Montreal's New Fast Food Landmark Decarie Hot Dog

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decarie1.jpgMost of what I know to be Montreal institutions are found within close proximity of each other. What we're known for, the bagels, the smoked meat, and the Quebecois chefs are all located more or less relatively in a small confine of the city. Outside of the plateau, old port and downtown, there is little talk about restaurants. However, there is one place, Decarie Hot Dog, incidentally, that breaks the mold.

If you're unfamiliar with its location, located in Ville Saint-Laurent, Decarie Hot Dog is extremely easy to pass by. But having students, residents of this city, and workers from the area  walking up and down Cote Vertu, it's a landmark people tend to always find themselves eating at and enjoying.

Outside, a couple picnic tables are filled with mostly young boys. Inside, a couple stools are mostly vacant as a small line-up retrieves quickly prepared take-out. Stepping into Decarie Hot Dog, there's no surprise why people call it a throwback to their youth. It reminds me of a time when I could still play with lawn darts and the only place to play video games was the arcade. I can only imagine that a single feature has not changed since opening up shop, except their signage, which has been heavily weathered and faded.

I can imagine at peak hours this is no place to hesitate, since the space is so cramped and in high demand that movement would be essential to the safety of your person. We took a minute to decide, or rather, to find "hot dog" on the menu. We ordered two of the combos, one with poutine, that netted us four steamies, wrapped in individual Lesters papers, two drinks and two orders of fries. An older man scribbles on the counter with a pencil to determine our total, which comes to roughly $13. Definitely a good deal, not too pricey.

For the uninitiated, a steamie is the Montreal version of a hot dog - picture the steamed white bun and boiled wiener variety that competitive eating contestants consume repetitively, which are spread with yellow mustard and topped with a tangy coleslaw. Decarie Hot Dog is more or less what defines the best Montreal hot dog, in my opinion. Of course, best is quite personal.

The fries come in paper bags saturated with residual grease. A couple shakes of salt sitting on our table brings the flavor up to snuff. These fries are of a soft and creamy variety, almost like strings of mashed potatoes soaked in fryer oil. The poutine variation comes smothered in a gravy more reminiscent of the chicken sauce. Sweet and tangy are not words I ever want to describe poutine gravy, but it is the only way of describing this explosion of flavor.

As I sit there there are more swarms of people going in and out, addicted and hypnotized by the Decarie Hot Dog experience and meal. And who do we have to thank for this Montreal landmark, Nick and his wife, who have run and worked here for more then 40 years. Having their son Tom there, now, to help run it, I can definitely see this restaurant is here to stay for a long time.

Q: How long has Decarie Hot Dog been open?

A: It's been open for almost for about 45 years.

Q:What made you choose this area?

A: I started in many several places, first in the East end, but there was too much commotion and violence at night, 40 years ago. I then moved to Jarry Street and Henri Bourassa, but there was a spot available in Ville St Laurent. It was a quieter area, and more family oriented. I built up my restaurant and told myself I would ever move. 

Q: Do you prefer the restaurant or cart?

A: Ugh that's a hard one. They are definitely both very different, but having had the restaurant for longer, I definitely have adapted myself to it and enjoy it.

Q: What made you decide to go into the food industry?

A: Well I arrived in Canada and I enjoyed being with the public, being on contact with them and serving them. At that time I was given the opportnity to work be given my own restaurant, so I took it, and enjoyed it so much I stuck with it.

Q: Did you ever think it would become such a landmark?

A: Well by the time I moved here I had gained experience and patience not only in the food industry but with people as well. I also sacrifices a lot to get to were I am now. It is not that it does not surprise me, but it definitely pleases me. A lot of hard work from me and my family has helped push this restaurant for success and we are no doubt proud that it has gotten to where it is now.

Q: Have any famous people passed through these doors? 

A: Oh! Many politicians lik Stephane Dion, and mayors, as well as athletes from the Alouettes and Montreal Canadiens. There has also been Rene Angelil.

Q: Have you retired yet, or are you still working there?

A: No I'm always working. I do leave for Greece with my wife for four months out of the year, but when I'm back I'm working.

Q: Do you ever plan on retiring?

A: No never! I will continue to work until my feet keep me standing.

Q: Is this a business that you will be passing down and keeping in the family?

A: Yes definitely. My son and daughter are already handling the business. All the administrative part of the business they have taken charge of, and my grandchildren come in and help during the summer, weekends, and whenever they have time off. This restaurant will always stay within the family. 

Q: Do you enjoy what you do?

A: Yes. I go in 7 days a a week and will always do that.

Q: If you can go back, would you change anything or any decisions you've made about the restaurant?

A: No. People tell me I should have enlarged but I have kept it a size I can manage well.

Q: Is there one dish that beats all the rest?

A: Hot Dogs but poutine has become a close second.

Q: Do you get sick of being around food and eating it?

A: No! Never! If I don't have a hot dog a day then forget it, something is wrong. I eat the product that I serve to other people and I'm proud of it and it tastes very good so I eat too.

1 Comment

I love this place, and am fortunate enough to live close by. When they redid the brickwork on the building a year ago, I was so worried they had closed! But they were just getting a well-deserved face-lift. Loved your article! Thanks!

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