Today, the process of choosing this year’s stars in the Montreal restaurant world — the Eater Awards winners for 2019 — continues apace. After fielding many solid ideas from readers during the course of our month-long nomination period, it’s time to narrow the playing field. There are four or five finalists in each of three categories: Restaurant of the Year, Design of the Year, and Casual Restaurant of the Year. As a reminder, only restaurants that opened their doors for the first time between September 2018 and August 2019 (inclusive) were eligible.
Here they are, listed in alphabetically order:
Restaurant of the Year
- Antonietta: Italian food had a minor moment in Montreal, and one of the highlights was this Petite-Patrie restaurant. With a rotating menu dipping into burrata, calamari, and Neapolitan-style pizzas, there’s an emphasis on classic flavours, but there ain’t anything wrong with classics when they’re done as well as this.
- Beba: Brothers Pablo and Ari Schor (the latter ex-Liverpool House) draw on their Argentine background at this cozy Verdun newcomer, serving up empanadas like you’ve never tasted before, as well as excellent creations from chimichurri tartare, alongside a tidy wine list.
- Darna: Quietly impressing locals since it opened on Beaubien in the summer is this modern Moroccan bistro — classics like tagines and kefta figure on the menu, but local produce and other Mediterranean influences are effortlessly fused in across a non-traditional menu: fig margarita, anybody?
- Moccione: Ex-Toqué sous chef Luca Cianciulli and partner Maxime Landry opened this wonderfully unpretentious Italian spot in Villeray in late 2018, dishing up a short menu of refined yet simple pasta dishes, alongside a few smaller bites such as arancini and carpaccio.
- Monarque: Father-son duo Richard and Jérémie Bastien (see also: Leméac) took their time in opening this ambitious restaurant in Old Montreal, and it paid off: fine French fare with a few international zings and twists is thoughtful and near-perfectly executed, while a more casual brasserie section up front sticks to classics from bouillabaisse to steak béarnaise.
Design of the Year
- Beau Mont: Design firm Sid Lee created a chic post-industrial space in this project from Normand Laprise and Christine Lamarche of Toqué — the exposed ceilings and concrete beams are given splashes of warmth and life from bright furniture and plant life.
- Marcus: Marcus Samuelsson’s entry into the Montreal market may not have earned the perfect reviews it desired, but it’s hard to criticize designer Zebulon Perron’s spectacular work, laden with art déco-esque gold and luxuriant leather banquettes, as well as a stunning terrasse.
- Milky Way: Undoubtedly the most fun design of these four is this cocktail bar, affiliated with (also new) pizzeria Fugazzi. A shiny, colourful space conjures up spacey, ‘80s vibes, and coloured lights don’t fall into the trap of being cheesy, adding a bonus dimension to the space.
- Monarque: The French fare at Monarque is impressive, but equally stunning is the space from architecture firm Alain Carle. From booths to intricate tiles and Kennedy-inspired chairs, it’s beautifully classic, but with just enough modern touches to keep it from feeling dated in the slightest.
Casual/Affordable Restaurant of the Year
- Dandy: It seems that chef-owner Michael Tozzi was taking a little inspiration from his former workplace Olive & Gourmando when he opened this daytime charmer in Old Montreal. With a few Italian touches alongside comforting options like a fried chicken sandwich, and a beautiful, bright space, it’s quite the package for a lunch or brunch.
- Mae Sri: Montreal’s Thai food scene has long been small and centred around staples like green curry and pad thai, but in the last couple of years, some establishments have helped shake that. The Plateau’s Mae Sri is one (shout out to Epicerie Pumpui, another), specializing in kuai tiao, a Thai noodle soup — and chef-owner Pamika Sukla serves it up affordably, and with deep flavour.
- Mano Cornuto: This Griffintown newcomer heeds common restaurant wisdom to do a few things, and do them well, with a petite menu of delectable focaccia and café treats, with a few more options like pasta by night. It’s nominally a “snack bar”, but it holds up damn well as a restaurant.
- McKiernan: Yet another winner from the Joe Beef group, working in tandem with Derek Dammann of Maison Publique, this luncheonette (now also open for dinner) trades in familiar, filling options from sandwiches to rotisserie chicken, made with top-notch, mostly local ingredients, and composed with flair.
All of these finalists have either opened or come into their own in a new way since we declared the winners last year. All of them were key contributors to making 2019 a great year of eating in Montreal. So please, take a moment to give these brave finalists a round of applause. Winners will be crowned, with much fanfare, on Tuesday, December 10, 2019.