On Marriage

There is a tall, wooden pepper grinder that sits in our kitchen.

I’ve never refilled the pepper grinder. In fact, before joining forces with Ryan, I’d never owned one. But when I scramble my eggs, it's there ready to season my food. It dispenses perfectly ground, fresh pepper—just like at your favorite Italian restaurant. Sometimes when I make crude dinners that require 3 ingredients or less, I pick up the pepper grinder and think, “When did I become so fancy!”

This kitchen tool also magically refills itself. It’s never empty; it’s always reliable. The same rules apply to our bar: It’s as though a liquor fairy comes in the night and blesses us with the finest whiskeys and gins.

But, of course, there is no fairy and the pepper grinder does not possess any special powers. Ryan restocks the bar and refills the pepper. He does a lot of little things I don’t always appreciate until he’s not by my side. Ryan has slowly snuck into my world, and I would be devastated if one day the pepper grinder was not full because he wasn’t there to do it.

Becoming codependent is a heartbreaking process—quite literally. The comfort and adoration you receive from “your person” chips away at the muscle beating inside of your chest, until little pieces of it crumble off. With a mix of work and love, those pieces are then gone forever; you’ve given them away eternally.

Sometimes when I look at that pepper grinder, I get irrationally anxious. What if Ryan was gone? I’ve already offered up my heart pieces! What if Ryan dies in a plane crash? What if my love is hard to reciprocate? What if an AC unit falls on his head? What if, what if, what if…

Getting married makes you think of your whole life’s timeline, from birth until death. You begin to fear loss more fervently because you have stretched your concept of love. While I have come to the conclusion that looking at the pepper grinder and feeling anxious is not-so-healthy, I would argue my fears are not irrational.

But that’s the whole point.
That’s everything.

Devoting your life to a partnership is supposed to be a humbling, life changing process, and I’m so excited to have my little heart destroyed.

Ryan, thank you for always refilling the pepper grinder.
Thank you for being reliable, patient, and loving.
You’ve broken my heart in the best way imaginable.

britney fitzgerald ryan nugent engaged

PS: I hear these feelings only get worse when you have kids. Thank God we're absolutely not there yet.


Do whatever comes your way to do as well as you can. Think as little as possible about yourself. Think as much as possible about other people. Dwell on things that are interesting. Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Kendrick Lamar is Always in My Kitchen

I turn on the bathroom lights. One of the bulbs sputters and flickers, like someone gasping for their last breath of air. The sound is mildly unsettling, so I reach up and whap the fixture with my brush. Silence is regained, though only for a moment. Now a siren is squealing down 4th Avenue and my upstairs neighbor has turned on his television. I’m engulfed in uncontrollable noises once again.   

Nothingness is hard to find no matter where you live, but nothingness is nearly impossible to find in New York City. The whole island rumbles twenty-four hours a day, and if it stops we all ask, “What went wrong?” No one wants this town to pause and catch its breath—that’s why we live here. The buzz of the city is our fuel.

But people? People need rest.

We cannot function at the same pace of our fair city’s heartbeat. She is immortal and concrete; yet her inhabitants are simply human.

As an extroverted creature, it is against my nature to rest in silence. But often, when I’m quiet—and turn on my fan to block out the noises of this distracting town—I am more introspective. I am quick to pick up a pen, and process the current state of affairs.

Which, is what I’m doing right now.

It turns out there is much happening in my tiny brain. The most common narrative of my thoughts is that of change. There are obvious reasons for this: I’m about to get married, the agency I work for is closing its New York office, and the weather is (finally) turning warm.

But there are other forces at play that nod to the subtle movement of time.

I met Ben when I was going to church in the East Village. He was a part of my “small group”—a rag tag cluster of New Yorkers who were looking to connect with a community. We ate, laughed, read, played, and prayed together. To this day, a portion of that eclectic set of people are still some of my closest friends in the city. They will be in my wedding and part of whatever comes next.

Then, there's Micole. She and Ben met one Cinco De Mayo and starting dating soon after. I remember talking with her about relationships; she was wise, patient, and hilarious while sharing advice. Micole works in the fashion world and was briefly featured on a reality TV show (which, was short-lived because she’s not dramatic or petty in the slightest).

Ben and Micole got married, got a dog, and got pregnant. Now they are leaving the city for multiple intelligent reasons. They will have a much-needed season of rest, far away from New York City’s palpitations.  

