Restaurants the beginning-West Island Restaurants
The public dining room that came ultimately to be known as the restaurant originated in France, and the French have continued to make major contributions to the restaurant's development ever since.
It would at first seem that restaurants have been around since time in memorial. But not so. Although for 100's of years it is true that beverages were sold at inns and hostelries and guests staying overnight were often offered meals from whatever the host was dining on; from the host's table, not considered a restaurants in those days (from which we get the culinary term 'table d'hôte' menu). It was not until 1765 that restaurants as we know them came in being.
So what about all the famous chefs we learn about before that date, well they didn’t work in restaurants? They were under the employment of the rich, of royalty or of the landed gentry. Before the French Revolution, European aristocratic households maintained elaborate establishments, offering the best cuisine by employing the best of chefs: the richer the household the better the chefs. But when the Revolution reduced the number of private households offering employment, chefs and cooks had to find employment in other kitchens or looked to open their own eating establishments, thus the birth of the restaurant.
Also up to this point, many foods and even dishes were very strictly controlled by certain Guilds, who governed what, who and how these dishes could be served etc and even took part payment for the selling of these dishes. A system that may seem foreign to our modern way of culinary thinking, but this remember was another age, an era waiting for the next progression, the restaurant. Think of it as how music is governed and ruled by copyright these days.
The first true restaurant proprietor is believed to have been one Monsieur A.Boulanger; a soup vendor. Who in 1765 opened his restaurants business on the Rue Bailleul, in Paris. The sign above his door advertised restoratives, referring to the restaurants soups and broths available within, believed to be made from pigs or sheep's feet which would have been a cheap, nutritious food source. So what we now know as 'restaurants' took their name from that sign that was actually advertising what the restaurant was selling, not 'where' as it is today. The word or variation of it now denotes any public eating place (restaurant), whether it is in English, French, and Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Romanian and many other languages. Most countries use a version of the word; in Spanish and Portuguese the word becomes 'restaurante', in Italian it is 'ristorante', in Swedish it is 'restaurang', in Russian it becomes restoran and in Polish - 'restauracia'.
Boulanger's restaurants was probably the first public place where any diner might order a meal from a menu offering a choice of dishes. Boulanger operated a very modest establishment and the book 'Larousse Gastronomique' tells us that Members of the guilds were up in arms over this new restaurant and saw it as an infringement on their business and declared Boulanger was making a 'ragout' or stew in his restaurants which the 'Guild de Traiteurs' had the only legal right to produce. Boulanger's establishment was shut down and was taken to court. Monsieur Boulanger won his case in court, and so the modern restaurant concept was born, it is believed.
Monsieur Boulanger re-opened his restaurants, continued serving his ragout but also prepared other dishes on site and to order. The restaurant customer at the end of his meal now got a bill from him only with no payment required to the Guilds.
It was not until 1782 however, that the first true luxury restaurant was opened and by 1804 Paris had more than 500 restaurants, producing most of the great chefs of the time and of history, thus creating many famous dishes and a cuisine that ruled the world and are still served in many restaurants around the world still today.
That first true luxury restaurants was 'La Grande Taverne de Londres'; founded in Paris in 1782 the owner was one Antoine Beauvilliers. Beauvilliers was a leading culinary writer and gastronomic authority of the time, who later wrote what became a standard work on French cuisine: L'Art du Cuisinier (1814).
Beauvilliers achieved a reputation as an accomplished restaurateur and host. The famous French gastronomic chronicler Jean-Athelme Brillat-Savarin, a frequent guest, credited Beauvilliers with being the first to combine the three essentials of elegant restaurants: smart waiters, a great wine cellar and superior cooking. Brillat-Savarin also noted that Beauvilliers would point out a dish to be avoided, the one to be ordered and send at the same time for wine from the cellar, the key of which he produced from his own pocket. He had such a gracious and engaging tone, that all these extras and attention to detail made his restaurant very popular.
