Searching for Veronica at Main Deli Steak House
Image Source: Andy Williams
It was an unusually cold spring night. We were a group of friends leaving a small club after a few hours of dancing. There was some alcohol in us, and so, as it always goes, we now needed food in us, something hot, something starchy. Shivering, walking up Clark Street, we avoided the crowds spilling out of the bars, the jacked-up guys trying to pick fights, the girls in matching mini dresses and Aldo pumps crying about losing their cell phones and/or boyfriends. This detour meant no salty La Belle Province poutine with extra curds, no $2 chow mein slathered in peanut butter and Sriracha. No, we were headed to a destination for the seriously hungry. We were going to Main Deli Steak House.
As we made our way back onto St-Laurent Blvd, I announced that I would finally order a plate of the potato latkes, of which I'd been dreaming about for months. "I'm gonna get a plate of... I think they're called Victorias," my friend, Didi, said. "My buddy ordered them once. I don't think they're on the menu. They're like pierogis!" With that, my food excitement increased tenfold.
At the deli, we piled into a booth and told the man who came to take our order that we'd like a smoked meat sandwich, matzo ball soup, latkes and Victorias. "Victorias?" The waiter said, shaking his head. "No, we don't have that." "You do!" Didi insisted. "I've had it before. Ask that lady! She'll know!" So our confused waiter sent over the lady. This tall lady smiled with a hand on her curvy hip and listened as Didi said she'd like what might be called "Victorias." "Oh, you mean Veronicas," the lady told us. "OK, sure. You want them fried? With onions?" We all nodded repeatedly, wearing the giant grins we would soon be stuffing with comfort food.
I came to learn later what our Canadian ears couldn't discern, that "Veronicas" are in fact potato verenekes, as the Main calls them. They're very much like the better-known Polish pierogi, a pocket of dough stuffed with a savoury fillings such as meat, mushrooms or cabbage. The sweet variety is commonly filled with berries and sometimes drizzled with honey. According to my Ukrainian friend, Olexandra, varenyky, as they're more traditionally known, derive their name from the verb varyty, "to boil". When asked about the difference between varenyky and pierogi, Olex explained that the Ukrainian version is usually boiled and then smothered in butter, and that pierogi is baked or fried after being boiled. "But sometimes people fry up varenyky after," Olex admitted. "Many people say it's all the same. It's quite the disputed subject!"
The potato verenekes at Main Deli Steak House can come to you boiled or fried, with onion and sour cream or apple sauce. It is among other menu items that embrace Jewish cuisine, like their amazingly fluffy latkes, chopped liver, matzo ball soup and bagels with lox. Smoking brisket for the last 40 years, Main Deli offers a smoked meat sandwich that certainly stands up to the competition across the street at Schwartz's. And although I do love to get a sandwich now and again with a pickle and a side of slaw, I find myself going back for their latkes and verenekes again and again, day or night.
Main Deli Steak House
3864, Boul. Saint-Laurent