Features
The Montreal Hot Dog Is Magnifique
You're either #TeamSteamie or #TeamToastie.
04-07-2021
Danielle Lapierre

Montreal is a second home to me. It’s a North American city with a European feel, and I love everything about it, including the food. Many people associate Quebecois food with poutine, perhaps the province’s most famous culinary export. But did you know about the Montreal hot dog? 

There are two types of hot dogs associated with Montreal. There is the steamie (steamé in French) and the toastie (toasté). For the steamie, both the hot dog and the bun are steamed. For the toastie, the hot dog is grilled, typically on a flattop, and its bun is toasted on either side. You can top both hot dogs with whatever you please, but they have the option of being served “all-dressed,” with mustard, diced onions, relish, and a simple cabbage slaw.

The cabbage slaw is a unique addition to the hot dog. You might think it’s like adding a salad on top, but consider the great hot dogs you’ve had with sauerkraut. Only with the Montreal hot dog, the cabbage adds mostly texture, with a touch of acidity from the vinaigrette.

Those who know me also know I’m a huge fan of the city’s beloved hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens, affectionately known as the Habs. I never miss a game on TV, and I’ve watched them live at the Bell Centre. On my first trip to the arena, I was almost as excited to eat the hot dogs as I was to see my favorite team play live. The hot dogs at the Bell Centre (and the Montreal Forum before that) are a food of legend, loved by the media and players who have passed through its hallowed halls. 

Let’s dive deeper into the Montreal hot dog situation.

The Toastie (Toasté)

The toastie is a hot dog with a snappier bite, but the focus is the bun. Sometimes brushed with melted butter and toasted, these hot dogs deliver a little bit of crispiness.

There are a variety of different places across Montreal that are famous for their toasties, such as the aforementioned Bell Centre.

When I asked Marc Dumont, special collaborator to Canadiens.com, about the Bell Centre hot dogs, he too brought up the bun first.

“The Bell Centre’s biggest value when it comes to hot dog advancement (HDA), is the grilling of the bun. You can add relish, a must in my world, onions, another must, or any of the other various condiments available. But the bun is life. All else is filler.”

From my memories of Bell Centre hot dogs, it’s what I remember, too. It was the toastiness of the New England–style bun—a little buttery and not too charred, but not undercooked—that really made the hot dog stand out. 

Another vote for Team Toastie came from Anthony Kinik, a writer and food blogger originally from Montreal. 

“That’s one of the things that’s relatively unique about Montreal hot dogs—you have the option of having the bun (and dog) griddle-fried. The steamie style is fine, but I prefer the textures that come with a toasté,” Kinik said.

As I mentioned, toasties can also use the same all-dressed toppings as their steamie cousins. Kinik put it best: “I’d say, without this combo, what’s the point?”

The Steamie (Steamé)

Steamies are a hot dog that is truly unique to Montreal. I’ve had steamed hot dogs in other places, but with the steamie, they also steam the bun, which can be New England–style or a traditional side-loaded bun. What comes from this is a hot dog with a much softer bite.

David Sax, a Toronto-based writer with Montreal roots, was introduced to steamies at the legendary Montreal Pool Room by his father, who was brought there by his father as well.

Sax, who is actually a bigger fan of the toastie, still had fond memories of steamies during his time living in Montreal. 

“It’s a three-bite hot dog, dressed simply, so soft and easy that you almost inhale it,” he recalled.

He referred me to Mark Slutsky, a Montreal-based writer and director and a strong proponent of Team Steamie.

“To me, there’s an alchemy that happens when you put together that buttery bun . . . the chopped cabbage coleslaw confection . . . the mustard . . . and wrap it all in that weird paper and stuff it in a paper bag,” Slutsky said.

He also had some suggestions on the best places to get a steamie. “Montreal Pool Room for sure. Chez Claudette, Orange Julep. But perhaps the most satisfying of all is one purchased from a casse-croûte, or 'cantine' by the side of the road in the countryside.”

Finally, Slutsky left me with a personal story about steamies that really wraps up what food, especially regional specialties, is all about, and how they connect us to others.

“I had an uncle who I was close with who lived in Toronto but who was crazy about steamies—it was sort of a running joke between us that he always asked me to bring some back for him when I visited my relatives there. Last year, he was very ill and I got word that he didn’t have much time left. So I immediately went to Chez Claudette and bought a bag of steamies, then went straight to the airport and took a plane to Toronto where I got to see him for the last time. They were a little cold by the time I got to him but I think he appreciated them nonetheless . . .”

Image: carlosrojas20 / Getty Images


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