About us

If you’ve ever found yourself peering over the mountain of pink, piping-hot deliciousness, the two thin slices of rye, and the slathering of yellow mustard that we Montrealers call a smoked meat sandwich, and wondered by what arcane ritual mere beef is transformed into the world-renowned delicacy you’re about to enjoy, well, we’re not going to tell you. It’s a secret.

But we can tell you that our founder Peter Varvaro’s own quest for the ‘how’ of smoked meat started when his mother would send him as a boy to fetch smoked meat sandwiches for the family. By the time he opened the Main St-Lawrence Steakhouse and Delicatessen in 1974, Peter’s passion for smoked meat had driven him to begin a lengthy series of experiments with brisket. He acquired the specialized ovens and equipment, and learned, the hard way, how to season, slow-cook, and hot-smoke his brisket to its present day perfection. That’s how we know nobody else in the world makes smoked meat the way we do.

Ten successful years later Peter moved his restaurant to its present digs at 3864 St-Lawrence, directly across the street from competitor Schwartz’s, and changed the name to Main Delicatessen and Steakhouse. He expanded the menu to embrace both Jewish specialities like Matzo ball soup and varenekes, and the flavour of Quebec’s cuisine, sometimes combining the two into uniquely Montreal dishes like smoked meat poutine, now a staple of delis and diners across the city. And if you’ve still got room left over, Peter’s wife Diane tops off the menu with a mouth-watering variety of cheesecakes, cakes and pies that she creates fresh in her kitchen every week.

All of Peter’s family, his sons Dominic, Philip, Angelo, and Peter Junior, and his daughter Jennifer too have worked with him at the Main–two of his sons have even gone on to open their own restaurants! And in its nearly forty years the Main booths and tables have hosted some of the most famous names in the world, names like Leonard Cohen, Mordecai Richler, Celine Dion, Jackie Mason, Al Pacino, and Peter’s close friend, sculptor Stanley Lewis, who would leave his studio just up the street every day to come down and eat at the Main.

Today we’re still a family business, we’re still making smoked meat the way Peter makes it, and the Main still marinates in the spices and smoke of Montreal’s heart, welcoming anyone with an appetite for good food from mid-morning ’til dawn, every day of the week. And that’s no secret.