But today is the first day that I feel sad about their quick exit. Suddenly, the movement of time does not seem so subtle. I’ve known Ben for nearly seven years. He asks good questions. He likes dumb country songs. He always implores me to show emotion. “It’s OK to be sad, Britney!” he’d say when I was covering up stress, while making $10 an hour in grad school. “Let it out! You can tell us.”

We non-married people were also lucky enough to watch Ben and Micole fall in love. And fight. And apologize. When they tied the knot at a beautiful loft in Greenpoint, it felt important—like a tangible chapter in time was closing. We were city kids becoming adults.

"Nobody pray for me
Even a day for me
Way (yeah, yeah!)"

All the windows in my apartment are closed, but Kendrick Lamar is suddenly projecting from someone’s car. Our walls are so thin, it's as if the rapper himself were standing in my kitchen with a megaphone. I wish I could say this is the first time the talented Mr. Lamar has showed up unexpectedly, but ever since his latest album dropped, I can't keep him out of this apartment. There is always someone on 4th Avenue blaring his hit tracks, so I just nod along. 

This is how close we city dwellers live to eight million other people.

Still, for a few hours, I was able to peacefully process—to find a nothingness even from within my uninsulated apartment. Ben would be proud that I unapologetically shed some tears over he and his wife’s departure.

Now New York rumbles on. Someone calls about brunch; someone else about job opportunities. A car alarm wails in the distance. As I consider going for a walk around Brooklyn, I feel a growing sense of excitement for my friends’ new adventures—where will they live next? What will they name the baby? Most importantly, when can we all visit? 

The not-so-subtle passage of time doesn’t seem as depressing. 
I cannot sit in the nothingness for long. 
There’s a time to pause.
There’s a time to prepare.

And then… there’s a time to get married, find a job, have babies, move across the country, travel the world, or simply run full speed ahead!

Best of luck, my friends, to where ever you may be in that process.
 

Ben + Micole

Ben + Micole


And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.
— The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Full Circle Black Dress

I slip on a black dress. 

This particular type of garment always reminds me of Bloomingdale's. The dress code for a salesgirl was black from head to toe. My shoes, dresses, headbands, and even my tights were a vibrant black. Washing your clothes led to fading, which, in turn led to being called out by management. So we all washed our laundry in cold water and talked about the benefits of air drying.  

The department store that I worked for was, and is still, located on Broadway in the fashionable Soho neighborhood of New York. At one point during the 1980s, this stretch of street was a graffiti-covered eyesore complete with squatters and dingy bars. Now, Michael Kors, Longchamp, and Apple are just a few of the profitable high-end retail shops that call Soho home. I always struggle to decide if pre- or post-gentrification is truly better for the middle class residents of New York City—but the Soho I know is the second one, and from here on out that is how we shall picture it: tenements converted into luxury lofts, with retail shops on the first floor and cafés or national banks on the corners. 

Bloomingdales' building was six floors with a basement or three. At the very top was the employee lounge, complete with couches, lockers, and a kitchen. I spent several lunches up there attempting to finish homework for grad school while eating a PB&J and a bag of chips. But for me, the worst part about working at Bloomingdale's was the exceedingly long amount of time I was expected to stay indoors under fluorescent lights. Therefore, most of my breaks consisted of 20 to 30 minute walks and a stop for food somewhere along the way. As long as I could see the people of New York moving about like buzzing bees, and feel the warmth of the sun burning my scalp, I was at peace. Sometimes Kelley Rippa would walk past me toward her Crosby Street home, and I’d smile and think, “Hey, you’re really doing this.”

Me, circa 2010, working at Bloomingdales Soho.  

Me, circa 2010, working at Bloomingdales Soho.  

(I’m now zipping up my black dress, reflecting on past versions of myself.)

The bottom basement of Bloomingdale's housed the managers’ offices, some stock rooms, and a massive amount of Brown Bags. These were important marketing tools for Bloomies and came in “big,” “medium,” or “small.” Every item of clothing a customer purchased was wrapped in white tissue paper, and then placed in these iconic shopping bags—which, also reeked of mold when left in a damp NYC basement for too long. The stench made me depressed because I hated rounding up these moist containers from a basement that never saw the sunlight, but joyful because ungodly humans with grotesque bratty children valued them and trotted around the city boasting of their newly purchased treasures in a bag that was already rotting from the inside out.  

