Thursday, 3 April 2014

Al's Deli vs Federal Delicatessen

                            The Deli Showdown

 I was so excited when I heard about Federal Delicastessen. After watching Twin Peaks and Gilmore Girls, I've always wanted to eat in an American diner/deli.* Fed Deli has done an amazing job in replicating one and even has the super cute waitress uniforms, seating at the counter and paper hats (which you can also buy). After my first trip there I left feeling like this was my new favourite place to eat in the city and nowhere could possibly be better. But then the very next week (I was probably googling Fed Deli) I discovered Al's Deli and am now a little bit obsessed. I've recently discovered my love of all things salmon and now that I have tasted Al's home cured maple smoked salmon it's hard to think about anything else. When I tell people about my love for Al's Deli they usually think I am talking about Al Brown's Federal Delicatessen. I can understand the confusion. Both restaurants opened around the same time, are owned by dudes named Al (Lazic and Brown), have Deli in the name and have similar menus. I have therefore decide to write up and list, dish out some points and see which is my favourite.

I had not heard of poutine until I went to Fed Deli. Poutine is a common Canadian dish, originally from Quebec, made with french fries, topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. IT"S AMAZING! I can't decide which one is better, don't make me. However at Al's Deli you can order poutine with smoked brisket on top which is melt in your mouth delicious so I guess Al's Deli will have to take the point for this one.

Al's Deli Poutine topped with smoked brisket

Fed Deli Poutine

Both places serve handmade Montreal bagels. Al's Deli’s are made on site and Fed Deli bagels are made at Best Ugly which you can watch being made in store. Al Lazic is from Montreal and Al’s family had a restaurant in downtown Montreal. Al Brown spent two years in Montreal in the 80s where he first discovered hand-made, wood-fired bagels. I wonder if the Al's ever crossed paths in Montreal?** At Fed Deli you don't get a choice of which bagel you get, there is only plain but at Al's Deli you have the choice of what is available that day. While both bagels are fantastic but Al's Deli have the edge, nice and soft in the middle and not too hard and chewy.

Al's Deli "The Saint" on an onion bagel

Fed Deli "The Best Ugly"

Best Salmon goes to Al's. I hate the term amaze-balls (those crazy kids these days) but it really is amaze balls. Home cured maple smoked salmon, mmmmmm. Al's Deli have a small fridge on the counter where you can buy salmon to take home (also bacon). 

The point for the largest and most diverse menu goes to Fed Deli. They have a lunch/dinner menu as well as a brunch and late night menu. As well as sandwiches and bagels, Fed Deli also has soups, salads and a plethora of meat dishes. While Al's deli's menu is small in comparison with three larger dishes as well as there sandwiches and bagels, they seem to be adding new dishes every week so watch this space. 


Best service is a tie, I have had excellent and poor service from both, but this is life. If you go at a crazy busy time then slower service is to be expected. Again, Al's is still expanding so I assume the service will pick up as their staff numbers do. 

Best pie: I can't really judge the best pie yet as I am yet to try it but the photos of Al's piecaken are incredible. I would love to try it but it always sells out before I get there. More piecaken please Al! I have however tried the Apple Pie Fries which were fantastic. Little fingers of hot pastry filled with cinnamon apple and a butterscotch/caramel sauce. At Fed Deli I tried the banana & toffee pie with caramel popcorn at Fed Deli and it was good but not amazing and i thought a bit overpriced as it was a very small wedge. Fed Deli has a larger pie selection also so they get the point.


Al's Deli Apple Pie Fries

Drinks selection will have to go to Fed Deli as they have floats (try the chimney sweep, thick peanut butter and chocolate mini shake. Yum!), fountain soda hand pulled by a soda jerk, bottomless filter coffee,*** cocktails and a great beer selection. Al's Deli has happy hour (wooooo) with a solid list of cocktails (I hear the watermelon mojito is amazing) as well as your classic milkshakes, root beer and root beer floats.

Fed Deli Bottomless Filter Coffee

You can read my original reviews on Zomato here and here. I have been back to both restaurants since and tried more of the menu so I really should update my reviews. One day.  

In conclusion, they are both amazing and if you like bagels and poutine or have ever wanted to experience what it be like to eat at a diner then I would recommend checking out both Al's Deli and Fed Deli. For the sole purpose of closure I am going to have declare Al's Deli my favourite as their Salmon and bagels are really, really good and I always back the little guy (go Mighty Ducks!).

Here are more photos of Al's and Fed's delectable dishes.

Al's Deli "The Plateau" 

Al's Deli 

Al's Deli

Fed Deli

Fed Deli Morning Glory 

Fed Deli Treyf

Fed Deli Griddle Cakes

*What is the difference between a deli and diner? According to the internet: 

At a deli you would typically be able to purchase meats & foods by the pound, packaged, etc. As well as sandwiches and other prepared meals (sometimes).  All diners serve are prepared sit-down meals. To me a deli is focused on high-quality meat and the sandwiches you make out of it. Diners will have breakfast served all day and are also good for comfort food like meatloaf, sliced turkey & gravy. Also featured are bottomless cups of coffee and giant desserts. 

Al's Deli and Fed Deli both have a combination of these factors making them a deli/diner hybrid. A dini or deler?

** The population of montreal in 1981 was 1,018,609, so maybe? 

*** Like all real diners should have, or so TV tells me.