per person: $19.50
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.