A strange pang of rage shoots up my neck as I look at myself in the floor-length mirror attached to my bathroom door. Until this moment, I hadn’t realized my anger at certain types of customers still lingered deep below the surface. But maybe I should have guessed. To this day, there is a small collection of acquaintances that I can’t stand accompanying to a shop or restaurant. Their blatant ambivalence—or worse, neediness—of the salesgirls and wait staff is so uncomfortable, I find myself acting overly smiley and apologetic to the person being mistreated by the entitled patron in my presence. No “please,” no “thank you,” and an authoritative tone make me want to shake whoever I’m with and scream, “you’re nothing special!”

The customer is not always right. But then again, neither is the employee. 

“Excuse me, where’s the restroom?” a woman with a fanny pack asked the sales associate closest to me. This particular member of the staff held the record for number of dresses sold, and had worked on the third floor since the opening of the Soho location. But when she didn’t sniff out a sale, she often acted like a cavewoman, complete with monosyllabic grunts and hand gestures. Today was no exception: She didn’t even look up as she pointed a thumb over her shoulder, indicating the direction of the toilets.  

This was the worst type of person to work with: aggressive about getting her number of sales, and completely useless for anything else. Counting the money? Straightening the racks at night? The cavewoman would halfheartedly do a little of this, or a little of that. But the second a sophisticated guest walked in, her posture changed and her vocabulary grew to include phrases like, “This is a completely new Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, created for the spring line—it’s only been here a few days and selling out fast. I’m happy to leave one in the back for you, my dear.”

And now, seven years later, here I am working at an advertising agency, and wearing my own DVF dress. Vibrant black. Patton leather heels. A manicure.

But look closely…

There’s a chip in the nail polish on my left thumb. I’ve never been able to completely kill my nail biting habit.

And the attire? All of my name brand clothing is secondhand, including the Jimmy Choos on my feet. I’d rescued those poor stilettos from a dumpster while I was interning at a magazine in midtown. Like Cinderella and her glass slipper, they fit just right and they’ve been mine ever since.

And my job? Well, I didn’t know it yet—but I was about to lose it.
To be continued...


The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
— Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

New York Tip #5: Some Things Are Worth Paying For

I do not enjoy the repetition of seemingly insignificant tasks. Laundry is a prime example. I can’t think of a chore I loathe more.

In the city, “doing your laundry” typically means you have to lug a heavy pile of dirty underwear and dresses down the street. You don’t have a car, and your mesh hamper is always on the brink of ripping apart. (But that’s your own fault because you haven’t replaced it since college.)

Then, you start sorting your apparel in a dingy room, complete with soul-sucking florescent lights and other people’s dirty underwear. It’s usually stuffy and crowded on the weekends, so try to make your trips at random times, like a Tuesday night post-happy hour.

Once you’ve crammed all your laundry into one washer with both hands and maybe a foot, fish out 12 quarters and hope you’ve done your math appropriately. NO, I see you! Don’t bother sorting your colors from your whites, my dear. You’ll be here all day, and these industrial washers make your laundry sixty shades of gray anyway.

$1.75 for a 20-minute wash seems about right. So toss in the quarters—one will always get stuck—and then consider what other chores you can do for that odd period of allotted time. Going home is a waste of movement, as it takes five minutes to get there and five minutes to get back. Looks like it’s time for another coffee at the café nearby?

Ok! You’ve refueled and you’re feeling fine—this terrible process is halfway done. Now, wrangle one of those huge metal carts used for taking your clothes from the washer to the dryer. Scout out the territory and walk with confidence. Fight off the angry old bat who smells strongly of cat pee. Procure your wet laundry’s vehicle with authority!

As you pull your clothing out of the washer, one of your bras will inevitably fall to the floor.
Throw the old thing out?
Rewash it? (No.)
Just shrug and stick the now dusty garment into the cart with your clean clothes.
A little dirt never hurt.

Squeak, squeak, squeak.

Roll the cart across the aisle and examine the wall of endlessly tumbling dryers. Someone else has also just finished their wash cycle—you can hear the squeak of their cart approaching.

And then disaster strikes.
Full dryer, full dryer, full dryer…
All the machines are taken.
You will have to wait.
We don’t like to WAIT.

But what’s this… ah, do you see it? In the far-left corner there’s a perfectly empty machine, glimmering in the distance. It's the trophy your hard labor deserves.

Sq-sq-sq-squeak! Sq-sq-sq-squeak!

The other Washed Woman has also spotted the dryer. Move, my friend. Act fast! This is now a race you cannot lose! Being damned to the laundromat with a cart of wet clothing and waiting in dryer limbo is one of New York’s worst punishments. This, and being grazed by a rat. 

