1. St-Viateur Bagel
263 St-Viateur Ouest
I’m not much of a bagel person (Californian here), but I enjoyed the Montreal-style bagel more than its American counterpart. It’s less doughy, more dense, and, because it’s boiled in honey water before going into the wood-fired oven, has a slight sweetness to it. There are two main types: black-seed (poppy seed) and white-seed (sesame). I got the latter fresh out of the oven and was veerrrry pleased. It did feel a little off-kilter that the soft chewiness typical of New York bagels was missing, but otherwise, no complaints here!
2. Juliette et Chocolat
So. Much. Chocolate. I came here for the hot chocolate, but they serve everything from milkshakes to shots of ganache to chocolate cocktails. I ordered an Origin Vintage Dark hot chocolate made with cocoa beans sourced from Peru. The result was a creamy, viscous brew of chocolate and hot milk. Whipped together, the two formed a frothy top layer with a thick, sweet underbelly that was not at all like the hot chocolates from Starbucks I get on cold, droopy New York afternoons. Sipping it while nibbling an accompanying small truffle beat going to the movies.
3. La Banquise
994 Rue Rachel Est
This is widely accepted as “the place” for poutine in Montreal. With 28 different menu options, it can get a bit overwhelming, especially if you haven’t had poutine before. I was advised to just go for the original, La Classique, but didn’t get a chance to because I just plum forgot. Stupid! Getting late-night poutine is a bit of a tradition in Montreal, and I had planned the absolute perfect night of rocking out at Casa Del Popolo after dinner, then taking the 15 or so minute walk over to La Banquise to kickstart the appetite for a big gooey midnight serving of fries and cheese curd. Unfortunately, in my inebriated pep that night, I ended up just kind of bouncing around uselessly outside the venue before getting in a cab and calling it a night.
Is it my biggest regret? Absolutely. And I will tattoo it on my body Memento-style the next time I’m in Montreal to guarantee I don’t forget again.
3895 Boul. Saint-Laurent
This is another one I missed, not because of my own stupidity (rare is the chance I get to blame something else), but because the line wound out the door, rolling at least 30-people deep. With all the sights to see and the things I wanted to do in Montreal, I just couldn’t bare to spend an hour of it standing outside waiting in line. Supposedly the line moves fast, but I didn’t stick around to take my chances.
I have friends that swear up-and-down this deli is better than Katz’s in New York. One even went so far as to write me a half-page soliloquy on her lunch and dinner there, so if you’re a Katz’s Delicatessen fan — or just love delis in general — you’ll probably want to check this place out. Along with La Banquise, this is on my Montreal part deux to-eat list.
5. Labo Culinaire, La Société des Arts Technologiques
1201 Boul. Saint-Laurent
Oh I loved it here. The brainchild of chefs Seth Gabrielse and Michelle Marek, the Labo Culinaire (FoodLab) has been open a little over a year now and draws inspiration from various nearby influences as well as international cuisines, creating menus using all local ingredients. The menu changes every two weeks. When I went, they were showcasing a Czech-inspired spread. Every dish was fresh, high quality, and delicious.
The FoodLab sits on the third floor of the Society for Arts and Technology building, where its open-plan design lets you watch your meal being prepared. I lucked out and got seated right next to the kitchen, which, in my opinion, was the best seat in the house. I also got a chance to talk to Chef Michelle about her walnut and brushed-rum cake, which was, all superlatives aside, genuinely the best cake I’ve ever eaten in my life.
You don’t need reservations here, though it’s only open Tuesday through Friday nights. It does seem to be a bit unknown still, as my hotel’s front desk didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked for directions. The lack of reputation made for a very relaxed evening — I was able to walk right in, got seated immediately, and was served within minutes.
6. Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth Est
I’m also all about this place! Bear in mind that you need to reserve, but if your party isn’t unreasonably large and you call at least a few days in advance, it should be easy-peasy. You can also try showing up without a reservation, though I don’t know how long the wait is as I was able to sail right past the line to my reserved seating the minute I showed up.
Master of all things pork and maple syrup, Chef Martin Picard assembled a truly decadent menu to be avoided at all costs by dieters, vegetarians, and Gwyneth Paltrow. This is not the place where love handles go to die. It is, however, a place that holds flavor up to the highest pedestal.
I ordered a daily special menu item recommended by the waiter: a fist-sized oblong of foie gras snug atop cheese, slow-cooked pork, and a slice of fluffy pancake, all drenched in a thick, gummy maple syrup sauce. It was the dish of all dishes. The meal of all meals! The end of time and the beginning of a new era. It was everything. I instantaneously got why Au Pied is a restaurant beloved by Anthony Bourdain.
Speaking of Bourdain…
7. Joe Beef
2491 Notre-Dame Ouest
…the charming, bad-boy-turned-good, chef-turned-television-host called out Joe Beef by name in a recent Ask Me Anything Q&A on Reddit, saying he’s “all about Quebec” when it comes to food and highly recommending the gastropub.
If the FoodLab suffers from a lack of buzz, Joe Beef is not at all afflicted. Like The Breslin or Spotted Pig in New York, this is a name often circulated among those who tour by palate. So powerful is Joe Beef’s reputation that its presence in Griffintown single-handedly revitalized the neighborhood.
And it is damn near impossible to get a reservation. I tried calling day after day but couldn’t get anyone on the phone. I was also told that most people make reservations a month ahead of time, so even if I could speak to a live human being, it seemed like the chances of scoring a seat at the restaurant were slim to none. So, be warned! It takes work to eat this good, but I’m sure those who put in the elbow grease will tell you it’s well worth the effort.