Tuesday 30 August 2011

The story behind the Moishes Graffiti

In recent months, Moishes Steakhouse on St. Laurent Boulevard has been given a magnificent facelift. The 73 year old institution, ranked as one of the top 10 steakhouses in the world by Forbes Traveler, is owned by brothers Lenny and Larry Lighter. It is named, of course, after their late father Moishe (pictured) who passed away 25 years ago at the age of 75.

“We have been an integral part of what it means to be a Montrealer for decades,“ explains owner Lenny Lighter. “People have come to us to experience the unique flavour and history of St. Laurent Street since 1938. But being an icon doesn’t mean anything unless you stay committed to being an exciting part of life for up and coming generations as well.”

The complete renovation took place in the spring and was designed by Patty Xenos Design, the company behind the new look of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel - like Moishes, a Montreal landmark embracing the future. The goal was to create a memorable experience of fine dining in an upscale but unpretentious environment.

Some of the changes to the restaurant include an art gallery, featuring a series of commissioned photographs, on the theme of The Main ; memory boxes containing old photos and menus from 1938; A Day in the Life,’ with candid black and white photos of Moishes staff, some of whom have been with the restaurant for 50 years; a Moishes commissioned work of graffiti on one of its brick walls.

I asked Lenny (pictured above) about the replica photos on one of the walls of the outdoor graffiti. How did it get there in the first place. He agreed to share with me the background story. “About 10 years ago a young kid was arrested by police for placing graffiti on our brick wall,” he says. “We were going to ask that he be prosecuted and before he was about to go to trial he came and pleaded with us that he just could not go to jail. I came up with a compromise: I’d let him do a piece on our wall, a kind of historical look at our neighbourhood; of soldiers in the trenches. We paid for his paint and the scaffolding. He completed the job and we never saw or heard from him again. He probably would be proud to know that the graffiti now made its way into the restaurant.”

Lighter explained that the renovation is just the first in a series of initiatives designed to guarantee that Moishes remains at the forefront of Montreal and The Main. He has hired a new chef, Joshua Fiddler, who is introducing new items onto the menu. A new, lower-priced evening menu, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, catering to later-crowd, has been introduced. For $25 a head you can get an entrĂ©e, main course, tea and coffee. “We really wanted to open our doors to new and younger clientele,” he says.

In addition, in the restaurant, Moishes will sponsor a series of photographic exhibitions dedicated to life on The Main, and featuring artists such as Gabor Silazi. The new menu includes a choice of interesting salads, grilled crab cakes and lobster rolls.

Moishes is also now a successful retail brand, sold at Loblaws, IGA, Costco and independent outlets across Canada.

Log on to http://www.moishes.ca.