Dunn’s (Montreal, Quebec)

After a very pleasant day touring around Montreal (including another visit to one of my favorite brewpubs, Dieu Du Ciel, it was unfortunately time to head back to Dorchester Square, board the bus, and ride back to the US. But our schedule had just enough time in it for us to enjoy one last culinary stop in Montreal: to have a quick smoked meat sandwich. We ended up selecting Dunn’s, for one of several reasons:

  1. Dunn’s is right by Dorchester Square, so it was conveniently located
  2. Dunn’s is one of the respected places for a good smoked meat sandwich
  3. And Dunn’s also has some culinary history with respect to the name “smoked meat” itself

I’ll discuss the last of these in a bit more detail. For those wondering what exactly smoked meat is, see the article I wrote a few years ago on Schwartz’s, another of Montreal’s well-regarded smoked meat vendors, but basically it’s a variant of pastrami with a flavor and preparation unique to Montreal. It was also a hot point in the enforcement of the province’s language laws (La Charte de la Langue Française) in the 1980s, when the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) filed a complaint with Dunn’s claiming they were in violation of the language laws by advertising “Smoked Meat”, insisting that the proper term was “boeuf mariné” (since the “standard” translation of “viande fumée” was also considered to be inaccurate, since “smoked meat” usually isn’t smoked). This wasn’t Dunn’s first run-in with the OQLF; they had previously gotten in trouble for having signage that said “Dunn’s”, since French doesn’t use ‘s (a similar complaint was lodged against the above-mentioned Schwartz’s). Dunn’s partially complied with the first complaint; to this day, the exterior signage has it listed as “Dunns” instead of “Dunn’s” (a solution that isn’t unique, the donut chain Tim Hortons similarly changed their name during the same period). But when it came to their smoked meat, they decided to draw the line there (they had been selling it as “smoked meat” since 1927), and filed suit in court.

They eventually won, with the Sessions Court ruling on January 24, 1987 that the term “smoked meat” was not in violation of the French Language Charter. Since then, the official translation in Quebec, according to Le grand dictionnaire terminologique for “smoked meat” is… “smoked meat” (go ahead, search it!). Sometimes, the little guy wins. For that reason alone, I wanted to stop by Dunn’s at some point.

So this trip, we stopped by Dunn’s and each ordered up a smoked meat sandwich, and we split an order of latkes as well. The latkes came out first, and were delicious little patties of fried potato. Crispy, delicious, and melt-in-your-mouth, while soaking up just enough of the butter they were cooked in to give your cardiologist a fit.

The smoked meat sandwich was similarly good: tender meat, with a spicy and beefy flavor, nice moistness, and the juice slightly soaking into the bread. The bread was a nice softer rye (I find that if the rye is too strong, it overwhelms the sandwich). And it was a pretty plentiful sandwich for the money, in fact, it was one of the sandwiches that was overstuffed to the point where it’s more of a “meat plate with bread garnish”. But I enjoyed it.

So we got to enjoy on of Montreal’s classic dishes in one of the more historical places that serves it, all conveniently located near our bus stop. I’ll certainly think of giving them a try on my next visit as well.

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