Let me jump right to it - here are the reasons why I like this place:
One, the owner quit law school to open it - which is like a two-fer. Second, the brisket on rye pictured below was SLAMMING. Third, they were running a Joy Division soundtrack. Joy Division! Who the hell knows from Joy Division these days?
So, here's the quick back story from reading up on the place. Jewish kid from Montreal starts at Brooklyn Law but notices there aren't any Montreal-style Jewish delis in the area. He "delays" his pursuit of law to open Mile End. I lived in Montreal for a few months but never made it to the Mile End neighborhood that the place is named after. I did, however, become addicted to Poutine, an evil concoction of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. I was happy to see them on the menu but unfortunately, everyone else must have been too - in three days they'd already run out of cheese curds! I settled for the fries and a side of gravy. They were good - check out the huge salt crystals.
It's a small place with a bright, modern look. I sat at one of the counter stools and got a close-up of the meat cutting. This is what I call a hands-on owner. So many sandwiches were being ordered that he had a hard time keeping up with the order flow. If you click on this photo you'll see the slabs of fat piling up. I asked for some extra fat which led to his smiling "everyone's been ordering them lean." Crazy bastards - that's where the flavor is! Check out the New York Mag article about how the meat is prepped.
I also tried a Montreal style bagel, which are flown in, not made in-house. I got mine with cream cheese, a bit of mustard and some sliced onions. I enjoyed it. It's different from a NY bagel - lighter and smaller and slightly sweet. The mustard/cream cheese/onion combo was excellent but I bet that would be a good combo on any kind of bagel. I can imagine folks comparing and contrasting them with NY bagels ad nauseum, like the Mac vs PC nonsense.
They had to be excited about the locals' response. There was not an empty seat and more folks were waiting outside. A photographer from a local paper was there snapping away. The only negative I can find is the portions are on the small side. You'll be dissapointed if you're expecting a monstrous Katz-sized sandwich.
I wonder how the Canadian ex-pats will receive it. It's probably going to be hard to live up to their expectations. I for one am glad to have a new place in the hood with a slightly different offering. I wish them well.