French restaurants of the 19th century
During the Napoleonic era the Palais-Royal, the tree-lined area adjacent to the Louvre, became the site of many of the finest restaurants in Paris. The menu of the Véry, a leading restaurant of the era listed:
**one dozen soups
**two dozen fish dishes
**fifteen beef entrées
**twenty mutton entrées, and scores of side dishes.
The novelist Honoré de Balzac often dined at the Véry, and is said to have consumed hugh amounts of oysters, fish, meat dishes, fruits, wines and liqueurs. It was also favorite haunt of gourmet-author Grimod de la Reynière, who considered it the finest restaurant in France. The Véry was absorbed in 1869 by the neighboring Le Grand Véfour; this restaurant was still in business in the mid-1990s and was still regarded as one of the finest restaurants in France.
Another outstanding Paris restaurant of the 19th century was the Café Foy, later re-named Chez Bignon, a favorite dining place of the English novelist William Makepeace - Thackeray and of the Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini, who lived in the same building.
The Café de Paris, on the Boulevard des Italiens, was the first of many restaurants in Paris and elsewhere that have operated under this name. Other favorite restaurants were:
** Restaurant Rocher de Cancale, on the rue Montorgueil, famous for its oysters and fish
**Restaurant Durand, at the corner of the Place de la Madeleine and the Rue de Royale, a favorite restaurant of politicians, artists, and writers, including the authors Anatole France and Émile Zola
The most illustrious of all 19th-century Paris restaurants was probably the Café Anglais, on the Boulevard des Italiens at the corner of the Rue Marivaux, where the chef was Adolphe Dugléré He created such classic dishes such as sole Dugléré (fillets poached with tomatoes and served with a cream sauce having a fish stock base) and the famous sorrel soup potage Germiny. On June 7, 1867, the Café Anglais served the now-famous "Three Emperors Dinner" for three royal guests visiting Paris to attend the Universal Exposition. The diners included Tsar Alexander II of Russia; his son the Tsarevich (later the tsar Alexander III); and King William I of Prussia, later the first emperor of Germany. The meal included
**soufflés with creamed chicken (à la reine)
**fillets of sole
**chicken à la Portugaise (cooked with tomatoes, onions, and garlic)
**lobster à la parisienne (round, flat medallions glazed with a gelatine-mayonnaise mixture and elaborately decorated)
**ducklings à la rouennaise (the carcasses stuffed with liver and pressed, presented on a platter with boned slices of the breast and the grilled legs and served with a red wine sauce containing pureed liver)
**ortolans (small game birds) on toast and eight different wines.
Although the restaurant Café Anglais closed in 1913, when the building was demolished the table setting for this restaurant was displayed at La Tour d'Argent, the oldest surviving restaurant in Paris.
Toward the end of the 19th century, in the gaudy and extravagant era known as 'la belle époque', the luxurious Maxim's, on the Rue de Royale, became the social and culinary centre of Paris. The restaurant temporarily declined after World War I, but recovered under new management, to become an outstanding gastronomic shrine
Of course during this time period, restaurants were now springing up all over Europe. Most were still only for the gentry, but time and natural evolution was to later see the development of restaurants, of eating establishments for the 'common man'.
France however was still the centre of fine cuisine and was to produce many of the world's finest chefs, including Georges-Auguste Escoffier, who organized the kitchens for the luxury hotels owned by César Ritz, developing what we now call the brigade de cuisine, or kitchen brigade; consisting of highly trained experts each with clearly defined duties. These teams included a chef, or gros bonnet, (large hat) in charge of the kitchen; a sauce chef (often the deputy or sous chef); an Entremetier; in charge of preparation of soups, vegetables, and sweet courses; a Rôtisseur to prepare roasts and fried or grilled meats; and the Gardemanger; in charge of all supplies and cold dishes. In Escoffier's time, the duties and responsibilities of each functionary were sharply defined, but now in modern times, rising labor costs and the need for faster service have broken down such rigidly defined duties. In the kitchens of even the leading modern restaurants, duties at the peak of the dinner-hour preparations are likely to overlap widely, with efficiency maintained amid seeming chaos and confusion.
