I love a good casse-croûte, which sort of translates as “quick snack”, though that doesn’t quite capture this wonderful Quebec institution, which is all but unknown outside of the province. These small snack bars come in all shapes and sizes, and are deeply associated with Quebec’s great gift to late night food, poutine. I was lucky enough to get taken to a truly classic Quebec casse-croûte recently, Wilensky’s Light Lunch in Montreal, which is tucked just of St Laurant in Mile-End, traditionally a very Jewish area of the city. Though much of Montreal’s Jewish culture has moved out to the inner suburbs, A few really classic places still exist, including Wilensky’s, which was founded in 1932 though it moved to its current location in the 1960’s. Mordecai Richler ate there, and it appears in a few of his books.
The central draw of Wilensky’s aside from a working soda fountain and the prospect of home-made cherry cola, is the Special, which is a grilled sandwich of salami and bologne and mustard. The neat thing about the special is that the only option is to add cheese; you can’t get it without mustard, and you can’t get it cut in half, because, well, those are the rules. My friend Toby took me for a special, and I greatly enjoyed the fresh crisp bread, and the general flavour, but to be honest atmosphere was a huge draw. In the spirit of the casse-croûte the prices were very low.
So here is to Wilensky’s special, their particular food rules, and a great neighbourhood.Oh, and they make the pickles too, in sour or half-sour.