Le Gros Jambon: Little Diner on the Block

March 2, 2012 · 2 comments

in Restaurants

There’s nothing like a classic diner. The jukeboxes, neon lights, and retro decor can definitely take you back, or at least make you feel like you are being transported in a different era. But the diner scene in Montreal is, well, pretty far off from 50’s-style places reminiscent of Marty McFly’s Back to the Future (part 1) visit. The diners making waves these days are unpretentious, casual, hip, and classic in their own way. Le Gros Jambon (literal translation: The Big Ham) is one of those places.

Nestled in the heart of Old Montreal, and around the corner from their sister restaurant L’Orignal, Le Gros Jambon is exactly what you expect as soon as you walk in. On the license-plate-c0vered front counter sits a number of homemade desserts such as cookies, donuts, muffins, and brownies that look simply divine. Grab a seat at a bar stool across from the open kitchen or against the wall, since there’s no tables, and gaze upon the old school little posters of food ads such as Hershey’s Kisses, Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola, Planter’s Peanuts, and many more dating from at least 60 years ago. In between those are other images of female wrestlers, old crooner albums, and I think I saw a framed article of Celine Dion at the beginning of her career. How times have changed.

In order to get a real experience for this awesome place, I couldn’t just go once. So, I went three times, all for lunch. For my first visit, I sat across from the chefs at the bar and I watched them prepare my meal. I chatted with them a little which is always nice since most chefs never get to interact with their customers and gain feedback. A nice change that adds a little more to the diner experience.

I ordered a lobster grilled cheese with french fries and a little cup of coleslaw. I have to point out all the little things that make this so good. The griddle is a flavor vehicle. The bread started out with a thin shmear of butter, then toasted until golden brown. Then the cheese is sprinkled on. After that a little squirt of water is sprayed beside it and a metal dome is placed over the bread to melt the cheese. While all this is going on, the generous chunks of lobster hit the griddle. After about 30 seconds, the dome was lifted from the bread, the lobster carefully placed on the cheese, and the sandwich closed. The perfectly golden brown grilled cheese with lobster was outstanding. Usually seafood and cheese creates a very odd taste, but this was anything but that. It disappeared before I knew it. The fries were nice and crispy, and very well seasoned. The coleslaw was crisp and made the meal refreshing.

The second visit, I went all out and ordered the Coca-Cola burger with a poutine. This wonderful greasy mess came topped with caramelized onions, a small amount of Coca-Cola Mayo (the Coca-Cola is reduced and mixed into the mayo), and deep fried pickles. Deep fried pickles. What a sick, twisted, and phenomenal thing. The pickles are a great addition to the burger, but what makes it really good, is the patty being on the flattop griddle. The meat just caramelizes and develops a crispy brown crust. This is a damn good burger. The poutine was also good. The fries held up to the sauce, and didn’t disintegrate or become soggy. The sauce had a rich and fresh-herb like flavor that went very well with the spices on the fries. The curds were the regular thing.

The final visit consisted of a BDLT, or a bacon, duck, lettuce, and tomato. At first glance, it didn’t look as “special” as the other two, but it packed a ton of flavor. The duck was very moist, good flavor, and was the perfect companion to the thick, salty, and smokey bacon. As boring as white bread normally is, it just works with this sandwich. I enjoyed every bite from beginning to end.

During the week, they are open for breakfast and open late until 11:00pm (including Saturday). On the weekends, you can only get brunch, which from what I’ve heard is also pretty amazing. So there you have it. Le Gros Jambon is a smash hit. The decor is timeless, the food is outstanding, and it’s a lot fun dining on the bar stools. The next stop for me will be brunch, which you can only get on the weekends. I hear the chicken and waffles are to die for.

Le Gros Jambon: 286 Notre Dame West, Montreal, QC H2Y 1T6; (514) 508-3872

Le Gros Jambon on Urbanspoon


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Zeke March 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm


Caramelization involves the browning of sugars. The Maillard reaction is the what causes the browning and the crust to form on a burger.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caramelization versus


foodguymtl March 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Hi Zeke,

Thanks for that info. While I probably won’t be discussing the Maillard reaction, it’s still good to know. Thanks for reading and take care.


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