Your cart is slightly ahead of the other woman’s so lock in and push fast. Past the crying baby, past the women watching a soap opera. You roll over the forgotten towel on the floor—speed bump!—and squeak your way into first place. Washed Woman closes in behind you, but don’t turn around; don’t engage. Put your damp clothes in that dryer and mark your territory like a dog peeing on a mailbox.

Victory is yours! Yes, you might feel a little out of breath. You heart is racing and there’s sweat on your brow, but the extreme anxiety you’re feeling only makes you more successful in your pursuit for moderately clean clothing.  

Doing laundry in the city is its own specific type of hustle. I can only imagine what urban mothers must endure—those heaps of clothing I see on Instagram are panic-inducing.

This, my friends, is why I now utilize the drop off service. I still walk to the laundromat with my college hamper, but no longer do I engage in cart competitions. Some other kind soul washes and folds my wardrobe. I am a seasoned New Yorker, therefore, I know the extra $8 is worth my mental stability. The same rules apply for $10 late-night Ubers. 

And if I had a psychiatrist, I’m sure she’d advise the same.

I haul my laundry to this little street in Brooklyn. 

I haul my laundry to this little street in Brooklyn. 


New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it: Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.
— John Steinbeck

Editor's Note: This is real life. 


A Piece of the Narrative

We were packed together, our toes to their heels.

Thousands of people surrounded me. Pick any ethnicity, gender, and age combination; I promise you they were there. The buildings of 42nd Street bowed before us as a wave of protesters walked on into the distance, first turning blurry, and then into tiny dots. Society marched across Manhattan for as far as my eye could see.

I stood with Clare and Bryan. I’d met Clare in grad school, and she’d married Bryan several years later. As old city friends, we’d done an incredible amount of growing up together. We’d also all grown uncomfortable as the election raged on, and felt the need to do something besides lament about the current state of affairs over a cocktail.

It seemed as though much of the country felt the same way. The Women’s March had gained quick momentum in the weeks before the event. “Are you going?” “Which one are you attending?” My social media channels were full of both those planning their protest, and those admonishing against it.

In the end, we wanted to be in our city and we wanted our sentiments to be known. After discussing our reasons for marching, understanding the logistics, and making signs for the event, we met up at 1:00pm on Saturday January 21, 2017 and headed toward the protest's holding area.

womens march new york city 2017

For two hours, we only moved a couple of city blocks. We walked more like penguins, packed together, our toes to their heels.  But now we marched further west on 42nd Street toward Grand Central Station. Though tightly packed into barricaded lanes, the crowd was now able to walk at a consistently slow pace.

I looked at my city. It’s been mine for nearly seven years. The buildings we passed were like acquaintances I hadn’t seen in some time. There, in the blue and silver skyscraper on Lexington—that was the old office for Parents magazine, my second internship in the city. The park to the east was where I used to eat a PB&J on sunny days. If I squinted, I could see myself sitting on a worn bench wearing a red dress and a gray pea coat.

What little girls we were.
What big girls we’d become.
I grabbed Clare’s hand and squeezed it to make sure we were in the present and not the past.

Then I looked at the people. All around me, they held signs and chanted. Angry people. Sad people. The terrified. The political. And, of course, the exhilarated. Our sidewalks were lined with those hoping to support any cause you could imagine, including the march itself. The one aligning factor to everyone’s presence was general dissatisfaction.

There is an ornate overpass in front of Grand Central called the Park Avenue Viaduct. It was closed to traffic and packed with supporters strapped with cameras, signs, or megaphones. They began to shout down to the marchers on the street beneath them.

“What does democracy look like?”
One, then two, then five joined in.
“What does democracy look like?”

The marchers around me began to shout back. At first I couldn’t hear what they were saying; it sounded like a large grumble 30 times over. From the overpass, our resilient small crowd asked us again: “What does democracy look like?”

And then the boom of the people echoed off of the buildings in a glass shattering roar.
It was as though our response had been choreographed.
One, then two, then 400 joined in.

We marchers responded in perfect unison: “This is what democracy looks like.”

“What does democracy look like?”
“This is what democracy looks like.”

As the back-and-forth chant thundered on, Clare and I stood with chills in the middle of street, in the middle of Manhattan, in the middle of a 400,000-person crowd. We smiled, and closed our eyes.  

