With long commercial strips on streets like Mont-Royal and St-Laurent, grand parks, and side streets lined with classic Montreal-style triplexes, the Plateau (including its sub-neighbourhood of Mile End) is one of the city’s most iconic (and pretty) boroughs.
The tourist guide descriptions of the area as “bohemian” are certainly a little dated: many of the artists and musicians have fled north or east in search of cheaper rent, and former industrial buildings in Mile End are now more likely to house apps and video game developers than studios. Then there’s issues with gentrification and local residents being turfed out to turn apartments into permanent AirBNBs (hot tip: do the responsible thing and stay in a hotel, hostel, or regular bed and breakfast).
And yet, the Plateau and Mile End, still have a lot going for them, particularly in the realm of food and restaurants. The area is home to long-time institutions serving Montreal’s iconic smoked meat and bagels, internationally renowned restaurants like Au Pied de Cochon, and much, much more. This suggested itinerary touches on some of the best bets, old and new, with a few lesser-known gems, too.
9 a.m. — Breakfast at Bagel Etc.
Start the day in a hearty way at this old-school diner, a favourite of late poet, songwriter and Montrealer Leonard Cohen. Open since the ‘40s, it serves all manner of griddled eggs, meats, and vegetables on fresh Montreal-style bagels. Alternatively, you could visit another diner, Beautys, just a couple of blocks away — the two have been in perpetual competition for years, and while Beautys is arguably a little more touristy, there’s plenty to like about both.
11 a.m. — Pastries at Rhubarbe
Head east past Laurier Park to Stéphanie Labelle’s reputed patisserie, tucked in the cozy Laurier East. Bagel Etc. is more of a savoury breakfast spot, so sate your sweet tooth with a creamy éclair or mille-feuille. If the weather’s nice, take it to Laurier Park, just a few minutes back west on the same street.
1 p.m. — Roti at Jardin du Cari
Montreal has a solid Caribbean food scene, and while the Plateau and Mile End aren’t at the heart of it, this no-fuss joint on St-Laurent is an excellent option. Grab Guyanese-style chicken, chickpea, or goat curry, either on a platter with rice and other sides, or wrapped up in more of a sandwich format with pumpkin in tender, flaky roti. Spice it up with some pretty damn fiery hot sauce, and ask if they have any peanut punch available to go alongside it. The ambiance isn’t much, but it’s some damn rich and tasty curry.
4 p.m. — Beers at Réservoir
Now you’ve had some time to explore Mile End, head back south to one of the borough’s primo craft breweries. Réservoir has been a beer staple of the Plateau for over a decade, but it got even better in 2016 when the owners of renowned-but-now-closed restaurant Hôtel Herman took it over. Options run from classics like a pilsner through to a sour IPA or rhubarb ale, but those who don’t drink beer are well served by a solid wine list. If you’re not still stuffed from lunch, the snack menu, with items like a simple yet divine tomato sandwich, is worth your time.
7:30 p.m. — Dinner (Aux Lilas, L’Express, or Au Pied de Cochon)
It’s choose your own adventure time: if you’ve never been to Montreal, there’s a good chance that meaty, oh-so-Québécois icon Au Pied de Cochon is on your must-eat list. It’s somewhat of a tourist haunt, but well worth the time and money (be sure to reserve in advance). But if you’ve been, consider ultra-classic French brasserie L’Express, not far away. Then, for a more out of the box suggestion, let us recommend long-time Mile End Lebanese restaurant Aux Lilas. A family-run business that has been open for around 40 years, dig into plates of mezze like hummus, falafel, and kibbeh, tasty meats, and sip on Lebanese wines or anise-based spirit, arak.
10 p.m. — Live music or cocktails
Continue choosing your own path: for something quieter (and fancier), visit Parc Avenue cocktail haunt the Emerald (previously known as Bar Sans Nom, or No-Name Bar). With tuxedo’ed servers and very restrained yet tropical interior, it gives off an Old Havana atmosphere — and fittingly, cocktails skew rather classic, with options like Manhattans or a Dark and Stormy.
Alternatively, head over to St-Laurent and drop by artsy staple Casa del Popolo. It’s a cozy neighbourhood hangout on one side, with shows taking place most evenings on the other side (in many cases, showcasing local artists). If by chance Casa doesn’t have anything on, its sister venues — La Sotterenea, La Sala Rossa, or La Vitrola (all of which are less than a block away) — will likely have something. Check the listings online.
2 a.m. — Late night poutine at Chez Claudette
Uh oh, you’re wasted! Fortunately, you’re in Quebec, home of notable drunk dish, poutine. Tourists often flock to 24-hour institution La Banquise. But, take a leaf out of the book of many locals, and visit Laurier Avenue casse-croûte Chez Claudette. You can keep it classic, with just fries, cheese curds, and gravy, or choose from an array of variations that add sausage, bacon, or other artery-hardening toppings. Chez Claudette is only open 24 hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, so if you’re looking for a poot on another night, you’ll have to hit La Banquise.
8 a.m. — Stock up on bagels
We’re not going to take sides here: go to either one of Montreal’s famed bagel bakeries — Fairmount or St-Viateur — and grab a bunch to take home with you. (Put them in the freezer if you can — they get rock-hard within as little as 24 hours.) If you really want to take advantage of Montreal’s stellar baked goods scene, consider stopping by bakeries Guillaume or Hof Kelsten, both in Mile End, for extra treats. Note that Montreal’s main bagel stores don’t sell bagel sandwiches and such (although you can purchase cream cheese to smear on yourself) — so if you want a fuller breakfast, consider Larrys on Fairmount for excellent coffee and breakfast sandwiches any day of the week.