Montreal is many things: It’s Canada’s fashion city, Canada’s sexy city and easily Canada’s foodie-city. The bilingual metro doesn’t just bring influences from its linguistic populations — Rather, an array of multicultural influences that come together in a city that takes passion and creativity and continues to push the boundaries in just about everything it does. Whether it’s a top restaurant or an unassuming local pitstop, it’s done in a way that’s sophisticated, trendy and always puts quality first. Because just like everything else in Montreal, the food scene here is viewed as the art that it is that welcomes guests to join in on the many conversations that are centred around food. Just a quick visit to some of the go-to spots on the island and it’s easy to see why.
Consistently ranked as one of the top restaurants in the country, Joe Beef, the pride and joy of the chic and rustically contemporary neighbourhood of Little Burgundy, is currently sitting at number three, according to Canada’s Top 100. The menu highlights locally grown food and puts a Quebecois twist on French market cuisine. For such a small shop, this spot has made a huge name in the culinary world of Montreal and Canada in general for its old-school menu and old-school attitude. Sophisticatedly laidback and deliciously comforting, it’s a must add for any foodie coming to the city.
Le Chien Fumant
On the other side of the mountain is Le Chien Fumant, tucked away on a side street in the Plateau. From the outside, it may not look like much, but step inside, and you’ll discover one of Montreal’s coziest restaurants that embodies the notion of simple indulgences. The menu is seasonal and emphasizes the rich offerings that Quebec has to offer when it comes to food. Written on boards throughout the restaurant, among hanging pots and pans and the bar, too, it’s not hard to see why the food is part of the decor once the first (of many) plates arrives. If you’re going as a duo, definitely ask to sit by the bar/kitchen to watch the masters at work for dinner and a show, and if you’re up for it, opt for a tasting menu at your chosen price to get a taste of the chef’s recommendations.
Most people aren’t aware of Montreal’s prominent Hispanic population, with all of the culture and culinary traditions that come with it. Bocadillo is a Venezuelan restaurant with two locations on Saint-Laurent, one of Montreal’s tastiest streets, that proudly represents the South American country in all of its glory. Easily the most popular item menu, and honestly one of the best sandwiches in the city, is the arepa, a Venzualan/Colombian cornmeal sandwich that’s packed with flavour from any multitude of fillings. The team has curated a pretty accessible menu for all types of eaters, including veggie, vegan and those looking for something really out there. If you want to go for something really authentically Venezualan, order the Reina Pepiada, a fresh, cool chicken salad, served with creamy avocado on the warm and fluffy bun. Pure perfection.
Sushi Momo is a vegan sushi restaurant that can turn even the biggest vegan or sushi skeptic into an automatic fan. The creativity and innovation from the team is something of an inspiration and something to be admired. Head inside and you’ll find decor that perfectly matches the natural and plant-based vibe: wooden panels and booths with greenery seeping from every wall and corner. Or if you’re itching to get back outside and see more of the city, it takes out phenomenally well. Pick up some roles and head across the street to St. Louis Square or if you’re willing to walk, Parc La Fontaine, one of the best places to hangout in Montreal.
For another Japanese staple, but from a totally different angle, head over to Kazu from none other than Chef Kazu Akutsu. You can always tell that a place is good when even the locals are willing to wait in line to get a seat — and that’s definitely saying a lot considering Montrealers aren’t always the most patient people. While most people think of sushi when they think of Japanese cuisine, there is so much more to the country’s food scene, like Japanese street food and izakaya which are perfectly showcased at Kazu. The place isn’t flashy — as in menus written on paper and taped to the wall kind of not flashy — but if there’s one place where it’s quality over quantity, it’s here. Even the service is down to a science. Chef Kazu wants everybody who walks in to have food in front of them no more than five minutes from the time they sit down.
When it comes to cultures coming together, no place does it quite like Tiradito. Serving chifa cuisine (Peruvian with Asian influences), this spot is just oozing with flair, from the decor, to the food to the team serving you. The neon signs and the industrial-styled interior give an air of coolness and mystery, but is paired with a staff that is so warm and friendly, you’ll think you’ll have been going there for years. This is another spot that is designed for you to watch the team work their magic, so your server is also preparing food for the rest of the restaurant, with the same thing happening on the other side of the long, wrap-around bar. Tiradito is tapas-style, so you’ll definitely want to pace yourself. Word of advice: definitely get an order or two of the yuca fries and definitely dip them in all of the sauces.
Pizza is one of those dishes that really lets you in on the food scene of any given city — It’s a classic, simple dish, but it’s the individual spin and the passion they bring to it that really gives you a taste for what’s going on. In Montreal, Adamo easily embodies this idea. The team takes a traditional approach, but the taste is extraordinary. Really embodying the Montreal foodie-mentality, this spot is all about quality over anything and is easily one of the most popular places for a slice of ‘za amongst the locals.
Of course, you can’t have a Montreal food list without mentioning poutine. And ask any Montrealer and they’ll tell you that you can’t talk about poutine without mentioning La Banquise. This spot serves all kinds of poutine with all kinds of toppings, from onion rings to ground beef to fried egg. Not to worry, vegans, there are options for you, too. Located in the Plateau, this place is super down-to-earth and says it like it is. It’s a 24-hour restaurant, so whether you’re grabbing a pick-me-up on a day of site-seeing, grabbing a bit for dinner or getting a post-night out bite, La Banquise is always there for you. You can even grab breakfast because, you guessed it, there are breakfast poutines, too. Don’t be surprised if you see a line outside for takeout, but don’t let it scare you… It’s definitely worth the wait.
Montrealers love brunch, which is why a trip to Montreal isn’t complete without a visit to L’Avenue. The decor is super trendy and funky in a graffiti grunge, effortlessly cool kind of way. And the menu is just as stand-out, too, with items, like a mac n’ cheese waffle, carrot cake pancakes and an apple bacon cheddar french toast. They also offer the classics, like avo on toast and eggs any way you like them. Be sure to come early as the line can get long and be sure to come hungry because the portions are as massive as the impression that this place will leave on you.
Thanks to a plethora of immigrant communities in the city, there are lots of fantastic cuisines from around the world that you definitely need to try. Some that you may not have even thought to have before. One of those cuisines is Haitian from Kwizinn. The Creole restaurant is a great way to learn more about this rich and vibrant culture through its food. As for the decor, it’s just as bright and colourful, with the friendliest smiles from the staff to top it all off. If you’re feeling up to it, there’s no doubt some dishes that pack the heat, but if you’re new to the spice game, the team is more than accommodating.
St. Viateur Bagels/Fairmount Bagels
So yes, this is two spots and not one, but the classic Montreal debate is which spot makes better bagels: St. Viateur or Fairmount. Montreal bagels are a staple of Montreal food, known for being sweeter and smaller than a typical bagel, and these two spots are the staples of the staple. And if tasting and smelling them weren’t amazing enough, just heading inside to watch the full-on operations is a bucket-list item in itself. You can easily walk between the two, though, since they’re only a ten-minute walk from one another, so you’ll be able to get in on the bagel rivalry in no time.
Featured Image: Kwizinn