In a rare moment, we felt history move around us. It slithered through the crowd, and reverberated off the towering buildings. It boomed down the avenues of New York City. It slipped through my hair. Its presence demanded to be known.

I’ve never felt something quite like that before. No government class or historical documentary could illustrate more clearly what America is, and what it has always been. How lucky we are to be able to flood our streets and freely speak against or in favor of the government. How lucky some are to remain apathetic, with no true consequence. We’ve studied the Civil Rights movement, we’ve memorized the big court cases, and we’ve celebrated the Revolutionary War. Clare’s family immigrated to California from Northern Ireland to flee the Troubles. My line of family, too, has labored through its share of poverty and success. We’ve tasted others’ narratives—but this march was our own piece of a larger story.

History, for once, felt tangible—like a gentle breeze that whispers something hopeful in your ear. You breathe it in; it’s yours. And yet, history in the making is felt by thousands that notice that same unexplainable movement of time.

womens march new york city 2017

Editor’s Note: It is important to know I was  singing Les Miserables’ “Do You Hear the People Sing” and Hamilton’s “Yorktown” both to Clare and to myself throughout the entire day. Also, I was not the only one doing so, because this is New York City after all.    


Three Day Guide to Montreal: What to Do + Where to Eat

I went on a quick trip to Montreal, Canada with my fiancé over the New Year’s break. We enjoyed three solid days of tasty regional food, quaint French accents, and gorgeous city vistas. Thinking of taking a little holiday? Here’s a quick Montreal bucket list, plus a few tips for first timers.  

Six Things to Do

Biodome: Located at Olympic Park, the Montreal Biodome is an indoor-zoo that allows visitors to walk through replicas of four distinct ecosystems found in the Americas: tropical forests, North American forests, the Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system, and a polar area. The penguins and roaming monkeys definitely entertained.

biodome-montreal-penguins

Mont Royal: This large volcanic-related hill gave the city of Montreal its name. We hiked from the 144 bus stop near the McGill Hospital up to a lookout near Chalet Du Mont-Royal and snapped some beautiful photos of the city. Visitors can also rent cross country skis, bicycles, and ice skates.

mont-royal-park-montreal

Bota Bota: When an old river ferry is turned into an upscale "floating spa" and restaurant, you get Nordic-inspired Bota Bota. Known for its water circuit and Instagram-worthy hot tubs, this was a highlight of our trip. Tip: If you go before 11am or on a weekday, you’ll receive a discount.

bota-bota-montreal

Old Montreal: As the name would suggest, this is the oldest neighborhood in Montreal. Some of the buildings and landmarks date back to New France, and most of the area was dubbed a historic landmark in the 1960s. Shops, pubs, and hotels line the quaint cobbled streets.

old-montreal-quebec

Jean-Talon Market: This open-air market is comprised of local vendors selling produce, meats, cheeses, fish, maple syrup, and more. It’s one of the largest public markets in North America, and still buzzes during the cold months. Sample a piece of something tasty and then wander around the surrounding neighborhood of Little Italy.

jean-talon-market-montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica: Located in Old Montreal, the beautifully ornate interior of this Roman Catholic site is worth viewing. Fun facts: Celine Dion married René Angélil here on December 17, 1994, and the stained-glass windows depict scenes from Montreal’s religious history.

Notre-Dame-Basilica-montreal

Six Things to Eat

I wrote a longer post about exactly which restaurants we enjoyed while visiting, but here’s a short list of regional food that Montreal does right.

The Great Bagel Debate: Both St. Viateur and Fairmount are famous for their Montreal-style bagels. The dough is boiled in honey-infused water and then baked in a wood-fire oven, giving the bread a totally different taste than New York City’s rival product.  

montreal-style-bagels-fairmount-st-viateur

Poutine: This Canadian classic originated in the Quebec region, and is typically comprised of French fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds. Diners, pubs, and even some fast-food restaurants sell poutine, but 24-hour La Banquise is famous for their 30+ variations of the dish—including one topped with hot dogs and bacon.

montreal-poutine-canada

Unpasteurized cheese: In short, Canada does not have the same laws in place when it comes to raw dairy. Be sure to try a slice at one of the open markets, and enjoy the fact that you’re chewing on a food that would be completely illegal in the United States.

unpasteurized-cheese-montreal-canada

Maple syrup: While Quebec’s maple syrup season typically begins in March, you can still find plenty of fresh canned or bottled syrup throughout the year. At Jean-Talon Market, we sampled both light and dark varieties from a local distributor. A small container of real maple syrup also makes for a fabulous souvenir.

