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.
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.
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.
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!