Montreal AKA foodie mecca is well known for its longstanding love affair with comfort food. We’re talking hearty, flavour-packed, sweet, or savoury dishes that instantly make everything better, and MLT DWN takes a Montreal favourite to a whole new level. We bet you’re wondering what it is. Is it poutine? Lasagna? A grilled cheese sandwich? Or Maybe all three? It sounds too good to be true, yet MLT DWN makes it all happen in the comfort of their own kitchen.
Originally from Kingston, Ontario, MLT DWN recently hit Montreal with a whole new concept: fast-casual dining (we’ll let the brothers tell you more about it below). They pride themselves on offering gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches of all varieties: lasagna, pulled pork, poutine, butter chicken, roasted veggies, cheesecake, s’mores (yep, you read right), and the list goes on. You can even build your own sandwich if you’re feeling a little adventurous. Everything on their menu, from the sandwiches right down to their homemade bisque, fries, and sauces, is prepared in-house with the freshest ingredients.
We had the pleasure of meeting up with the MLT DWN brothers to discuss life, their rising concept, and some of the secrets behind their tasty recipes. They greeted us with four sandwiches and cheese-covered fries that had us instantly melting on the inside. Talk about a warm welcome!
What inspired you to start a career in the restaurant business?
Aly: For me, it was after I moved to NYC. I starting working in the industry and I immediately realized my calling.
Rahim: I’ve always had an interest in food and the hospitality industry in general. I wanted to turn my passion into a career.
When and where did you complete your culinary training?
Aly: I never had formal culinary training. I was literally working every possible position in the restaurant and hotel industry, and that’s what gave me the confidence and knowledge I needed to start my own thing.
Rahim: I went through the hospitality program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, but I gained real-world experience by working in the industry in different capacities. I learnt a lot while working for the L-Eat Group in Toronto.
Have you already worked together in restaurants other than MLT DWN? If so, which ones?
Aly: We have been developing MLT DWN for just over 4 years. When we were younger, we worked together in our family businesses.
Do you work together on projects outside of the kitchen?
Rahim: Yes, 100%, from marketing strategies to catering to menu development and charity events, we collaborate on every aspect. We’re even working on our new MLT DWN clothing line (coming soon), and most recently our brunch (look out spring 2017!).
Please describe the concept of fast-casual dining.
Aly: To me, fast-casual dining means you can walk into a restaurant and get good, quality food at an affordable price. Everything is prepared using high-quality ingredients (local if possible) and classic cooking techniques.
Rahim: Most people are used to either sit-down (45 mins – 1 hour +) or fast food (2-3 mins) meals. Fast-casual dining is a perfect marriage of both that doesn’t compromise the quality of the product. It’s client-oriented in that the guest can choose to spend their time however they’d like. You walk up to the counter, choose what you want from the board menu, and we bring it right to you.
What makes MLT DWN stand out from the competition?
Aly: We are always working on new ways to develop flavours. We want to make comfort food as easily accessible as possible…and our vessel is the grilled cheese sandwich! We are always our toughest critics, so evolving MLT DWN keeps us motivated.
What are your top suggestions on MLT DWN’s menu?
Aly: Off the regular menu, the Westcoast Melt is a must-have. It’s a perfect mix of jalapeño jack, Havarti, avocado, red onion, herb chicken, chipotle aioli, and spinach on sourdough.
Rahim: We’re particularly proud of our monthly features. They give us a chance to have fun and play around with ingredients. We explore a bunch of different ideas and end up with creations like The Holiday Melt (a Thanksgiving-inspired turkey grilled cheese sandwich) or the Butter Chicken Melt (a cheesy chicken grilled cheese sandwich that is dipped in our creamy butter chicken sauce).
Your sandwiches are prepared with so many fresh, homemade ingredients. Describe the creation process for a new sandwich.
Aly: We identify popular comfort foods and get inspired from all different types of cuisine.
Rahim: We think of a concept, cuisine or flavour and we work backwards. What should it taste like? How should it be eaten? From there, we develop the base recipe and do some trial and error (this is usually the fun part).
What makes the perfect grilled cheese sandwich?
Aly: Sourdough or pumpernickel bread, crispy golden on the outside, with a combination of two or more cheeses. And if you are going to add some fun ingredients, no more than three.
Rahim: Thought! Everyone has made their ideal version of a grilled cheese. When you put thought into what you want it to taste like, and how it should be eaten, then you can work backwards to find a way to achieve that.
We’re going to put you both on the spot. You’re participating in a contest and you have 30 minutes to put together a new sandwich. What ingredients would you use and why?
Aly & Rahim: We would hollow out a crusty Portuguese-style bun and fill it with thinly sliced ribeye, a poached egg, taleggio, pickled red onions, arugula, and a spicy Hollandaise sauce. Unassuming, but when you cut into it, you get all the good stuff.
What are your plans for MLT DWN? Can we hope for any new locations?
Aly: We’ve grown pretty fast over the past couple of years and we are now looking for some strategic partners to help take us to the next level.
Rahim: We’ve been working hard to grow MLT DWN; four locations in four years is quick. We want to take a breath and focus on our current stores, but you never know when opportunity will come knocking.
MLT DWN gets extra creativity points for their storefront window art. Pick up a sandwich and take a picture in Madame Tadame’s Snapchat or Instagram-inspired painting on your way out. Don’t forget to say cheese!
837 Avenue du Mont-Royal E, Montréal, QC H2J 1W9
Photos by MLT DWN and Tania Schiliro (@madametadame).