montreal-maple-syrup-canada

French-inspired cuisine: Be sure to find an authentic French bistro for at least one of your meals. Sip a red Bordeaux and enjoy a steak tartare stuffed with capers, or duck confit and a side of potatoes. Bon appétit!

lexpress-french-montreal-canada

Smoked meat: New York is to Katz’s, as Montreal is to Schwartz’s. You’ll find this famous Jewish delicatessen on historic Saint Laurent Boulevard. The order of choice: a smoked meat sandwich on rye with mustard, a side of pickles, and a black cherry soda.

schwartzs-smoked-meat-sandwich

Getting There

The drive from New York City was dotted with small upstate towns and rolling hills. We ran into minimal traffic—until the border crossing. For whatever reason (the holiday? Friday night?) we waited in long lines of red brake lights for 2 ½ hours at the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle Customs Office. To avoid our mistake, check this website ahead of time and be aware of other crossing sites.

If you are flying into Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, you can catch a cab or the 747 Montreal-Trudeau/Downtown bus. It operates 24/7 and connects to eight downtown stops.

Tip: The 3-day unlimited L'Occasionnelle card is well worth the $18 if you plan on using the metro or bus at least five times during your stay. There are also weekly, monthly, and unlimited weekend passes available. Each single fare is $3.50.

Lodging

Our Airbnb was located close to the Sherbrook Metro station in the Plateau/Mont Royal neighborhood, and averaged us about $71 per night. The location was ideal: two stops south and we were in beautiful Old Montreal; a five-minute walk northwest and we were surrounded by the cafes of St. Denis and shops of Saint Laurent.

The apartment was on the second floor of a stone building from the 1800s. Big beautiful windows let in streams of natural light every morning. Double-pane glass kept out most of the street noise. Our host was very thoughtful and left us fruit, coffee, milk, and chocolates. The only drawback was for my fiancé: At 6’2’’, his feet hung over the edge of the bed! But overall, our stay was enjoyable. If I was going back sans beau, I’d book this place again.

Language

Most people speak French first and English second. This was a bit of a surprise to us, and we definitely had a few we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore moments. But it was enjoyable to travel somewhere so close to the United States with such a distinct culture of its own.

Some people who worked in the service industry greeted us by saying, “Bonjour, hi.” We would say the same back and then continue in English. If you’re asking someone a question on the street, it’s polite to ask if they speak English first with the phrase, “Parlez-vous anglais?” Rule of thumb: Better to butcher the phrase than offend the residents.

We only met one person who didn’t speak much English, but knowing some basic terminology was helpful throughout the trip. And yes, highway signs are en Français so know Est from Ouest!

Happy travels. 


Where to Eat in Montreal: 5 Restaurants to Try

Montreal is a food city. Between the French cuisine, Canadian favorites, and city specialties, there’s tons of flavorful calories to consume. Don’t know where to start? Here's a list of a few restaurants not to miss.   

Manitoba

We drove to an industrial section of the Mile X neighborhood for a late dinner at Manitoba. This restaurant is known for its locally-sourced ingredients, organic wines, and trendy cocktails. Our waiter was knowledgeable about each dish on the menu, but not snooty. The hipster vibe plus heavy French accents had us thinking we’d found the East Village of Quebec.

 I ordered the deer steak served with a generous helping of beets, mushrooms, and other well-prepared vegetables. My only regret from the whole experience was that I didn’t snap a picture.

L’Express

Get back to Montreal’s roots by sampling some more traditional French cuisine. We made a reservation at L’Express, a Parisian-style bistro that opened in 1980. With its black and white tiled floors, glass ceiling, and warm lighting, you certainly feel as though you’ve traveled farther than Canada.  

We bought a bottle of wine and leafed through the menu. If you don’t speak a lick of French, pas de problème. There’s a guide in English (and other languages) that will help walk you through the dishes. We opted for a bone marrow appetizer, steak tartare entrees, and crème brûléeto to share. Magnifique! 

The Great Bagel Debate:

Montreal has two famous bagel shops, both of which are located in the Mile End neighborhood. St. Viateur opened in 1957 and operates 24/7, making over 1,000 bagels a day. Fairmount Bagel began its legacy in 1919 and is the oldest bagel bakery in the city. But which is best? We New Yorkers were quite determined to find out.

