The famous item at Wilensky's is the Wilensky Special®. It is a toasted salami and bologna sandwich with swiss or cheddar cheese (optional) and mustard (not optional). The sandwich is not cut in half and it is served on a napkin that is set directly on the bar.
Other food items on the menu include hot dogs, cheese sandwiches, and tasty egg salad sandwiches, but most first first-timers order the Special, perhaps with a side of a sour pickle, half sour pickle, or karnatzel sausage. Wilensky's also has a real soda fountain. A definite highlight! Drinks, which are made with homemade syrups, include not-so-easy-to-find egg cream soda (!).
Wilensky's consists of one room with a single counter at which there is a set of 9 fixed bar stools. The server and cook behind the counter don't just run the business, but also act as surveyors who look at the people passing by, ready orders for regulars before they even sit down, watch you eat, and snatch up the napkin that held your sandwich as soon as you've finished eating. I recommend engaging the staff in conversation, as they seem to enjoy it when you take a genuine interest in the establishment and its history.
Special rules and hours
Much is made of the house rules at this establishment, including the one that the Special always has mustard on it and the one that the sandwiches are never cut in half. At Wilensky's, things are done only the way that they have always been done, and requests to deviate from that aren't entertained.
Among the other interesting traditions here is that tips are not accepted. Also note that until relatively recently opening hours were restricted to lunch during the week only. Now Wilensky's is open for lunch on Saturday, too. If in doubt, call ahead to find out opening hours.
A piece of Montreal history
While the food and drinks are acceptable, the real draw for me to go to Wilensky's is to be able to eat at a place that is a real piece of Montreal history. Take a moment to read about it on the restaurant's website. Then go and soak up the ambiance at this Montreal institution.
34 Fairmount West
Highlights: Living history. An old-fashioned soda fountain.