Montreal has a rhythm to which you can easily fall in step. I was fortunate to attend conferences there while I was working at the University of Calgary and I fell immediately in love with it. While the conference experience often shows the city at its best, I always tried to tack on a bit of time to explore by myself to get a sense of living in the place.
The architecture, humanity and general vibe was so welcoming, I walked for miles. Without the advice of tour books and as if attracted by a giant magnet, I found Schwartz’s. Forever my opinion of what a smoked meat sandwich should be was transposed! It was a revelation so intense, before my return flight, I returned to Schwartz’s and carried a supply of the precious smoked meat and wonderful bread home, feeling obliged to share this discovery with my husband. I’m not sure that the other passengers enjoyed the aroma wafting from my carryon in those tight quarters but I knew it was the best gift I could bring back for Mark.
Flash forward to today. It was such a gorgeous Okanagan day, Mark and I couldn’t resist taking a drive along the lake. We scouted out a new attraction at Peachland – ZipZone Adventure Park – a subject for another day. We checked out the house built on a lot we used to own overlooking Peachland and headed for home.
Mark stopped at a fruit stand by Summerland so I could buy fresh cherries and I thought that was the day’s treat. Maybe wandering around looking at the local products on display stimulated his appetite. Who knows what triggered that he’d read about a Summerland cafe offering authentic Montreal smoked meat. But when he suggested seeking it, I was in!
The heart of Summerland has a similar vibe to Montreal. No, there isn’t the architecture. There is the energy of the people out walking about and the decorative hanging plants and greenery. We weren’t sure where to look. We had eaten before in a wonderful deli called Victoria Road Deli & Bistro and knew it wasn’t that one although I highly recommend it. As if by magic, we spotted someone we knew walking along the street and after a brief chat got pointed in the right direction. (Okay, honestly, Summerland’s downtown is so small we could have just parked and found it. However, I would do nothing to dampen Mark’s spontaneity in going to lunch on a whim.)
Reez’s Smoked Meat Diner is a funky, little place in an old house. There are a few basic tables inside and a quaint courtyard where you can nosh outside. It could be a Montreal diner. There’s even a chalkboard easel outside declaring the daily special.
Owned by Ron and Peggy Clavette, the restaurant highlights authentic Montreal Smoked Meat brought in from Lester’s of Montreal, poutine, steamers, other sandwiches like Reuben’s. It isn’t licensed and offers drinks such as specialty coffees, teas, pop, iced water and fruit smoothies. The prices are reasonable and clearly, many of the customers were regulars.
Ron was flying solo, taking the orders, making the meals, serving the customers and cleaning the tables. We had ordered just two regular Smoked Meat Sandwiches to go. Ron seemed like such a nice fellow apologizing for the wait as he raced back and forth and the final result was such a delectable trigger to the Montreal memory, the half an hour wait was tolerable. He’s definitely going to need help this summer as the word spreads.
Just as the menu promises, “tender, perfectly cooked Montreal Smoked Meat” is stacked between Winnipeg Rye and served with a pickle. The plan was to take it home to have with a beer, which we did, after we devoured about a quarter of it in the car before driving off.
The sandwich weathered well with a brief reheating in the microwave and complemented beer nicely. Next time, however, and believe me there will be a next time, we’ll scope out how busy it is, grab a seat in the outside courtyard, have a smoothie or iced latte and watch the world go by as we wait. Truly, that’s the Montreal er Summerland way anyhow.
If you want to learn more about Reez’s, Ron and Peggy Clavette, Montreal Smoked Meat and the major delis of Montreal, and the historic connections between Summerland and Montreal, the website is rich with information. You learn that the Clavettes are Montreal natives who missed Montreal smoked meat and take getting it the way they remember it seriously. You can peruse the menu and confirm the hours before you go to try it for yourself. But do go if you’re craving the real thing!
Reez’s Smoked Meat Diner
13229 Victoria Rd North
Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0