Unlike the Big Apple’s bagels, these noshes are smaller, denser, and traditionally topped with sesame or poppy seeds. The dough is boiled in honey-infused water, giving the bagels a sweeter flavor, and then cooked in a wood-fired oven. There’s also less focus on the cream cheese component. In fact, it seemed most bakeries didn't made their own spreads.

Our takeaway: Nothing beats a plump, cream cheese filled New York bagel from a legit bakery. But these Montreal eats were tasty. A steaming hot sesame bagel from Fairmont was my personal favorite. Without much cream cheese and only one topping, you can taste the sweet dough and better understand what Montreal bagels are all about.   

Schwartz’s

As one of the oldest delis in Canada, Schwartz’s truly knows how to make a smoked meat sandwich. They’ve been serving Montreal and all of its hungry tourists since 1928, so expect about a 15 to 20-minute wait.

Schwartz’s beef brisket is marinated for 10 days in a secret blend of spices. Their signature dish is a smoked meat sandwich served on rye bread with a bit of mustard. You can opt for a lean, medium, medium-fat, or fat cut. We chose medium sandwiches, with a side of pickles, poutine, and black cherry sodas.

The best part: It was super cheap, especially with the current exchange rate. New York’s Katz’s deli will cost you $20 per sandwich—in Montreal you’ll pay about $7.25 USD. It’s a different cut of meat, but the similarities are apparent. Remember to bring cash and to arrive with an empty stomach.

Bonus: The Keg Steakhouse + Bar

While wondering around the quaint streets of Old Montreal, we stumbled into one of the only open restaurants on New Year’s Day. Our “cheap meal” accidentally turned into delicious seafood dishes and a round of Boulevardier cocktails—c’est la vie. While The Keg was by no means on our food bucket list (yes, it's a chain), the Pistachio Crusted Salmon with garlic mashed potatoes was a delightful way to start 2017. 

We never made it to these joints, but here are a few other highly-rated Montreal restaurants. Enjoy your trip!

Maison Publique  
Bouillon Bilk
Le Bremner
Joe Beef
Olive et Gourmando
La Banquise
Au Pied du Cochon


One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
— Virginia Woolf

Salty Eyelashes

“Bye, love you.”

I had just left my youngest sister a voicemail while walking from the Astor Place subway to my apartment in the East Village. I was wearing my summer uniform, which consisted of a floral dress and a beige backpack. My hair was pulled into a ponytail with two bobby pins. It was a warm June night, and I rejoiced in the perfection that is New York City on the cusp of summer.

I turned left onto 7th Street and walked by my old church. Next, I passed McSorley's, an ancient Irish pub where you only order “dark or light” beer. Their motto until the 1970s was, "Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies." You can still order half a raw onion and a sleeve of saltines with the cheese platter.

As I walked down the street, I felt something poke my rear. I was passing a group of well-manicured bushes and assumed a twig had gotten caught on my dress. I took a few more steps, and then felt a human finger very precisely poke me once again. This time I turned around, expecting to see my roommate or another friend who lived on the block.

Whoosh.
His outstretched arms tightly encircled me.
We were face to face, breathing the same air. 
For a brief second I could see his eyes.
And then I understood.

“HELP, HELP, HELP, HELP.”

I was screaming like I’d been stabbed—but maybe I was about to be? Over and over and over again I said the words, “Help! Help me!” My vocal chords strained into a sound I’d never heard before. I was having an out-of-body experience, focusing on the frantic tone of my own voice. It seemed so animalistic. Was this little girl having a panic attack? I could tell she couldn’t breathe very well. Her arms were flailing, but it all seemed useless. Bruises were forming on her upper arms. Our protagonist in the floral dress was being crushed like a butterfly in a closing fist.

“You know what I want.”

I flew back into my body the moment he spoke, and this is what I saw: There was a man in a blue polo shirt, a dark jacket, and jeans now holding both my arms with one hand. They were bent in a painfully awkward position.

His other hand was on my knee.
Now on my lower thigh.
Now on my upper thigh.
His hand was on a place no stranger’s hand should be.

As he groped for more, I blessed the bicycle shorts I wear under all my dresses. The assaulter’s hand reached the most intimate part of my body, but he became confused—the bicycle shorts were not part of his ill-conceived plan.

In second one of his hesitation, I remembered what my mother used to say when we were children: “Never go anywhere with someone, no matter what. You won’t come back.” In second two of his hesitation, I remembered what a college friend named Kaitlin Mahoney once said in regards to getting assaulted: “Go limp; fall to the floor. Relax every muscle.”

