Montreal is a city I have wanted to visit for some time. Albeit, initially it was for different reasons, now, the food scene was all that mattered. You could lose weeks here eating your way through this modernized old world city, while definitely gaining some pounds, the surface would merely be scratched. I spent a mere handful of days exploring the city. This is never really enough no matter where you go while trying to delve into a food scene. Nevertheless, I did my best eating the classics, stopping in at a few Montreal institutions and finally indulged in a couple restaurants that have been on my radar for years now. So here it is. What and where to eat in Montreal.
It’s not a big list, but it is a list that won’t confuse you further on where to go and will be sure not to disappoint if you only have a short stay in this beautiful, hungry city.
If there is one thing that everyone is going to eat in Montreal, it’s guaranteed to be POUTINE, and this is the place it do it. Crisp French fries, squeaky cheese curds and a rich beef gravy, it’s a classic Canadian comfort food. On a cold day, as a side, late night after hours, hung over, festival food or simply just because. It’s the one food any Canadian on the road will mention if you ask them about Canadian cuisine, but primarily because Canadian cuisine is a mystery to most consisting of poutine and maple syrup. I’ll stop before I rant.
I was brought to this 24 hour joint for a late night feed and they serve up over 30 kinds of poutine. I personally, went for the classic as I’m a fan of authenticity. The options though ranged from additions with different meats and vegetables in various combinations. There was even a vegan option, but by looking around me, ‘La Taquise’ seemed a favourite. Guacamole, sour cream and tomatoes on top. They also served up drive-in style burgers and have their own brew worth giving a try.
Located: 994 Rue Rachel E, Montréal, QC H2J 2J3, Canada
Montreal Smoked Meat
This age old Jewish deli is an institution of Montreal serving up Montreal smoked meat since 1928 and in my opinion, the number one thing to eat in this city. Juicy, tender, slightly briny and piled high on thin rye with mustard. The simple things always tend to be the best. Accompanying this must be a half sour pickle with a Cott’s cherry soda to wash it all down. With that old time diner vibe, the service here accented the place well. Casual and treated more like an old acquaintance then a traditional customer. It gave it that homey, small town feel.
Located: 3895 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC H2W 1X9, Canada
Bagels of course
A constant debate, Montreal or New York bagel. Well, I’ve never been to New York, so I can’t really have an educated opinion on this. Regardless, these bagels are something special. With a slight sweetness and springy doughy texture, coated liberally with sesame seeds, this place knows a thing or two about boiled bread. I couldn’t think of a better thing to try here than a classic… bagels and locks. Smoked salmon, slivered red onions and capers.
Located: 263 Rue Saint Viateur O, Montréal, QC H2V 1Y1
There are multiple locations throughout the city
Another citywide famous bagel institution would be Fairmount Bagels. If you have time, definitely check out both and let me know which one you prefer!
Olive et Gourmando
A quaint café in Old Montreal, I was told this establishment was specifically known for brunch. The queue that forms out the door late Sunday morning said it all. Inside is bustling with a lively atmosphere and well worth the wait. I squeezed in on a communal table and went with the brunch tartine. A thick slice of sourdough spread with house ricotta and piled high with a ‘salad’ of cucumber, roasted squash, Asian pear, nuts and seeds with a fresh and fragrant dressing of honey, lemon and Aleppo pepper. This would have been absolutely perfect with a mimosa or other brunch cocktail, but I stuck to my cup of joe. While looking around me, all the dishes looked superb and I’m sure I wouldn’t have gone wrong no matter what I ordered.
Located: 351 Saint-Paul St W, Montreal, QC H2Y 2A7
Tucked away amongst the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, this gem was the original child of Food Network chef Chuck Hughes. One of the few shows I enjoyed years ago. His casual flare for the simple and local always made me want to eat here. I didn’t plan ahead for this one so I went as soon as they opened snagging a seat at the bar. Dim lit, with a classy bar and open kitchen in the back, it had a bit of a retro old world feel, which kind of contradicts itself, but worked.
Initially, I only planned on having some tapas style plates. I ended up putting full faith in the bar tender serving me. This became a three course meal. The seafood platter here is an absolute must and worth a visit alone without indulging in anything else. There is the full deal (which I wish I went for) including all the offerings. Unfortunately, I had to downsize mine to the recommendations of the server so it was more affordable. It came with all Canadian sourced seafood. Oysters, scallop, marinated mussels and my personal favourite was the house smoked Arctic Char gravlax. This all elegantly arranged on a platter of ice with freshly grated horse radish, mignonette, lemon and his branded hot sauce. Other options included east coast lobster and caviar.
If you do come for more than this, the menu changes frequently, but if they have a butter tart as a dessert option be sure to make room. A Canadian classic and probably the best I’ve ever had.
Located: 408 Rue Saint François Xavier, Montréal, QC H2Y 2S9
Au Pied de Cuchon
Hidden somewhat down a quiet street, this was another restaurant I’d waited to finally have my chance at eating in. Owned by another Food Network chef, Martin Picard, he was known in Quebec long before. Walking in, it seems like you were transported to a classy cabin in the woods. Another open kitchen, I grabbed a seat at the bar. The menu is one that will leave you happy, heavier and holding your belly with contentment. The dishes are primarily rich, indulgent classic comforts foods of Quebec and French origin, specializing in Foie Gras.
Foie Gras is a rare treat, but I made sure to get my fill. I started with a venison tartar hand roll which was utterly delicious then dove into the foie. ‘Naked’ foie gras. Simply pan seared with a rich sticky demi-glace and crostini. Next was a cured foie gras and boudin tart which had my eyes rolling. I finished off my meal with Maple Pudding Chomeur. The epitome of decadence. Every mother in Quebec has their version, so I thought it a must. The longest standing dish on the menu is a foie gras poutine which they are famous for and I wish I had room to fit it in. Next time.
Located: 536 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal, QC H2L 1A9
Also not too far from the city is Sugar Shack. Martin Picard’s second restaurant and is as the name puts it, a sugar shack. Harvesting and producing all their own maple syrup, it is used extensively across the family style menu.
As a little extra personal suggestion, my friend brought me here and I knew I would be a regular had I lived in this city. Nestled away, it was dim lit, quiet and slightly dive-like. It already had my attention, not to mention there extensive list of whiskeys. Perfect for a night cap, meet up with friends, or simply because you’re a fan of whiskey. I don’t know if it is always quiet or if it was because it was late and the dead of winter, but I would have enjoyed just reading a book here while sipping away at their list.
Located: 156 Rue Roy E, Montréal, QC H2W 1M2
If you have another suggestion of What and Where to Eat in Montreal, please let me know in the comments below!