Friday 27 January 2012

Ettingers : reincarnation of Briskets ; Il Etait Un Fois

Two of Montreal’s once legendary restaurants are back in business, merged into one entity and guided by the culinary genius who is responsible for their creation. I attended the official grand opening of Ettingers Deli (, located at 9100 Newman (corner of Dollard) in LaSalle and I came away very impressed.

This unique and contemporary style deli and bar is the brainchild of well known respected restaurateur and real estate magnate Saul Ettinger, the man who brought us the Briskets smoked meat chain and Il Etait Une Fois, home to the juiciest burgers in town.

Thirty years ago, Ettinger opened his first Briskets deli on  Bishop Street. Twelve  franchises in Montreal and Ottawa soon followed.  As Saul says, people who remember dining at Briskets described the smoked meat sandwiches as "addictive." Briskets smoked meat was not only homemade, but it was never pumped. “Most smoked meat in Montreal and elsewhere were and still are prepared with briskets that are pumped with phosphates and a preponderance of nitrates and sodium,” Saul explains. “ This pumping technique is used in order to increase profit margins by making the briskets heavier. Strange, isn't it---the government bans the use of phosphates in your dishwasher and laundry detergent, but allows it in food? Briskets' smoked meat was made with unpumped briskets using a tightly-held secret recipe. They were dry-cured the truly old-fashioned way over a period of two to three weeks, producing superior smoked meat---smoked meat that was mouth-watering, and truly addictive.

Briskets smoked meat sandwiches were just about everywhere, be it  the Olympic Stadium concession stands or catered at private parties.   As for Il Etait Un Fois, the classic hamburger spot was located in a standalone building in heart of Old Montreal at a time when it was a relative ghost town, Saul  recalls pioneering  a new phenomenon. While McDonald's was selling burgers for as little as as 60 cents, he decided it was time to introduce Montreal to a gourmet half-pound burger at $5. In those days, the thought of a burger for $5 was ludicrous. Yet, within a short few weeks, Il Etait Un Fois attracted huge line-ups and rave reviews. Saul's burgers were made through a rarely used secret process that turned out the juiciest and most scrumptious burgers in Montreal. And along with mouth-watering burgers and incredible fries, the menu included specialities such as homemade beer-battered onion rings and fish n' chips as well as fried mushrooms and foot-long dogs.

Another of Saul's visions was launched on the Trans Canada. It was and is still called Linguini, an Italian restaurant situated in a rustic log cabin built by Saul on the south side of the 40 just west of Morgan.
For years after Saul retired from the restaurant business, he still hosted dinners and parties where he would serve his amazing smoked meat. Without exception, those who partook in these affairs, would beg him for his recipe and strongly suggested he open up a deli. 
Charles Benedek, Warren Kleiner and Saul Ettinger
Decades after his great restaurant successes, a good friend and protégé, Bob Luxenberg, Saul's step-son, Warren Kleiner, and Warren's best friend, Charles Benedek,  joined forces with the legend and Ettingers was born in a former car dealership facility on Newman. Not only is this a pretty restaurant, with flat screen televisions, comfortable seating and plenty of parking – but it is truly a dream destination for Montreal diners who can experience Briskets and Il Etait Un Fois under one roof.

They officially debuted in November and the soft opening has been a success. AT the ceremonial affair, charismatic LaSalle Borough Mayor Manon Barbe cut the ribbon and special guests got to sample the cuisine. I give a big thumbs up to the smoked meat sandwich and curly fries (with cole slaw) that I had served. One of my colleagues from The Suburban, Melanie Pepin, had troubled finishing her smoked meat sandwich while Associate Publisher Sari Medicoff  was in much the same position with her delicious burger.

You can go to and access the complete menu.

I had a chance to sit  down with Saul,  Warren and Charles to get their take on the new restaurant and what the future holds. Could this be a new chain in the making? Take a look: 


  1. Oh that hamburger place was mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  2. Great Burger, brought back some really fun and delicious memories.
    Sari Medicoff

  3. That smoked meat is a delight hummmm

  4. This place is amazing! My family and I go there since December and we highly recommend it!

    My favorite: The Smoked Meat Melt and for dessert: The Ettingers Grand Marnier Cheesecake!

    For all of you deli and smoked meat lovers, this place is a must to go!

  5. Sorry to give a thumbs down for Ettingers. We really wanted it to be good. I asked for a medium smoked meat sandwich and was told that they were all medium unless lean was requested. Well it was so lean and dry it was not edible. Hubby had fish and chips. He liked it until I told him the fish looked raw. Coleslaw was the worst I ever tasted. We told them all of this. They kindly took the sandwich off the bill and gave us another to try at home which was very good. We will go back because their service was exceptional. They just need someone with a good recipe for coleslaw. The coleslaw tasted of old onions. No vinegar,oil sugar salt was evident

  6. Unfortunatly I have to agree with one of the other posters. Both times I went the service was fine. The smoked meat was very dry and the fish n chips was quite greasy. Next I'll try the burger. I won't give up on this place just yet. I really want this to work out for these guys. The somewhat tartar sauce that came with the fish was also very good.

    1. I had a Luxenburger. I don't know how they prepare them, but
      a steerburger (as they claim) it was not. Looked like it had
      been cooked on a griddle and someone used a spatula to squeeze
      the juices out - mine had about center a large round black burn.
      The most tasteless, bland, dry burger I have ever had in my life
      and I am not just making this up. My wife tried a taste and agreed-it was terrible. I have had steerburgers at other restaurants which arrived with char marks from the grill (not
      cooked on a griddle!), juicy, full of char flavour.
      My wife's smoked meat was dry, dry, dry.

  7. I went three times already and everything I ate was fantastic. Burgers, smoked meat and starters were all delicious. These guys truly care about serving great food and keeping standards high. It's refreshing to have a nice resto in villa Lasalle that serves these dishes and I am convinced they will do great because people will come back again and again.

  8. AnonymousMay 17, 2012

    fantastic smoked meat sandwich... makes me hungry thinking about it.

  9. What happened to Ettingers will it open agian