Food & Restaurants in Montreal
Montreal is a culinary mecca and has a huge variety of food options, from diners and fast food to low-cost ethnic restaurants to haute cuisine. The city was recently ranked 2nd best dining city in North America after San Francisco and ahead of New York. The large local Jewish population has contributed local specialties including huge smoked meat sandwiches (beef brisket) (Schwartz's is undisputably the most authentic smoked meat restaurant) and small, crusty bagels (the undisputed classic bagel places are St-Viateur's and Fairmount Bagels). Other specialties are "all-dressed" pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers), pizza and spaghetti with smoked meat, and Québécois favorites like split pea soup and poutine.
Many Montreal restaurants are "apportez votre vin" (bring your own wine). This may sound like a hassle, but you end up paying much less for wine with dinner if you bring it yourself. There's usually a SAQ (government liquor store) or a dépanneur (convenience store, with a limited selection of typically inexpensive wine) nearby; ask your waiter where it is. Your waiter will open your wine for you; corkage fees are rare, but don't forget to factor this service into your tip so make sure to ask. If you are driving from the United States, you may find Canadian liquor prices quite frightening. Even the duty-free shops along the border are rarely cheaper than an American liquor store (although these are still cheaper than the SAQ). Visitors can bring in 40oz of hard alcohol, 1.5L of wine, or a 24-pack of beer.
Separate bills (l'addition or "facture" in French) are common and you may be asked ensemble ou séparément? (together or separately?) The standard tip for acceptable restaurant service is 15% and is not included.
Never call a waiter "garçon"! Use "monsieur" or "madame".
No visit to Montreal is complete without at least one plate of poutine. This unique dish is a plate of french fries drowned in gravy and topped with chewy curds of white cheddar. There are variations on the theme — adding chicken, beef, vegetables, or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato sauce (poutine italienne). Every Montrealer has their favourite poutine restaurant where it says that you can get "the real stuff" but La Banquise, on the Plateau at 994 rue Rachel est, usually tops the list.
There are several Montreal original foods.
- The Montreal-style bagel, where bagel worshippers flock Saint-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel, and pontificate about which is better. Both are within blocks of each other in the Plateau Mont-Royal district, on Saint-Viateur and Fairmount streets, respectively.
- Montreal-style smoked meat, a type of corned beef, distinct from other forms such as pastrami, is available at many restaurants, but by far the most highly esteemed is that available at Schwartz's on the Main (Boulevard Saint-Laurent) in the Plateau Mont-Royal district.
- Steamé (steamie), a steamed hotdog on steamed bun, with mustard, sauerkraut and onions. Some locations may replace sauerkraut with coleslaw.
- Montreal-style pizza, a pizza where the meat component is smoked meat
- Montreal-style Michigan hotdog, a steamed hotdog on steamed bun covered with a tomato-based meat sauce, where the meat is smoked meat, or where after application, is covered in ground smoked meat, and then topped with onions.
- Montreal-style spaghetti, spaghetti with tomato based meat sauce, where the meat is smoked meat, or where after application, is covered in ground smoked meat.
- Montreal-style egg rolls, a specialty of the Chenoy's Montreal area deli restaurant chain, replaces the meat in an egg roll with smoked meat
- Smoked meat poutine, a regular poutine or Italian poutine topped with ground smoked meat.
Montreal Ethnic Restaurants
As Montreal has a very ethnically diverse population, it has various quality ethnic restaurants which are endorsed by the city.
- Indian: The Indian community in Montreal is located around Parc metro station where many Indian restaurants can be found. An example is Bombay Mahal.
- Portuguese, Portuguese and Latino community are located around Quartier Latin neighborhood.
- Persian: An Iranian cafe-resto is Byblos cafe.
- Chinese: A Szechuan restaurant is Kan Bai.
- Japanese: A Japanese non-sushi restaurant is Kazu.
Several local variants of foods are found in Montreal.
- The Shish Taouk, is the local styling of the chicken shawarma
- "Montreal-style" are where the meat is augmented, replaced by, or sprinkled on top with smoked meat.
To buy your own food or regional products, the public market at Jean-Talon, 7075 avenue Casgrain (metro Jean-Talon or De Castelnau), is the place to go. Open daily from 8AM to 6PM, the market is especially noteworthy for its selection of produce. Even though they're not strictly part of the market, the many stores lining it on the north and south sides complete it wonderfully with superb selections of cheese, meat, and just about anything edible. The surrounding streets are heavily Italian-flavored and feature a number of excellent grocery stores, butchers, bakeries, and restaurants.
Across town, the Atwater Market is also superb, though quite different from (and much smaller than) Jean-Talon. Here, you'll find the city's best butchers, as well as good selections of cheese, fish, and produce. Located on avenue Atwater, just south of rue Notre-Dame Lionel-Groulx station
Montreal claims to have the most restaurants per capita in North America.
With delis and bakeries and diners galore, Montreal offers great budget dining. Venues are scattered all over the city, but the largest concentration of restaurants is along boul Saint-Laurent, rue Saint-Denis and ave du Mont-Royal in the Plateau. Tasty and cheap ethnic food, lots of Indian buffets, can be found around the Jean-Talon market.
Two Montreal classics, poutine and the smoked meat sandwich, can make a filling meal for under $10. Pizza by the slice can be had for a toonie (2$), and there's always the option of rolling your own picnic with fresh produce from Marché Atwater or Jean Talon Market.
Several kosher restaurants can be found within a few blocks of each other on Queen Mary road not far from the Snowdon Métro station in and boul Décarie near Villa-Maria-des-Neiges in Côte-des-Neiges. The other greatest concentration of kosher food in along Bernard in Outremont.
Smoked-meat and sausage poutine aside, Montreal is vegetarian-friendly with several veggie and vegan restaurants and veggie options on most menus.
Montreal has a number of excellent ice cream parlours, many of which make their own ice cream. There are also a number of restaurants dedicated to desserts.
Local restaurant chains that travelers might not be familiar with, with various locations throughout the city, include :
- Bâton Rouge. Steakhouse. Renowned for their fall-off-the-bone ribs. Casual ambiance.
- La Cage Aux Sports. Sports Bar & Grill. Great place to watch Montreal Canadiens hockey games, the atmosphere gets crazy during the NHL playoffs!
- St-Hubert. Rotisserie chicken, some locations have a bar/bistro section. Family friendly.
- Les Trois Brasseurs (The Three Brewers). Microbrewery with a pub-style menu and a European flair.
- Juliette et chocolat. Specialised in chocolate desserts and famed for its very rich drinking chocolate.
- Rockaberry. Enormous portions of cakes, pies, crumbles and brownies.
If you are really on budget, there are a few community restaurants (like chicrestopop) which serves very cheap meals. Usually these locations are reserved for the homeless.
If you are staying in Montreal, there are several collective cooking locations where a group of people cook larger portions to freeze and stock for worker's lunch breaks.