After undergoing over a year of painstaking renovations — and giving locals a genuine scare with ominous-looking boarded-up premises — Mile End breakfast landmark Beautys Luncheonette reopens to the public today.
The restaurant has been closed since March 17, 2020, first due to the pandemic lockdown and then to execute what owner Larry Sckolnick describes as a long-overdue update. “We really thought that we’d finish [the renovations] in a few months though,” Sckolnick says, laughing. “But who knew the pandemic was going to last a year, and that our renovations would, too?”
In any case, the beautifying is just about complete, save for a few last-minute decorative touches, and the iconic diner on the corner of Mont-Royal and St-Urbain is back at it. It is now serving its signature (and, in one case, trademarked) plates in a space newly decked out with white and blue mosaic tiling and Formica tabletops for a look Sckolnick says is meant to “honour the history, the period, and the feeling of the place.”
Sckolnick’s late father and mother, Hymie and Freda Sckolnick, purchased the diner (then the Bancroft Snack Bar) in 1942, operating it first as a weekday lunchtime spot catering to the surrounding garment district and eventually on weekends for more family-friendly brunches. They later re-dubbed it “Beautys,” after the nickname that Hymie had been conferred for his slick bowling skills.
Slated to celebrate its 80th anniversary next year, Beautys was in dire need of a refresh — even though some patrons wished it could remain the same forever, Sckolnick says. “People would say to me, ‘Don’t change a thing. I love it.’ But, in my head, I’d be thinking, ‘It’s falling apart. Thank you very much.’”
Though a refresh was necessary, regulars will notice that certain old-school elements — the deep blue leather upholstery, shiny chrome detailing, and bar stool seating, for example — all find their way back into the new design. And though the new space still features some cozy banquette seating, it is no longer tethered to it, allowing for wheelchair access and perhaps even private events at night. “But that would be later on, after we get rolling,” Sckolnick says.
For now, the restaurant is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., serving a pared-down menu, including the time-honoured Mish-Mash (an omelet with hot dog, salami, green peppers, and fried onion), Beautys Special (bagel and lox), and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Eventually, that menu will expand with the return of other items and the addition of brand-new ones, like a salmon burger and an undisclosed “surprise.”
After 15 months sans Mish-Mash, patrons lined up early this morning to be among the first to dine in the revamped space, but Sckolnick says they’ve been supportive throughout the process. In one case, he describes taking photos outside with his daughters Elana and Julie, with whom he runs the restaurant, and drivers honking and cheering as they zipped by, shouting phrases like, “We thought you were gone,” and “We’re so glad you’re back.”
It’s exciting, Sckolnick says, to see that the enthusiasm goes both ways. Were his late father, remembered by many for his affable hosting style, around to see it, Sckolnick imagines him invoking one of his classic one-liners (what he calls “Hymie-isms”): “He’d probably say something like, ‘The whole town’s got the Beautys fever.’”
Beautys Luncheonette is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 93 Mont-Royal Avenue West.
- Brownstein: Beautys set to fire up its famed Mish-Mash soon [Montreal Gazette]