MOISHES STEAKHOUSE: THE OLD-SCHOOL RESTAURANT THAT SHAPED MONTREAL’S FOOD SCENE
O Canada! We can’t help but admire your many attributes: your commitment to diversity, your plethora of diving sites (the wrecks of St. Lawrence river is amongst our fave) and, of course, your Michelin star-worthy food scene. From British Columbia to Quebec, America’s friendly neighbor to the north is home to some of the world’s most noteworthy bites and restaurants, and Moishes Steakhouse is one of the very few to take the lead.
This old-school fine dining gem has been part of Montreal’s food scene since the late 1930s, playing a huge role in the city’s ever-evolving culinary culture. But, why did this happen and, most importantly, how can you get a taste of the “magic”? If your foodie curiosity has reached new heights just about now, this tell-all guide to Moishes Steakhouse will let you in on the restaurant’s decade-long history while helping you navigate its must-try menu. So, are you ready to wine and dine Montreal-style?
How It All Started
Arguably the oldest steak joint in town (and according to Forbes, one of the world’s best places to enjoy a meal), Moishes Steakhouse opened its doors to the public in 1938. The business and culinary mastermind behind the now-world-famous eatery was Moishe Lighter, an immigrant from Romania who supposedly won the venue from his boss in a poker game.
Moishes Steakhouse is situated on 3961 St. Lawrence Boulevard, a.k.a. the Main, which is considered Montreal’s main artery, a quality that has contributed to the restaurant’s success over the years. The said street also serves as a physical division between the eastern and western parts of the city, making Moishes’s all the easier to “discover.”
However, despite the eatery’s ideal locale and overall potential, things didn’t start out as smooth as someone would expect. During his first steps in the dining industry, Moishe Lighter was struggling to make ends meet as the place grossed one-digit revenues. Fortunately, thanks to his delicious menu, the tables turned, and the steakhouse started gaining the attention it deserved.
A Menu Worthy of Gourmands
Heavily influenced by the Jewish element that was reigning supreme in the area as well as Moishe’s own Romanian roots, the steak-loving restaurant built a name for itself for its unique take on many Old World recipes including potato latkes and karnatzlach. In fact, it was this unusual combo of flavors and cuisines that shaped Montreal’s food culture and made it into what it is today: a delicious fusion of savory ingredients and spices that compliment meat to the extreme.
However, not long ago, this menu was updated to meet the needs of modern epicures with more adventurous palates. During this “facelift,” certain staples remained as is while new ones were introduced in an attempt to refine the restaurant’s signature flavor. And it worked! The Moishes Steakhouse menu 2.0 offers patrons the chance to strike a perfect balance between traditional and edgy.
Some of the most noteworthy dishes include the lobster roll, the organic salmon fillet which is refrigerated in chili sauce and topped with marinated onions (yum!), the filet mignon, the charcoal-roasted maple chicken and the chopped liver.
Also, don’t forget to make some room for Moishe’s most popular appetizer, the Monte Carlo potato. This delicious dish features oven-baked potato skins that are stuffed with a fluffy mixture of potato puree, milk, cream, butter, and chives. The hand-cut French fries are also a treat for fried food enthusiasts, so all of us.
And since these dishes don’t come cheap, you can always pay a visit to Moishes during “happy hour” or as the owners like to call it, the “ Nine and Wine” hours. So, from Wednesday to Saturday, you can enjoy a 29-dollar dinner that includes one appetizer and one main course of your choice along with a cup of coffee or tea. This weekly offer runs from 9 pm to midnight – hence the punny title.
The High-Profile Clientele
Somewhere between the cozy, family-like atmosphere, the well-thought-out menu and the high-quality service, it’s no wonder Moishes Steakhouse earned its place on every gourmand’s bucket list. But, locals were not the only ones who took wind of this fine dining paradise over the years. In fact, besides regular Montrealers, the restaurant got (and still gets!) the chance to cater the gourmet needs of many celebrities, politicians, and athletes. The star-studded clientele includes Don Rickles, Celine Dion, Penelope Cruz, Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and most recently, the rock band Bon Jovi who also checked out the colorful mural of Leonard Cohen that adorns the back wall of the restaurant. Let’s be honest: Not many restaurants can boast that they served and entertained the likes of such Hollywood icons and music legends!
From the Past to the Future
Just because Moishes Steakhouse stays true to the rustic/traditional vibe and ambiance that made it popular in the first place, it doesn’t mean it’s ignorant to the conformities of the future. Lenny and Larry Lighter, the two sons of Moishe Lighter and current owners of the restaurant, make sure they spread the word on their delicious dishes and reach out to new audiences in the most millennial way possible, a.k.a. through social media.
In fact, thanks to their strong online presence, Moishes boasts more than 12.000 Facebook followers who keep up with the eatery’s non-stop foodie adventures on the reg. If you want to be one of them and crowd your feed with more steak-inspired inspo, make sure to give them a follow.
The two brothers/owners also kept pace with the changing times by refreshing the venue’s décor when needed and introducing new flavors to the mix. They even upgraded their wine list which is presented to patrons on an Ipad, making the whole experience far more interactive.
FYI: Moishes’s vino collection garnered a Wine Spectator award, proving you can put old wine into old bottles and make a heck of a dinner in the process. These makeovers are the reason why Moishes has drawn a younger demographic and is still considered one of Montreal’s most iconic restaurants.
Have you ever dined like a celeb in Moishes Steakhouse? If so, share your experiences with us in the comment section below or tag us in your best #Montrealeats @internationaldivermag.