French restaurants in the 20th century
In the 20th century, with the development of the automobile, country restaurants became popular in France, and a number of fine provincial restaurants were established. The Restaurant de la Pyramide, in Vienne, regarded by many as the world's finest restaurant, was founded by Fernand Point and after his death, in 1955, retained its high standing under the direction of his widow, Madame "Mado" Point. Other leading French provincial restaurants have included the Troisgros in Roanne; the Paul Bocuse Restaurant near Lyon; the Auberge de l'Ill in Illhaeusern, Alsace; and the hotel Côte d'Or, at Saulieu.
Originally, selected restaurants throughout France were evaluated annually by the Guide Michelin, a publication devoted to surveying eating establishments and hotels in more than 3,400 towns and cities. Awarding one, two or three stars, based upon quality. This has now grown to restaurants world wide.
French restaurants today are usually in one of three categories: the bistro or brasserie; a simple, informal and inexpensive establishment; the medium-priced restaurant and the more elegant grand restaurant, where the most intricate dishes are executed and served in luxurious surroundings.
Non French restaurants
Other nations have of course also made many significant contributions to the development of restaurants.
Restaurants of Italy
The botteghe (coffee shop) of Venice originated in the 16th century, at first serving coffee only, later adding snacks. The modern trattorie, or taverns, feature local specialties. The osterie, or hostelries, are informal restaurants offering home-style cooking. In Florence small restaurants below street level, known as the buca, serve whatever foods the host may choose to cook on a particular day.
Restaurants of Austria
Coffeehouses offer leisurely, complete meals, and the diner may linger to sip coffee, read a newspaper or even to write an article. Many Austrians frequent their own "steady restaurants," known as 'Stammbeissl'.
Restaurants of Hungary
The csárda, a country highway restaurant, offers menus usually limited to meat courses and fish stews.
Restaurants of Czechezlovakia
the beer halls of the Czech Republic, especially in Prague, are similar to coffeehouses elsewhere. Food is served, with beer replacing coffee.
Restaurants of Germany
The Weinstube is an informal restaurant featuring a large wine selection, and the Weinhaus, a food and wine shop where customers may also dine, offers a selection of foods ranging from delicatessen fare to full restaurant menus. The Schenke is an estate-tavern or cottage pub serving wine and food. In the cities a similar establishment is called the Stadtschenke.
Restaurants of Spain
The bars and cafés of Madrid offer widely varied appetizers, called tapas, including such items as shrimp cooked in olive oil with garlic, meatballs with gravy and peas, salt cod, eels, squid, mushrooms, and tuna fish. The tapas are taken with sherry, and it is a popular custom to go on a chateo, or tour of bars, consuming large quantities of tapas and sherry at each bar. Spain also features the marisco bar, or marisquería, a seafood bar; the asadoro, a Catalan rotisserie; and the tasca, or pub-wineshop.
Restaurants of Portugal
Cervejarias are popular beer parlors also offering shellfish. Fado taverns serve grilled sausages and wine, accompanied by the plaintive Portuguese songs called fados (meaning "fate").
Restaurants of Scandinavia
Sandwich shops offer open-faced, artfully garnished sandwiches called smørrebrød. Swedish restaurants feature the smörgåsbord, which literally means "bread and butter table" but actually is a lavish, beautifully arranged feast of herring, shrimp, pickles, meatballs, fish, salads, cold cuts, and hot dishes, served with aquavit or beer.
Restaurants of The Netherland's
Holland has sandwich shops, called broodjeswinkels, serving open-faced sandwiches, seafood’s, hot and cold dishes, and cheeses from a huge table.
Restaurants of England
English city and country pubs traditionally have three kinds of bars: the public bar, the saloon and the private bar. Everyone is welcome in the public bar or saloon, but the private bar is restricted to habitués of the pub. Pub food varies widely through England, ranging from sandwiches and soups to pork pies, veal and ham pies, steak and kidney pies, bangers (sausages) and a pint (beer), bangers and mash (potatoes), toad in the hole (sausage in a Yorkshire pudding crust), and Cornish pasties, or pies filled with meat and vegetables.
