In this great city of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year—so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around New York. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
In the heart of Montreal's Jewish quarter on Avenue Fairmount lies Wilensky's Light Lunch. Opened in 1932 by Moe Wilensky, the corner restaurant has been serving homemade soda and its eponymous Wilensky Special ($3.90, $4.34 with cheese)—beef salami and bologna with (mandatory and strictly enforced) mustard pressed on a kaiser roll—ever since. The place is still run by Moe's widow, Ruth, 93, and their children, and despite the lack of tourists and attention relative to nearby Schwartz's, home of the more famous Smoked Meat Sandwich ($6.65), Wilensky's is a Montreal institution.
Mile End, New York's own Montreal deli transplant, has made a name for itself with contemporary take on Jewish classics, including its own Smoked Meat Sandwich. However, since opening in 2010, they've also sold the Ruth Wilensky ($8.50), their unsung tribute to the Wilensky Special. Despite frequenting Mile End for a number of years, I still hadn't tried the Ruth before writing this piece, even after trying the original Special on a trip to Montreal.
The sandwich comes out on an onion roll with half-inch-thick slices of beef salami and the all-important mustard, looking exactly like a grown-up version of the original. It was immediately clear that the salami would stand out more than anything else. Very strongly flavored and very peppery (although not too salty), this salami would work wonderfully on its own, despite being a little dry, but in the context of a sandwich, it simply overpowers everything else. The top half of the bread was able to temper it a bit, despite being a little stale, while the bottom half absorbed most of the juices and mustard. I even split Smoked Meat Poutine ($16) with a friend for reference, and the usually strong smoked meat seemed mellow in comparison.
While I'm glad I finally tried Mile End's Ruth Wilensky, and love that they've honored such a venerable and spunky piece of sandwich history, I'm not sure if it's the tightest part of their menu. But if you want to change things up from the smoked meat (my go-to), it's definitely an option.
About the author: Ben Jay is an editorial intern at Serious Eats, photographer, carnivore, beer and whisky drinker, and music nerd. He always puts mustard on it. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.