Photo: Courtesy of Noah Bernamoff
Mile End, the Montreal-style Jewish deli in Boerum Hill, opened a little more than two years ago. But already its owners are making their way into Manhattan to open up a new sandwich shop.”The motivation behind the new restaurant was to expose ourselves to a larger audience,” Noah Bernamoff, one of the founders of Mile End, said in a recent interview.
He predicts that the shop, called Mile End Sandwich, will open in the middle of April. Located on 53 Bond Street, in NoHo, it will serve a different purpose than its slightly more upscale cousin across the river.
“It’ll be more of a takeout place,” Bernamoff explained. He runs the business with his wife and his friend Max Levine, an early investor who joined full-time about a year ago. “There will be a place to sit down, but you’re not going to be served at the table,” he added.
The fare at Mile End, in Brooklyn, consists of the kind of schmaltz-heavy Jewish food—smoked chicken, chopped liver—you might find at a joint like Sammy’s Roumainian, along with the Montreal specialties that set it apart: bagels (sweeter and chewier than New York’s), smoked meat (a sort of corned beef-pastrami hybrid), and poutine.
The Bond Street location will translate the specials Bernamoff has run through the years into sandwich form. Those include a panoply of salty meats and fish, including, but not limited to: calf’s tongue, smoked lamb sausage, fried cod, smoked fluke, braised lamb’s neck, fresh tuna salad, sardines, duck mortadella, and bratwurst.
Bernamoff said everything at the restaurant is made from scratch except the bagels, which he ships in from the St. Viateur bakery, located right in the heart of Mile End, a historically Jewish neighbourhood of Montreal popularised by the novels of Mordecai Richler, for which Bernamoff’s deli is named.
Most of the food—including bread, pickles, and meat—is made in a secondary kitchen in Gowanus. And at the new Manhattan location, Bernamoff and his partners are planning to introduce homemade sodas, “which is really exciting,” he said. “We don’t make any of our beverages.” (A cookbook Bernamoff wrote with his wife will go on sale this September.)
Photo: Courtesy of Noah Bernamoff
The Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal, which I have lived in, is full of hip cafes and students wearing thick-rimmed glasses and tight jeans—comparable to Williamsburg. Perhaps this is why, as Bernamoff said, “A lot of people like to peg us as a hipster deli.”
“But if you actually ponder the demographic,” he continued, “it’s very much not a hipster deli; it’s a place of community where anyone is welcome to come and eat, and to me that’s what a deli should be.”
Bernamoff, a Montreal native who dropped out of Brooklyn Law School to open Mile End after experimenting with meat smoking on the roof of his home, said that he takes his inspiration from Schwartz’s, a Montreal Jewish deli established in 1928.
Schwartz’s specialises in smoked meat (as does Bernamoff), which is, despite its ambiguous name, similar to pastrami but generally less sweet and more peppery.
“It’s iconic,” Bernamoff said of Schwartz’s. “It’s the best smoked meat in the world, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a special place, not just a place that you get smoked meat. It represents something else to me.”
I agree that it’s special. Having lived in Montreal for four years, I ate at Schwartz’s many times. It’s a hectic environment inside. You have to sit next to strangers at long tables; and the waiters can be quite gruff, but endearingly so. A line often extends out the door and up the sidewalk, crowded with hungry locals and tourists ogling the meat on display in the front windows.
“It’s important to me that Mile End remains a fairly democratic place,” Bernamoff said. “Schwartz’s is like that, with businessmen next to construction workers next to crazy, toothless French Canadians next to hipsters.”
“That’s the kind of atmosphere we envisioned for Mile End,” he concluded.
Last weekend I had the chance to eat dinner at Mile End, on Hoyt Street, and while there was no line, I did have to wait a good 40 minutes for a table to open up (no reservations are taken). Still, it’s a completely different experience from Schwartz’s: more refined, more expensive, quieter, artisanal. As Ligaya Mishan pointed out in a Times review last year, it is more “a loving tribute to the deli tradition.”
With the new sandwich shop, perhaps Bernamoff and his partners will come closer to realising what they originally foresaw. But if they don’t, it’s hard to imagine that that will be a problem.
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.