I slowly maneuvered the groper and myself into the street, knowing that I’d have a better chance of being spotted. As he attempted to finish what he’d started, I shut down every muscle in my body and collapsed toward the pavement. I stared at the ground, mentally visualizing myself melting into the cool black asphalt. I pictured magnets attached to my arms and legs, pulling me down, down, down.  Oddly, I felt a death-like peace.  

He held my body for a moment, but my weight made him stagger. As he began to drop me, he squeezed my arms tighter. I played dead. My left cheek was now pressed into the gravel. But I peered down the road, and there in the distance were shadowy legs walking hesitantly toward me. If I could just make it to those people…

Because I was facedown, the attacker now had to readjust his hold—there was no other option. As he pivoted, I pounced up and took off running. I turned around, tears flying from my face, and saw two men. One was my attacker. Another was a homeless man who, from what I could tell, was on my side. He waved his arms frantically, as if to say, “Go from this place!” 

I reached a group of men at the bottom of the street and called the cops. Two born and bred Brooklyn gents were immediately ready to fight the attacker who, strangely enough, was walking toward us.

“Don’t fight him, don’t fight him,” you can hear me saying on the police tape. “We’re on 2nd Ave and 7th,” I then respond to the dispatcher. “He’s still here. We need someone here.” I am crying. “I know the precinct is right around the corner. 2nd and 7th. I’m on 2nd and 7th! Are they coming?”

Casey Holloway strolled by our ragtag group, which now included myself, the homeless man who tried to assist me, and two aggressive Brooklynites. He spit in my direction and mumbled something unintelligible. Then he walked south down 2nd Avenue toward Houston Street. 

An unimaginable rage burst through the center of my chest, like acidic fire.

“We gonna follow em, c’mon. We gonna get this asshole. Miss, you wanna get this guy?” The man’s thick Brooklyn accent made me internally chuckle. “Yes, let’s follow him,” I said with mock assurance. I was shaking so badly I could barely hold my phone, but walking felt good. Walking felt powerful.

Holloway went down one sidewalk, while we paralleled him on another sidewalk across the road. With only the street between us, I commenced my journey and prayed for safety. He stopped, started, and stared but he never deviated off 2nd Avenue.

6th Street… 4th Street… 2nd Street…

“Don’t approach him—what if he has a weapon?” I screamed at the men, and frantically bit my lip. Where were the cops? It had been nearly 15 minutes since my initial call. Just when the tension was about to bleed into violence, patrol cars roared down the street. Two cops jumped out and pinned Holloway to the ground. Another one motioned for me. “Is this the man?” They pulled his head up and we looked each other in the eye for the second time that evening.

“Yes.”

I watched as he was placed in the back of a cop car, cuffed and apathetic. I hated his dead, dark eyes. But the toxic rage, which had spread to every cell in my body, was now slowly subsiding.  

That night was a whirlwind of police questioning and Coca-Cola. As my body went from shock to a drug-like exhaustion, I sipped sugary soda in the waiting room and washed the mascara from my face with a napkin.

My then-boyfriend, now-fiancé Ryan arrived at the police station. He was solemn but steady. I held his pinky finger as the detectives questioned me in a cold room with two-way glass. “Where did he touch you?” “Was it here or here?” “How did he grab you?”

I finally fell into my bed at 5am, cold and bruised—but unmistakably alive. The next morning, I woke up with salty eyelashes and a phone call from the ADA. I’d need to come in and share my testimony as soon as possible. And so, the yearlong court process began.

***

I have a quiet rage.

It’s most likely been resting inside of me since I was a little girl, but I first remember releasing it in college when I was told I “could not” while knowing that I certainly “could.”

That same rage builds up inside of me when society discusses topics like Roger Ailes, unequal pay, or how one might like to “grab her by the p*ssy.”  Every time—every time—that phrase is uttered, the events of this terrible night pop into my head.  I can smell him. I can taste my sweat.

This story is nothing special.
In fact, many women have experienced this and much worse.
So, let’s not weep over it.
I was even blessed with a “happy” ending.

I’m telling you this so that you can grasp the dark shadow hanging over my head today—and occasionally, other days. It is my hope that you might understand why this morning I again woke up with salty eyelashes.

But tomorrow?
Tomorrow, I'll wake up with a heart full of hope, and a spirit of determined joy that, I pray, will always overcome my humanistic need to hate. 


Can you see the sunset real good on the West side? You can see it on the East side too.
— S.E. Hinton, "The Outsiders"