As you might recall, I was over in Montreal with my family last month. We wandered around town, soaked in some of the Quebecois culture, and ascended Mont Royal to get a bird’s eye view of the city. Some have said that the biggest tourist attraction is the food you’ll find at Montreal’s restaurants.
Brit & Chips
Located just outside of historic Old Montreal, Brit & Chips is a tightly-packed little space on Rue McGill. It’s a British-inspired fish and chips joint, as you’ve likely surmised, but with a twist. Each fish is coated in a different batter. The salmon comes in a Guinness batter, the haddock in a maple syrup batter and so on. I opted for the sole in a sour cream and onion batter (two pieces and chips, $12.50).
The batter isn’t overly doughy and the fresh cut fries are perfect with some malt vinegar. The Scotch egg was pretty mediocre and probably could have been skipped, but I did enjoy my pint of Burgundy Lion Ale.
Creperie Chez Suzette
Offering both savory and sweet crepes, as well as quiches and other dishes, Creperie Chez Suzette really hit the spot. The amount of room is deceptive, since the seating spans (at least) two floors. I went fully loaded with La Speciale Delice ($14.99), stuffed with scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, Swiss cheese and mushrooms.
For our sweet crepe, we chose La Rougemont ($13.99). That’s apples, cinnamon and almonds with a side of vanilla ice cream. Both crepes were fantastic. The vegetable quiche ($12.99) was forgettable.
Enoteca Mozza Pizzeria Moderna
For an extra hearty, Italian-inspired meal near the shopper-centric Rue Sainte-Catherine, Enoteca Mozza gives off the vibe of being a family-friendly chain restaurant with just enough of an almost upscale flair. It’s like the Keg, but with pizza. We got the family-sized capricciosa ($27) with proscuitto, artichoke, olives, mushrooms, oregano and mozzarella. All of their pizzas are wood-fired. It reminded me of the pizza at Cotto Enoteca here in Metro Vancouver.
The real star for me was the osso buco ($33). The meat of the braised veal shank literally falls off the bone and is fork-tender. Served with your choice of side (we got fries), this is guaranteed to satisfy the carnivore in your family.
When people talk about food in Montreal, the conversation inevitably leads to bagels. Much like the bagels of New York, Montreal’s bagels are supposed to be the stuff of legend. We have several “Montreal style” bagel places in Vancouver, like Rosemary Rocksalt, but we wanted to try the real thing. And Fairmount is supposed to be just that.
It’s not at all what we expected. Open 24 hours a day, Fairmount Bagel is located along a relatively quiet street and offers no seating whatsoever aside from a few random (and wonderfully colorful) benches outside. The space inside is remarkably cramped and packed to the brim with bagels. We got a few different varieties to try and I found all of them to be rock hard. Maybe we got the “tourist” batch.
Besides bagels, what you’re supposed to eat when you visit Montreal is poutine. It’s everywhere. And consistently cited as the best place to get poutine in Montreal is the 24-hour La Banquise. Come here at the “wrong” time and you could find yourself in quite the extensive lineup outside. They even have signage outside to tell you where to line up.
But we got lucky. It’s a really family-friendly establishment, complete with a kids menu (which turned out to be rather disappointing). In addition to the standard poutine, you get a huge assortment of gourmet poutines.
Shown here is La T-Rex ($10.25, regular size). You get ground beef, pepperoni, bacon and hot dogs piled on top of cheese, gravy and french fries. It’s almost like a fully loaded meat lover’s pizza, but with fries and gravy. Service wasn’t very attentive, but the poutine was thoroughly satisfying.
To experience the quintessential Parisian bistro without flying halfway around the world to visit somewhere like La Jacobine in the Latin Quarter, you go to L’Express in Montreal. Or, so I was told. Reservations are highly recommended, but we were lucky to sneak in for lunch. You get complimentary cornichons and bread while you wait for your main dishes.
I really liked the croque monsieur ($12.90), which had much more of an elegant presentation than you’d find at more casual eateries. The bread was wonderfully light and crisp, though it was odd no cheese was melted on top. Shown here is the risotto crevettes (shrimp risotto, $22.90), which almost had a curry-like flavor to it.
Perhaps one of the most pleasant dining experiences we had in Montreal was at L’Ouefrier in the Gay Village. There are multiple locations around town (it’s basically a chain) and you could say it’s a better version of Cora’s. The deal is similar here, focusing primarily on breakfast and lunch items, the former of which can come piled with loads of fruit.
Here is the Brioche breakfast ($13.75), a large cinnamon brioche dipped in French toast mix served with one egg, bacon, and a mountain of fresh fruit. The brioche reminded me of a cinnamon bun. I also really enjoyed La serveuse est cute breakfast poutine ($13.75), served with brie, mushrooms, eggs, cheese curds and hollandaise sauce. Coffee is complimentary and service couldn’t have been friendlier.
Maison Christian Faure
If you’re looking for the fancy French pastry experience, Maison Christian Faure in Old Montreal should be on your list. They’ve got the usual array of croissants and other baked goods, as well as fancier treats like the lime and raspberry tart shown here. They have proper meals too, but the desserts and pastries are the name of the game. Grab some macarons on your way out.
If you want to talk about the most famous of Montreal’s restaurants, this is it. Also known as Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, Schwartz’s is where you go if you want the absolute best Montreal smoked meat around. Pictures don’t do it justice. Smoked meat is similar to corned beef or pastrami, if you’ve never had it before.
The version served here is unbelievably tender and I wish we ordered more of it. It’s not cheap. A single sandwich is $9.60 and all you get are a couple slices of bread, a smear of mustard, and a pile of meat. It looks intimidating and it is a little awkward to eat, but it’s perfectly doable. We also tried the half sour ($2.10), which is a pickle that hasn’t quite pickled all the way through, some coleslaw ($3.00), and a nash ($1.75), which is like a pepperoni stick. Everything else wasn’t spectacular. It’s about the smoked meat.
Beat the lunch crowd by either getting here early or coming a little later. Otherwise, you could be waiting outside in the cold for a long time.
St. Viateur Bagel
If you were to read through some of the traveler’s guides for Montreal, they’ll tell you that the best bagels in town are either at Fairmount or at St. Viateur. They’ll also tell that you both places have their share of diehard fans. For my money, St. Viateur is your winner. You can grab your bagels to go (for a lower price too) if you’d like, but you can also sit down and have a proper meal if you prefer.
Since we had just come from Schwartz’s, we didn’t really need lunch but I wanted more than just a bagel. So, we got a couple with cream cheese (which is also offered in several flavors). The serving is overwhelmingly generous and just one “side” of cream cheese is easily enough to share between two bagels. The bagels arrive slightly warm and far more tender than Fairmount.
Eating in Montreal
This is not meant to be a definitive guide to Montreal’s restaurants. It can’t be. We tried to hit up some of the most important spots (to us) like La Banquise and Schwartz’s, keeping in mind that we had a toddler in tow. I wanted to eat at Garde Manger, the restaurant owned and run by celebrity chef Chuck Hughes, but the host told us outright that they weren’t baby friendly. C’est la vie.
For more Montreal #foodporn, particularly pictures of dishes I discuss but do not depict in this post, check out the slideshow below. I’ve got the photo set on Flickr too, if you prefer to browse there.
Created with flickr slideshow.