A fixture of the Main is on the move.
Do you have an unslakable desire for a bone-in steak and lots of wine? Jean Bédard is wagering the answer is yes.
The president of Groupe Sportscene — which owns Moishes steakhouse — says it is making good on a promise to reopen the iconic Montreal eatery at a new downtown location with an updated menu that aims to "bring Moishes into the future."
Famous for its terrific meat, the restaurant has been a favourite of steak-hungry celebrities from Mordecai Richler to Céline Dion, "And I think people got excited when we announced (the reopening) because it's a sign Montreal will vibe again sooner or later," said Bédard.
'A great brand with a great history'
After leaving its original location of about 80 years on boulevard Saint-Laurent, Moishes will reopen in the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec on Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, in the former home of Houston restaurant.
Located in an elegant glass building, the new spot is near the Palais des congrès, several major hotels, condo developments and has more parking than on the Main, "so for us, it was the perfect area to bring Moishes," said Bédard.
About two years after the pandemic halted the relocation, Bédard said he was looking forward to finally getting Moishes back in business "because it's a great brand with a great history."
And when it reopens in the fall of 2022, it will be in the same building as another high-end fine dining restaurant, Toqué!, he said.
Moishes is going downtown
In 2018, the Sportscene Group, which also owns La Cage aux Sports, purchased Moishes from Lenny Lighter, whose father Moishe famously won the restaurant in a card game.
Lighter, who stayed on as manager, worked to find a new location away from Saint-Laurent.
"I've been trying to get off the Main for a number of years," he told MTL Blog. "For better opportunity in terms of being able to do lunch, a cinq à sept, a full out sit-down bar."
The new Moishes will have those things, said Bédard, plus a fresh spin on a meat-heavy menu that will preserve the signature dishes while offering other options.
"The winners will be there," he said. "But we'll probably add a little more fish than what was on the menu before… It's not everybody that loves steaks or eat steaks every day."
To preserve a sense of history, one section of the restaurant will be designed to look just like the old establishment with the same classic décor. Another section will have more modern architectural flourishes and an open kitchen, and there will also be a separate bar area with a "deep cocktail menu," said Bédard.
"We'll bring Moishes into the future," he said. "It's a delicate operation but I think we will be able to keep the DNA."
Take a seat, eat a pickle
To grow the brand both here and abroad, and maintain a little cash flow, Bédard said there are plans to expand the restaurant’s grocery store offerings, which include its signature coleslaw and an extensive steak menu.
"We think that Moishes is an international brand," he said. "I think that we can expect to bring the brand outside Quebec because it resonates."
An accountant by trade, Bédard first got into the restaurant business when he acquired a La Cage aux Sports franchise in 1989.
He would go on to grow the business into a well-known chain of sports bars with over 50 locations across Quebec.
He's hoping to replicate that magic with Moishes, he said, "and that's why sometimes you have to make some changes if you want to attract the people and the investment."