The Bay Area’s first Montreal-style deli is set to open Wednesday, Feb. 14, in Berkeley.
Augie’s Montreal Deli (875 Potter St.) owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski grew up on smoke meat sandwiches, a staple Jewish deli food unique to Quebec. A musician and audio engineer by trade, he talked his way into staging at Smoke Meat Pete just outside Montreal. For three weeks, he learned techniques and recipes that he’ll carry over to his Berkeley spot.
The signature sandwich will star beef brisket that’s been rubbed, cured, smoked, and baked, in true Montreal fashion. “It’s like pastrami and corned beef had a baby,” Gopnik-Lewinski said.
Other highlights include traditional and vegetarian poutine; meat platters with pickles, mustard, and a vinegar-based coleslaw; and latkes bound together with rye breadcrumbs. From Smoke Meat Pete, Gopnik-Lewinksi learned how to triple-fry red potatoes at a low temperature — a Quebec style that he said results in a crispier, fluffier French fry.
Augie’s promises to have an old-school, Jewish deli feel with lots of subway tile, mosaic work, and photos of beloved Montreal delis on the walls. Eventually, it will serve beer and wine in the hopes of becoming the official hockey bar of the East Bay.
For Gopnik-Lewinski, it’s important to provide value in this kind of setting. His 8 oz. brisket sandwich will go for $14.
“I hate the fact that when you go to some delis you can’t afford to bring your family. You’re paying $16 for a 4 oz. sandwich,” he said. “That’s not what this food is for. It was made for working-class people.”