With over 120 ethnocultural communities, the Montreal food scene is a foodie’s wonderland of international cuisines. The progressive and open-minded nature of the city fuels an incredible metropolitan food scene. Like the people, the culinary scene is creative and diverse. For the foodie in you, here’s where to start for a gastronomy getaway in Montreal.
Eat Like a Montrealer
Did you know that Montrealers go out to eat an average of 6 times a week? Dining out is like a national sport for them and they definitely take the lead. The gastronomy of Montreal is especially known for its classics – bagels, poutine, and smoked meats. And let’s not forget their craft beer and local wines. Montrealers are all about great drinks along with great food.
Head to the St-Viateur Bagel shop (founded in 1957) for the deliciously classic Montreal bagels, first introduced by the Jewish Community. I’m talking hand-rolled dough boiled in honey-water and then baked in a wood-fired oven. Oh my! Golden-crispy on the outside and oh-so-soft on the inside, it is a bagel you will never forget. It gives the similarly renown New York bagel a run for its money (sorry New Yorkers).
Have lunch at Schwartz, a must-visit for any meat-lover and a Montreal landmark. The Hebrew deli is one of the oldest in Canada and the star of the show is their world-famous smoked meat. Go starving because the sandwiches are huge!
Hint: Definitely get a pickle and grab some of their Schwartz Grill Mates steak seasoning to take home.
Another way to really eat like a Montrealer is to get some food to go (Schwartz has carry-out) and eat picnic style in one of the colorful placottoirs on the street. Enjoy the great local markets, like the historic Atwater Market located along the beautiful Lachine Canal. If you’re a food truck fan, hit up on Food Truck Friday at the Olympic Park every first Friday of the month in the summer.
Dinner Out in Montreal
Indulge in the latest gastronomical craze of Nikkei cuisine at Tiradito in downtown Montreal. It’s one of several restaurants by chef Marcel Larrera and combines Peruvian and Japanese cuisine for flavorful tastes that will thrill your palate. With dishes like their fresh Peruvian Poke, crispy Pollo Frito, Spicy Cauliflower in coconut stew, and savory Yuca Fries, what is there not to love? They have an extensive menu of various small plates, entrees, and an exciting list of hand-crafted cocktails.
For a memorable dining experience that isn’t what you’d expect, make it to Moleskine. It’s a pizzeria and gourmet restaurant, all deliciously housed in one creative space. With an overall hip, urban style, the first floor is casual with a wood-fired pizza oven and pencils dangling from the high ceiling so you can draw on your paper placemats. There’s also a wine bar here, which I’m sure fuels the drawing. The second floor is a more luxurious style and ideal for dressing up. Everything on their menu will blow your tastebuds away, but I highly recommend the scrumptious focaccia bread, their savory Rico Suave pizza, and their mouth-watering tagliatelle pasta.
Cafe-Crawl Around Old Montreal and the Old Port
Old Montreal and the Old Port just ooze French charm and historical architecture. Explore it best on foot and first thing in the morning, which means a great excuse for going on a cafe-crawl. I got to do so on a glorious Sunday morning with Carrie MacPherson, the elegant Quebec lifestyle blogger of eatdrinkbecarrie.com who is based in Montreal. She knows all the best places to go to.
Get into the French vibe of things at the Le Petit Dep Cafe. The coffee shop plus delicatessen is the epitome of charming on the outside and the inside. They serve great coffee, luscious pastries, and gourmet sandwiches. For an especially delicious treat, indulge in their hot chocolate.
Drink coffee in opulence at the Crew Collective and Cafe. They took the architectural landmark of the historic Royal Bank Tower and repurposed its main hall into a cafe and collective working area. The interior is stunningly gorgeous, with gold gilding and chandeliers from floor to ceiling. You may recognize it from movies that have been filmed there.
For the best local pastries, go to Maison Christian Faure on the Place Royal. Not only does it have a mouth-watering cafe, but it is also the first international school dedicated entirely to baking. One look at their exquisite cakes and you’ll agree that what is made here is not just to be savored, but to be enjoyed as works of art. Although yes, my favorite part will always be the eating of these gorgeous creations.
In between cafes, make sure to admire the architecture. Even at the risk of tripping, be looking up so you don’t miss the old-world styles still remaining of the French and British colonization.
Nosh and Shop
Continuing around Old Montreal and Old Port, you’ll quickly notice that the Montrealers love to combine two of their favorite things, eating out and shopping. So many great cafes are part of incredible shops.
L’Amour de Pain is the coffee shop inside the Maison Pepin, a beautiful shop of lifestyle products by the inspiring local artist and entrepreneur Lysanne Pépin. The ambiance is an elegant blend of fun and simple. Enjoy a coffee and pastry while gazing at the variety of beguiling furniture pieces, bohemian accents, and creative artwork on display.
Then there’s the unique and super modern SSENSE Cafe. It’s located on the top floor of SSENSE Montreal, a modern, high-end store of the most famed fashion labels. The minimalist style cafe is full of natural light from large ceiling skylights and tall windows that look out over the back of the Notre-Dame Basilica. Feel refreshed with one of their fruit iced-teas or coffee and local pastries. If you plan to shop, you have to make a personal shopping appointment online. They also feature exhibits and events.
From here, visit the stunning Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica on the Place d’Armes, the historic square of Old Montreal. It’s just around the corner.
Some other great cafes to visit in Old Montreal are the charming Tommy Cafe, located in the British Empire Building, and Dandy for an amazing brunch.
An Appetite for the Montreal Food Scene
The Montreal food scene is a beautiful medley of the world, just like its local population.
For more international cuisines while in the city, and just because they’re fun to hang out at, spend time in Montreal’s China Town, Little Italy, Latin Quarter… And yes, there’s even more ethnic neighborhoods where you can delight your inner-foodie.
Once you’ve had a taste of the Montreal food scene, you’ll find that you never lose your appetite for this city. It will keep you coming back for more.
For more information on Montreal and its province of Quebec, visit www.mtl.org/en and www.quebecoriginal.com.
Featured Image Credit © Eva Blue, Schwartz’s Deli.