Montreal Meets Brooklyn

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Until recently, Noah Bernamoff was a hungry expat. In early 2007, the 27-year-old Montreal native left Canada to attend Brooklyn Law School, but, despite regular culinary forays, Bernamoff found himself miserable at school and craving the tastes of home. So last winter he put his studies on hold to open Mile End in Boerum Hill.

Named after Montreal’s historically Jewish neighborhood—now a gentrified hub of that city’s hipster scene—Mile End is meant to sate Bernamoff ‘s homesick hunger and give the rest of us a taste of the old school Jewish deli fare Montreal is known for along with Quebecois classics, all done with a DIY sensibility. Everything from the poutine (those craveable French fries doused in gravy and cheese curds) and hot chicken sandwiches (a Montreal favorite
that tops a thick slice of white bread—Bernamoff uses challah—with chicken, peas and gravy) to the salami, lox and sable will be either home-smoked, home-cured or house-made.

With one major exception, that is: the chewy, seed-encrusted bagels Montreal residents swear by will be flown in directly from the source. “I’ve got a deal with a bakery back in Canada,” says Bernamoff.

Mile End’s Brooklyn genesis begs the question: What on earth took so long? Montreal’s cuisine seems like a forehead-smackingly obvious counterpart to our own legacy of urban soul food. If not exactly twins separated at birth, the two towns are at least close cousins—the kind that accidentally show up to family functions with the same covered dish.

For his part, Bernamoff hopes Mile End’s menu and “mom and pop” vibe will cause Brooklynites to fall for the foods he grew up eating at beloved Montreal eateries like Schwartz’s Deli and Beauty’s. Never mind that he has no serious culinary training or restaurant chops. What he does have is more valuable: a solid track record of past successes (as a former college hockey star and member of the popular Montreal band, The Lovely Feathers) and the buoyant passion of a man with a vision.

Plus he’s recruited a handful of experienced friends to help get the restaurant up and running, though he insists he’ll be the guy behind the counter kibitzing with customers and, most importantly, slicing the meat. “Hand slicing is crucial to smoked meat’s gestalt and character,” he says, sounding every part the avid deli man. Besides, as Bernamoff likes to say of the founder of Montreal’s Schwartz’s Deli, “Reuben Schwartz was not a chef either. He was a philandering gambler who had a recipe!”

 

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