We were excited to hear the news that restaurant consultant Tobie Nidetz is partnering with a real estate attorney and first-time restaurateur David Weinstein to take over the former Auriga building to build a "Montreal-style" deli. We wanted to know more about the project .
Nidetz, the self-described "food guy" who has consulted locally on such restaurants as Ike's and the Sample Room, offered some insight on their menu plans and the state of the building.
Can you tell us what we can expect to see in a "Montreal-style deli?"
Well, actually the only thing "Montreal" about the deli is the style of smoked meat we will be serving. Smoked meat in Montreal terms is their local version of pastrami. Traditional pastrami as seen at classic delis like Katz's in New York use a cut of meat called navel. It's fat and lean structure are what give pastrami its characteristic luscious texture and rich flavor. Though smoked meat has similar characteristics. The cut, the dry cure, the smoking and steaming the product goes through before it hits the bread gives it a primal satisfying meatiness that's different from pastrami. The east European Jewish community that settled in both Montreal and Toronto discovered this when they chose to use brisket for the preserved meat they were trying to re-create from the delis of their Romanian, Hungarian, and Polish homelands. So we chose to use the Montreal-style smoked meat as just one of the many deli traditions we will draw on to redefine the deli and create a contemporary experience.
Do you have any specific menu items in store that you can entice us with?
In general the menu will be a new look at the cultural icons of deli cuisine. We'll be focusing on local seasonal fruits and vegetables, when possible. Locally raised grass-fed beef, free-ranged poultry and eggs, etc. For instance, the house-brined corned beef and dry-cured smoked meat will be from local ranchers. We will be making bagels, bialys (a chewy onion roll) and pletzels (a Jewish bakery version of focaccia) from organic flours. We will try to make everything from pickles to babkas in house.
The deli will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. With the bar in the mix, I'm sure we will be open later than a usual deli would be. However, I see the mornings filled with the coffee, cappuccino, pastry, and breakfast crowd. Lunch will be a combination of guests who will sit in the dining room or patio with a sandwich, soup, or salad. As evening approaches the bar will start to fill with the after-work group enjoying one of our local beers or a handcrafted cocktail with a nosh or two. Dinner will be family time early then turning to
evening diners lingering at the tables with our hand-carved sandwiches, beers, and wines. We'll also be delivering box lunches and party platters to downtown and the surrounding
neighborhood. Why do you think the building stayed vacant for so long?
The economy certainly didn't help, but the right combination of selling price, concept, and business team just took this long to happen. The building just recently became available at a price that made this type of project viable. What do you think will be your greatest challenge with this location?
Putting guests in the seats is a challenge for every restaurant. Beyond that I don't see anything different about this location than any other I've worked with over my career. The restaurant business is really very simple when you get down to it. Build a comfortable space, treat the people who walk in your door as guests, then serve them good food and drinks at a reasonable price.
What do you think is your greatest strength in this location and business model?
The location provides a tremendous strength because it's at a key intersection within a dense and exciting neighborhood. We will simply be the closest restaurant and bar to most of Lowry Hill's residents. Besides, there's nothing like it in the Midwest. We're creating something unique. When that happens and it's done well, the product becomes the primary driver of business and will overcome any shortcomings the location may have been perceived to have.
Is there a short list for names?
Are you still planning to open by Labor Day?
It will more likely be after Labor Day, but it will be early fall. Once the construction start date is set, we'll be better able to target an opening date.
Of the 45 or so restaurants (I lost track after 40) I've concepted and worked on, I've been more excited and chomping at the bit to get this one up and running than anything I've done in a very long time.