I’ve eaten fancy in Montréal and I’ve eaten late-night drunk food in Montréal and either way, you can’t go wrong. The stylish Quebec city is a haven for good eats and gorgeous restaurants; you can get bistro French, gourmet hipster grub, amazing seafood, great meats, hearty game and even the city’s legendary take on bagels (the Montréal vs. NYC bagel battle will probably rage along for decades) which such ease, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Luckily, we shot a little food-obsessed video there during a recent visit to get you primed. Have a look! Then read on…
Eating in Montréal… You have to start somewhere, so on my most recent trip, immediately after landing it was time for lunch at Nouveau Palais, a brilliant, gourmet take on a classic 1960’s diner. Newly revamped, the décor still exudes kitschy chic, and the effect is immediately charming. Burgers, killer sandwiches (like a breaded eggplant hoagie, or fried chicken sandwich), greek salads, soups (matzo ball!), mussels marinières, legendary pork chops … Chef Gita Seaton (formerly of Club Chasse et Pêche) serves up smart and heartfelt food; it’s a fun must-eat while you’re in town. And leave room for pie. Then make sure you come back late at night for tacos, fried chicken and roasted Mexican-style corn-on-the-cob courtesy of the guys behind the Grumann ’78 taco truck.
As recommended by Seaton, the next day we trucked out to the fab Atwater Market, which is a haven of stalls of fresh produce, meat, spices and other edible wonders. And in the warmer months, it’s now home to a smattering of food stalls out back. Go directly to the Satay Brothers, purveyors of fantastic Singaporean street food, and order gado-gado and laksa lemak. Gado gado is a hearty salad-like dish of vegetables, steamed potatoes, boiled eggs, tempe, tofu all topped with a heavenly peanut sauce; the laksa lemak is a spicy curry-ish soup with noodles, shrimp, a boiled egg, herbs, tofu and just deliciousness. But everything that the young, cheeky Winnicki brothers (Alex and Matt) cook up is fresh and irresistible. Don’t miss the pork buns, either. But be warned… The Satay Brothers stall is seasonal. You may have to wait til next spring to feast again.
Late night poutine is a staple in Montréal. You can get classic versions all over town (La Banquise is still crankin’) but if you want a hopping scene to go with your fries, cheese curds and gravy, head to the bustling Royal Phoenix Bar, a hip gay/lesbian/mixed bar in the Mile End. The poutine is hearty, rich and perfect, and you can jump up and dance like a mad-person among the sexy locals as you finish.
Other great Mile End eateries to consider: Sexy Buvette Chez Simone, a sort of wine-bar-meets-bistro-tapas hangout, but it’s all flavors of charming, bustling and cool. Sit at the bar or scooch into a table with friends, sample wines and order small plates of cheese, charcuterie, and endless other dreamy nibbly things. The staff is friendly, and you can dish and drink for hours.
For a truly stellar swanky meal, please consider Le Filet, which takes seafood to new heights. The vibe and the décor is archly chic, the service is friendly and the food divine. Plus, the cocktails are exquisite. Helmed by the team behind Club Chasse et Pêche, Le Filet delivers grand flavors with a sexy cosmopolitan vibe.
And yes, bagels. I truly love the skinny, airy, sesame-seed topped classic Montréal bagels. While all too often New York City’s bagels are oversized doughy tires, the best Montréal bagels (at St-Viateur Bagels and Fairmont Bagels in the Mile End) are refreshingly spry and lightly flavorful. Taste the difference.
Finally… When I was interviewing Nouveau Palais’ Gita Seaton and Satay Brothers’ Alex Winnicki, I quizzed them on the places where they like to eat and drink. Here’s what they said…
Gita Seaton says: “I love Kazu. It’s a Japanese restaurant that has about 20 seats and now it’s wildly popular. You’ll have to wait in line for an hour, but it’s well worth the wait.”
For drinks, Gita loves the busy Bily Kun and Casa del Popolo. “Casa del Popolo’s got a really cute terrace out back; I love to have a beer there.” For lively late-night pursuits: “If I want to go dancing I go to Bar Blizzarts or Tokyo Bar,” she offers.
And then there’s Jane. “Jane is a pizzeria down in St.-Henri. It’s amazing. Really, really solid homestyle pizzas. Go see Ryan Dixon there; he will absolutely take care of you. The white pizza is off the hook.”
Alex Winnicki at Satay Brothers says that since he and his brother are working all hours at their own place, they don’t have much time to go anywhere. But if you want a good drink that “Philemon in Old Montréal is a good spot to check out.” And Alex also loves the aforementioned tacos and late-night gourmet grub at Nouveau Palais, served up when the Grumman ’78 guys take over the joint on weekend nights: “They’re great. They’re based in St.-Henri and they’re bringing street food back to Montréal. Their tacos are amazing.”
So there ya go! Get to Montréal. And please don’t forget to pack your appetite.
MONTRÉAL FOOD RUNDOWN
1744 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest,
Montréal, QC H3J 1M3