Wilensky's - Wilensky Light Lunch

1952 - present
34 Fairmount O.

Founded in 1932, Wilensky’s Light Lunch is a Mile End restaurant famous for its “Wilensky’s Special”, a fried salami and bologna sandwich served with mustard on a pressed roll. The neighbourhood institution is one of the last bastions of Eastern European Jewish culture in the Mile End.

Harry Wilensky, Moe’s father, emigrated from Russia during the mass migration of Eastern European Jews to Montreal around the turn of the twentieth century. Wilensky opened a small barbershop and variety store that relocated several times following the downtowner Jewish community as it moved north along the Main. Harry’s sons Moe and Archie joined the family business and Moe convinced his father to start selling sandwiches. The shop moved to 119 Fairmount O. in 1932, to the corner of Fairmount and St-Urbain in 1935, and to its present location Wilensky’s Light Lunch at the corner of Fairmount and Clark in 1952. Not much has changed since, where even the decor and the food have remained the same. .

Wilensky’s was immortalized by Mordecai Richler, a regular at the diner when he was young. It makes an appearance as Moe’s Cigar Store in Richler’s novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and several scenes for the novel’s filmed adaptation were shot on site at Wilensky’s. Today, Moe’s wife, Ruth Wilensky, and the couple’s children still staff the lunch counter. The restaurant is a landmark in the Jewish history of Montreal, evoking a time when the city’s immigrant Jewish population lived mostly in the Mile End, subsisting thanks to countless small businesses such as Moe Wilensky’s. In the early 20th century, Mile End eateries also provided many Montrealers with their first exposure to Jewish culture.

Compiled by Valérie Beauchemin. Translated by Helge Dascher.



"The Inspiration for Mile End's Ruth Wilensky Sandwich" - The Village Voice
Mordecai Richler's Homecoming - CBC Digital Archives
Wilensky's Light Lunch


Brownstein, Bill. Yes, there's something truly special about Wilensky's. Montreal Gazette. 13 May 2007.

King, Joe. Les Juifs de Montréal. Trois siècles de parcours exceptionnels. trad. de l’anglais par P. Anctil, Outremont : Les Éditions Carte Blanche.

Nulman, Stuart. Beyond the Mountain: True Tales about Montreal. Kirkland: Callawind, 2002.

*Images courtesy of Wilensky's, Sharon Wilensky and the Wilensky family.