How to Eat Like a Local in Montreal
By Tausha Cowan
“There are three things you need to eat when visiting Montreal: poutine, bagels and smoked meat.”
Ann Marie, my food tour guide and a lifelong resident of Montreal, ticked off the three items with her hand before leading the way to the first stop.
Over the next several hours, we sampled our way across six local establishments in the Mile End neighborhood of Montreal, an area known for its artsy roots and noteworthy food.
But it’s not just Mile End that has delicious eats; the entire city of Montreal is great for foodies. From the growing number of food trucks to the well-renowned chefs who cook at some of the best restaurants in Montreal and the world, this city has become a true culinary heavyweight.
Like other metropolises, it’s best to do as the locals do in Montreal. That means, in addition to trying the city’s three staples of poutine, bagels and smoked meat, you have to know where locals go for their cheap eats as well as their fancy splurges. Below is a roundup of some of the best places to eat that will have you dining like a local in Montreal in no time!
When it comes to bagels, most Montrealers will say you have two choices: St-Viateur or Fairmount. Both bakeries, located in Mile End, have been around for decades and continuously compete against one another for the title of the city’s best bagel. This battle of the bagel means it’s a requirement for visitors to try both places and pick their own favorite.
Most locals will only tell you one place when it comes to smoked meat: Schwartz’s on St-Laurent Boulevard. Go for the classic smoked meat sandwich served medium (in between lean and fatty) and top it off with a side of fries. If you’re in the mood to combine two of Montreal’s staples, you can get Schwartz’s poutine covered in smoked meat. It may be bad for your health but it’s great for your taste buds.
There are many places in Montreal to try poutine, aka french fries, gravy and cheese curds. Among the options is a place that locals consistently say is the best: La Banquise. The 24-hour restaurant has countless variations of poutine at affordable prices. Another option: Camion Au Pied de Cochon, Au Pied de Cochon’s food truck. They offer the same great fois gras poutine as its namesake, except served a little differently.
Not Too Pricey, Not Too Cheap
Brunch fans rejoice because there are plenty of great options in Montreal when it comes to a nice weekend meal. One popular brunch place is L’Avenue in the Plateau neighborhood. Beyond the great food, the crazy decor has people coming back regularly, but be prepared to either get there early or wait in line if you want to eat here.
If you can’t decide between your sweet tooth and your savory tooth, head to one of Juliette et Chocolat’s locations around the city. This bakery and cafe specializes in chocolates, brownies, waffles and other desserts but also has a large selection of savory crepes, salads and brunch dishes to choose from. It’s a great place for casual dining that’s located in some of Montreal’s most interesting neighborhoods.
For a really nice and reasonably priced French meal in Downtown Montreal, locals head to Holder, a restaurant perfect for everything from a date night to a business meeting to dinner with friends. The brasserie is also known for having a great weekend brunch.
A Bit of a Splurge
Located in the heart of Old Montreal, Verses is another French restaurant that takes an innovative approach to many of its dishes. Instead of serving your classic cheese ravioli, they accompany the pasta with truffle, citrus and sage to create a unique flavor combination. Verses also serves more adventurous dishes like smoked duck tartare and octopus with cuttlefish ink pasta.
Continuing the theme of popular French restaurants, walking into L’Express feels like stepping back into time into a classic Parisian bistro. With black and white tiled floors, framed photos on the wall and a chic, yet welcoming atmosphere, this place feels effortlessly cool. The restaurant also serves classic bistro fare like streak tartare, roasted quail and duck confit.
Recently named Canada’s best restaurant by a group of chefs, Toque! is a true splurge perfect for a very special occasion or a really impressive first date. The atmosphere is upscale without being overly stuffy, and the dishes are just as great to look at as they are to eat.
Tausha is a media and communications professional and founder of theglobegetter.com. She got her first taste of international travel at a very young age and has been hooked ever since. Born in South Florida to Jamaican parents, she's also lived in Ghana, London and Paris and now resides in New York City. Tausha enjoys storytelling, creating travel itineraries (sometimes for real trips), dinner parties and seeking out new restaurants. Her weaknesses include tacos, French macarons and an Olivia Pope-sized glass of wine.