Restaurants of Japan
Characteristic of Japan are sushi bar restaurants that serve sashimi (raw fish slices) and sushi (fish or other ingredients with vinegared rice) at a counter. Other food bars serve such dishes as noodles and tempura (deep-fried shrimp and vegetables). Yudofu restaurants build their meals around varieties of tofu (bean curd), and the elegant tea houses serve formal Kaiseki table d'hôte meals.
Restaurants of China
Restaurants serving the local cuisine are found, and noodle shops offer a wide variety of noodles and soups. The dim-sum shops provide a never-ending supply of assorted steamed, stuffed dumplings and other steamed or fried delicacies.
A common sight in most parts of Asia is a kind of portable restaurant, operated by a single person or family from a wagon or litter, set up at a particular street location, where specialties are cooked on the spot. The yakiemo and yakieka(Baked potato and baked squid) peddlers that prowl the streets looking for custom can still be found in parts of Japan. Taiwan also has its share of peddlers selling anything from corn on the cob marinated in soy sauce through to fried tofu and chicken feet.
Middle Eastern restaurants
In the tavérnas of Greece, customers are served such beverages as retsina, a resinated wine, and ouzo, an aniseed-flavored aperitif, while they listen to the music of the bouzouki. Like other Mediterranean countries, Greece has the grocery-tavérna where one can buy food or eat.
The Turkish 'Iskembeci' is a restaurant featuring tripe soup and other tripe dishes; muhallebici shops serve boiled chicken and rice in a soup and milk pudding.
North American contributions:
The cafeteria, an American contribution to the restaurant's development, originated in San Francisco during the 1849 gold rush. Featuring self-service, it offers a wide variety of foods displayed on counters. The customer makes his selections, paying for each item as he chooses it or paying for the entire meal at the end of the line. Other types of quick-eating places originating in the United States are the drugstore counter, serving sandwiches or other snacks; the lunch counter, where the diner is served a limited quick-order menu at the counter; and the drive-in, "drive-thru," or drive-up restaurant, where patrons are served in their automobiles. So-called fast-food restaurants, usually operated in chains or as franchises and heavily advertised, offer limited menus-typically comprising hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, or pizza and their complements-and also offer speed, convenience, and familiarity to diners who may eat in the restaurant or take their food home. Among fast-food names that have become widely known are White Castle (one of the first, originating in Wichita, Kan., in 1921), McDonald's (which grew from one establishment in Des Plaines, Ill., in 1955 to more than 15,000 internationally within 50 years), Kentucky Fried Chicken (founded in 1956), and Pizza Hut (1958).
Many school, work, and institutional facilities provide space for coin-operated vending machines that offer snacks and beverages.
The specialty restaurant, serving one or two special kinds of food, such as seafood or steak, is another distinctive original North American establishment. The Pullman car diner, serving full-course meals to long distance railroad passengers, and the riverboat steamers, renowned as floating gourmet palaces, were original American conceptions. They belong to an earlier age, when dining out was a principal social diversion, and restaurants tended to become increasingly lavish in food preparation, decor, and service.
In many modern restaurants, customers now prefer informal but pleasant atmosphere and fast service. The number of dishes available, and the elaborateness of their preparation, has been increasingly curtailed as labor costs have risen and the availability of skilled labor decreased. The trend is toward such efficient operations as fast-food restaurants, snack bars, and coffee shops. The trend in elegant and expensive restaurants is toward smaller rooms and intimate atmosphere, with authentic, highly specialized and limited menus.
I hope this helps the next time you are out at a Montreal West Island restaurant and someone asks you,”I wonder how this whole concept got started?” Enjoy our Go West Island Living restaurant section if you have any questions or additions to our sections please contact us.
