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Saul Ettinger: The man who brought us Briskets and Il Etait Un Fois has left us

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Saul Ettinger, a constituent of mine in District 2 for the past 17 years and an iconic figure on the Montreal restaurant scene.

SaulFarla
Saul and Farla in this 2012 photo.

Saul and his wife Farla have always been tireless supporters of mine

Saul was a well-known respected restaurateur and real estate magnate, having brought us the Briskets smoked meat chain and the Il Etait Une Fois burger spot. More than 40 years ago, Saul opened his first Briskets deli on Bishop Street. Twelve franchises in Montreal and Ottawa soon followed.  

As Saul told me just a few years ago, people who remember dining at Briskets described the smoked meat sandwiches as "addictive."  He went on to say: “Briskets smoked meat was not only homemade, but it was never pumped.  Most smoked meat in Montreal and elsewhere were and still are prepared with briskets that are pumped with phosphates and a preponderance of nitrates and sodium. This pumping technique is used in order to increase profit margins by making the briskets heavier. Strange, isn't it---the government bans the use of phosphates in your dishwasher and laundry detergent, but allows it in food? Briskets' smoked meat was made with unpumped briskets using a tightly-held secret recipe. They were dry-cured the truly old-fashioned way over a period of two to three weeks, producing superior smoked meat---smoked meat that was mouth-watering, and truly addictive.”

Briskets smoked meat sandwiches were just about everywhere, be it the Olympic Stadium concession stands or catered at private parties.   As for Il Etait Un Fois, the classic hamburger spot was located in a standalone building in heart of Old Montreal at a time when it was a relative ghost town, Saul recalled pioneering a new phenomenon. While McDonald's was selling burgers for as little as 60 cents, he decided it was time to introduce Montreal to a gourmet half-pound burger at $5. In those days, the thought of a burger for $5 was ludicrous. Yet, within a short few weeks, Il Etait Un Fois attracted huge line-ups and rave reviews. Saul's burgers were made through a rarely used secret process that turned out the juiciest and most scrumptious burgers in Montreal. And along with mouth-watering burgers and incredible fries, the menu included specialities such as homemade beer-battered onion rings and fish n' chips as well as fried mushrooms and foot-long dogs.

Another of Saul's visions was launched on the Trans Canada, Linguini, an Italian restaurant situated in a rustic log cabin built by Saul on the south side of the 40 just west of Morgan.  

Saulcuts
Here was Saul cutting the brisket he made for me in his condo.

Long retired from the restaurant business, Saul still hosted dinners and parties where he served his amazing smoked meat.  When I saw him at an event about three years ago  I jokingly asked if he planned to make any briskets. Two days later I got a call to come to his condo. My brisket was ready. When I arrived Farla presented me with a special fork which Saul used to demonstrate how to carve the huge piece of meat. It was absolutely delicious.  

In 2012 Saul made a comeback and opened a new restaurant in LaSalle called Ettingers Deli. It was to be a mix between Briskets and Il Etait Un Fois. I was at the opening and did this video interview.

 

I ate there a number of time and enjoyed it, but the location off the beat and path of Newman Blvd. did not resonate with customers and it closed.  He had partnered with his stepson Warren Kleiner, and Warren's best friend, Charles Benedek.

Saul was a good man. My deepest sympathies to his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Comments

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Jim

Briskets on Bishop was an absolutely great restaurant. Smoked meat was the best anywhere in Montreal.

Ellio LUMBROSO

Where about is this Briskets restaurant .?

Patricia Torrance

I have great memories of Il Etait Un Fois. Our office lunch group would tell everyone that we would be a while as we were going out to lunch. We would stuff ourselves silly and as we could barely move after eating so much have to take a long walk back to the office. It was a great restaurant that served great food, had excellent serving staff and ambiance.

MIchael Ettinger

Thank you Mike for this kind and illuminating tribute to my father.

Sheila Ettinger

A lovely tribute to Uncle Saul.

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