In 1942 Hymie and Freda Sckolnick opened a lunch counter in the Bancroft Stationery store in Montreal’s garment district at the corner of Rue St. Urbain and Rue Mont-Royal. The stationery store is gone, as is the garment district, but not the lunch counter started by the Sckolnicks. Today their son, Larry, runs what is called Beauty’s Luncheonette. Many Montréalais consider it home of the best breakfast in town.
Two items in particular are famous, the Mish-Mash omelet and the Beauty’s Special. The former is less an omelet than a kitchen-sink whirlwind of eggs scrambled with chunks of hot dog, salami, pepper, and onions. I don’t know if the dog actually is kosher (Beauty’s kitchen is not), but it’s firm and beefy, and along with the salami, gives this dish heft. The onions are caramelized, serving as tender veins of sweetness throughout. On the side comes a toasted sesame bagel. A Montreal bagel, of course: chewy, slightly sweet, with a hint of char flavor from being baked in a wood-fired oven.
A Montreal bagel also is the foundation for the Beauty’s Special, a beautifully assembled breakfast sandwich of smoked salmon and cream cheese along with slices of tomato and onion. It’s a jaw-stretcher; although Montreal bagels tend to be small, there’s plenty to eat.
The breakfast menu includes pancakes and waffles and challah-based French toast; and at lunch there is an array of burgers, sandwiches, melts, and salads. Beauty’s Mac ‘n’ cheese is a short-order gem, as is the rice pudding. The kitchen also is known for its smoothies, available in a wide variety from the classic strawberry/banana to such modern concoctions as cookies & crème and mochaccino royale. Stacked up along the counter are dense, dark brown loaves that look like banana bread, but are identified by the waitress as gateau au banane. Indeed, grilled slices are sweet and luxurious enough to be cake, lacking only frosting.
The name of the restaurant, by the way, derives from founder Hymie Sckolnick’s bowling nickname. Now a nonagenarian, Mr. Sckolnick is on hand daily, sitting on a stool at the counter up front, helping direct customers to an available booth.