Eating Well in the Montreal West Island (continued)
by Andrea Zanin
In 1642, French settlers, led by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve with the help of Jeanne Mance, founded Ville Marie in the area now known as the Old Port of Montreal. The colony came under British rule in 1760. In the first half of the 19th century, waves of immigrants arrived from England, Scotland and Ireland, and enjoyed a brief stint as the capital of Canada. By 1870, our port city was a thriving centre for culture and industry, and this has continued ever since.
It’s hard to pinpoint when restaurants started to take their place as an integral part of Montreal West Island culture. But some of the highlights are easy to trace, particularly since some of our most well loved places have been around for 80 years or more.
Montreal delicatessens got their start when Ben and Franny Kravitz opened Ben’s Delicatessen in 1908; it moved to its current retro-style digs on the corner of Maisonneuve and Metcalfe in the 1950s. In 1919, Isadore Shlafman opened Montreal ’s first bagel bakery, which moved from Saint-Laurent Boulevard to Fairmount Street in 1949. Today, Isadore’s grandchildren still make their famous bagels in the traditional wood stove at Fairmount Bagels in that same spot. In 1927, Myer Dunn founded Dunn’s Famous Restaurant, a Montreal institution known for sandwiches stacked high with smoked meat. His grandson Elliot Kligman still runs the place.
Though the Montreal West Island certainly felt the Great Depression in 1929, legal drinking and a scintillating nightlife made Montreal a destination of choice throughout the American Prohibition from 1920 to 1933. (Quebec’s version of the Prohibition lasted just a year, from 1918 to 1919!) Montreal nightclubs enjoyed their heyday from 1925 to 1955, and restaurants played an integral part of the scene along with vaudeville acts and jazz music.
1933 saw the inauguration of two public markets, Atwater and Jean-Talon, which among others are still thriving today. Everyday shoppers and restaurant chefs alike surf there for fresh produce and treats du terroir, including Quebec ’s wide variety of specialty cheeses. Montrealers have come to expect our restaurants to serve only the freshest food; Alouette Steakhouse (1176 Ste-Catherine West, Montreal), for example, has been thriving since 1948 on its reputation for succulent steaks and delicious seafood.
In 1967, Montreal hosted Expo 67, a major world cultural fair that saw 50 million people flood the city over six months. This of course gave an enormous boost to the city’s restaurant industry, and some of the resulting establishments are still going strong today—among others, Alexandre et fils (1454 Peel, Montreal), a French restaurant created by Alain Creton, who became a chef at 19 and still greets customers at the door today.
Some of Montreal’s best food can be found in the small, single-location restaurants that line the Main and pepper the Plateau, not to mention nestling in every conceivable nook and cranny of every neighbourhood in the city.
The Montreal West Island has seen many influxes of immigrants over the past century, from Jewish war survivors in the 1940s and 50s to Chinese, African, Caribbean, Lebanese, Greek, Italian and Portuguese populations at various other times, to name just a few. Today, you can hear dozens of languages spoken on the streets, and the city is full of cultural institutions, bookstores, specialty food shops—and of course, restaurants—that both reflect and cater to the resulting cultural diversity. Enjoy delicious Greek on Prince Arthur Street , Italian in the North (such as Roberto’s on Bélanger), Japanese on the Plateau, Mexican in the Old Port , and Ethiopian and Afghani downtown, just for starters. The variety is mind-boggling—from steaming 99-cent pizza at street-corner dives to funky vegan eateries (check out Café Blue Monday in Verdun) to five-star dining at the Casino.
French cuisine is of course easy to find too, from lovely crêperies in the Old Port and Mile End (try Une Crêpe?) to delicious chocolateries all over the city to gourmet spots downtown (check out Le Paris at 1812 Ste-Catherine West, Montreal). The European tradition of open-air terrasses during the warmer months is alive and well, and some say that our current trendy gourmet coffee culture found its beginnings here also—not hard to believe given our huge number of artsy cafés and bistros.
Today’s Montreal restaurant scene is second only to New York City in number of restaurants per capita in North America. With a rich history and a flourishing present, our Montreal restaurant scene is well worth discovering for yourself!