Steamies Are A Montreal Specialty — Here's What Makes The Hot Dogs So Iconic

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MTL Blog, Associate Editor
​Two steamies. Right: The sign for Décarie Hot Dogs.

Two steamies. Right: The sign for Décarie Hot Dogs.

Montreal hot dogs aren't just an affordable late-night snack, they're also a local speciality — steamies, or steamé, are uniquely Quebecois. They're often smaller than steam-cooked hot dogs south of the border and topped with onions, relish, coleslaw and a tangy "secret" sauce that varies from vendor to vendor.

The street food dates back to the early 1940s when Montreal saw a period of rapid urbanization and many Quebecers moved to the city from rural areas to find work. Hot dog stands began to pop up, offering a convenient and inexpensive snack that could be eaten quickly and easily, which made them popular with factory workers.

Many vendors opted to steam their beef sausages because they could cook a large number of hot dogs thoroughly, evenly and efficiently. The cooking method also added a distinct texture and flavour, making the sausages juicier and more tender than a grilled hot dog. The popularity of steamies has stuck around and the snack is now a beloved part of Montreal's food culture.

You might also spot toasties, or toasté, on the menu of your local casse-croûte — a hot dog style with origins in Ontario. Unlike the steamie, which is traditionally served in a soft and fluffy steamed bun, toasties are typically served in a firmer grilled bun. The sausage is also grilled, which can add a slightly charred flavour to the meat.

In contrast, the water used to make steamies can be infused with seasonings, like garlic or onion, which adds a subtle flavour. However, the taste of the hot dog itself, and added toppings, provide that classic steamie taste. Many are made with a natural casing, which also gives them a distinct snap when bitten.

Toppings for steamies and toasties vary, but steamies tend to be served with a classic mix of mustard and relish, while toasties often feature more creative add-ons like cheese or bacon.

There are a number of Montreal restaurants and food trucks that are keeping both traditions alive. Here are a few to check out:

Montreal Pool Room

Where: 1217, boul St-Laurent

Reason to try: This historic downtown snack bar has been serving hot dogs for over a century (since 1912) and serves the consistently best all-dressed steamies in the city topped with mustard, onions and coleslaw.

Décarie Hot Dog

Where: 953, boul Décarie

Reason to try: This classic diner located in VSL has been serving steamies for over 50 years. You can get your hot dog with a variety of toppings, including chili, cheese and sauerkraut.

La Belle Province

Where: Multiple locations

Reason to try: This fast food chain is a popular destination for cheap fare and their hot dogs are a solid choice. With over a dozen locations across Montreal to pick from, it's easy to grab an affordable Belle Pro steamie topped with mustard, onions and coleslaw.

La Banquise

Guilhem Vellut | Flickr

Where: 994, rue Rachel E.

Reason to try: This Plateau resto may be best known for its famous poutine, but it also offers a steamie topped with signature gravy and cheese curds, which makes for a tasty variation of two Montreal classic dishes.

Patati Patata

Where: 4177, boul St-Laurent (Plateau); 170, rue Jean-Talon Est (Atwater)

Reason to try: This versatile diner is well-known for its fries, but it also serves scrumptious steamies topped with onions and a special sauce. The hot dogs come with a side of coleslaw, which adds a refreshing crunch and a hint of sweetness.

This article has been updated to show that Décarie Hot Dog is located in Saint-Laurent, not Côte-des-Neiges.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an award-winning writer, editor and former radio journalist with a passion for finding hidden gems in the city.
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