The McCord Museum hosted another monthly recurring After Hours evening this past Thursday themed around the famous smoked meat delicatessen Ben’s De Luxe Delicatessen. Presented by National Bank of Canada, cocktails and sandwiches collided with classic R&B, soul, and Motown ‘45s’ for a perfectly retro night celebrating one of Montreal’s legendary institutions. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., guests socialized with a variety of people from different industries, and connected through their shared appreciation for Montreal’s history.
After Hours is part of several initiatives created by the Young McCord Council aimed at mobilizing Montrealers to protect and promote Montreal arts and culture through philanthropy and volunteerism. Other events include Culture Nights and the Sugar Ball, an annual fundraising party.
“[We’re] proud to support the Young McCord Council, which, through entertaining initiatives such as After Hours, reinforces the importance of cultural patronage among young professionals,” explained Véronique Lettre, senior manager of brand and community involvement at National Bank.
The cocktail party was held on the ground floor of the museum. The modern interior was accordingly decorated by candy-coloured lighting designs, while black and white photographs of Bens throughout the years were projected onto the walls. Plush red chairs were arranged throughout the room, similar to the original ones inside the corner deli. A small bar also served beers, wines, and cocktails.
DJ New Breed Nick, who performs at the Mess Around evenings at Divan Orange, entertained the crowd with an upbeat mix of classics of the era.
“There’s food, drinks, and ’50s retro music—of course I would come,” said Patrick Lapiere, a previous attendee of After Hours and young marketing director.
Montreal’s smoked meat reputation has been based on many locations around the city, including Bens’ family-run business and Schwartz’s on Saint-Laurent. Locals and celebrities alike have enjoyed Bens for nearly a century before it closed. Café Bistro, a restaurant located inside the McCord, partnered with the Bens company to recreate their famed sandwich for the event. They set up a bar where modest-sized portions of the wondrously stuffed sandwich were available for purchase, along with lox and Lox and bagelsNew York cheesecake.
“We’ve been collaborating together since the start of summer for the exhibition Bens, The Legendary Deli,” said Café Bistro chef Julien Leblanc Traiteur. “We copied exactly what Bens does with their meat—even their original mustard radish recipe.”
All the current exhibitions of the museum were open to attendees of the event, and guests were encouraged to drift from the lively atmosphere for a while to explore upstairs. There were three levels, each of which housed a unique perspective on Montreal. The museum is fully dedicated to incorporating every facet of Montreal’s history, from First Nations culture to contemporary landmarks like Bens. Although the deli has now been closed for eight years, its spirit is still quite alive among the Montreal community.
“[Bens had] my father’s favourite smoked meat, but for me, it was the cherry cokes,” Lapiere said. “It was really an indelible institution in Montreal, a landmark that was known for its atmosphere.”
The cocktail party costs $15, but tickets can be ordered online for $11. If attendees choose to become members of the museum, the admission is reimbursed on the evening they attend. By becoming a new member, patrons also get discounts at the McCord boutique.
The McCord Museum is an accessible way for students’ involvement within the city to find activities outside of McGill. On certain nights, they also host free Tea Series with renowned presenters on topics such as psychology, photography, costumes, and more.
“After Hours is a great social event for young people,” Olga Markina, real estate broker, said. “It’s an innovative, strategic, and creative idea to get people interested in history.”