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Sorry, America, You’re Doing Canadian Food Wrong

That’s a thing Augie’s Montreal Deli is too polite to say.

Augie’s Montreal Deli, a month-old West Berkeley sandwich shop, wears its Canadian pride with gusto. Hockey plays on three flat-screen TVs. The counter display features a tray of Coffee Crisp candy bars. Canadian-born owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski’s standard uniform? A Canadiens jersey and a maple-leaf-embroidered tuque.

But the restaurant stakes its claim as a “piece of sovereign Canadian ground,” Gopnik-Lewinski says, mainly by offering expats a rare taste of home. Bay Area chefs have concocted dozens of fancy spins on poutine, for instance, but Augie’s is the only place I know of that has mastered the simple version ($8), overloaded with real St Hubert–brand brown gravy, that Quebecois kids grow up eating.

It might also be the only restaurant this side of the border specializing in Montreal smoked meat (“smoke meat,” in the local parlance): cured brisket that combines the toothsome, slightly crumbly texture of corned beef with a good pastrami’s coriander-and-peppercorn-spiced crust. Stacked high on soft rye bread, it makes for a meaty, no-nonsense sandwich that’s all the more satisfying for being free of garnish or adornment. Spring for the monstrous L’Montroyal ($19.25), marvel at its girth, and, in keeping with that famous Canadian politeness, share with a friend. 875 Potter St. (Near 7th St.), Berkeley, 510-984-0283

 

Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco 

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