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high-angle view of the Montreal cityscape in the Fall

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An Eater’s Guide to Montreal

Unofficial, highly opinionated information about the Belle Province’s largest city

A birds-eye view of Montreal in the fall
| Getty Images/EyeEm

Montreal, North America’s largest French-speaking metropolis, is a cultural junction — and its wide array of food, from the emblematic poutine to fine French cuisine, reflects that. This guide will direct you to the best Montreal has to offer, covering internationally renowned restaurants, low-key neighbourhood haunts, and everything in between.


Welcome to the Land of Maple

With the obligatory maple reference out of the way, let’s clear something up: Montreal is not a North American stand-in for France. Some visitors see Old Montreal’s cobblestone streets and subsequently describe the city as “oh so European,” but that’s not entirely so. Montrealers do speak French, and the city is undoubtedly French-influenced. Still, the hefty expanses of English North America surrounding it and the city’s distinct immigrant diasporas are a large part of what makes it such a unique place to eat.

Newcomers to Montreal are often from French-speaking countries, like Haiti or Algeria, giving the city different demographics — and cuisines — from English-speaking Toronto. This means that no single influence — not French, American, Caribbean, or North African — defines Montreal, allowing for a distinct, multifaceted culinary scene. French techniques get re-applied to local fauna and flora, meat is really big (read: Au Pied de Cochon), and casual options — from old school casse-croûtes to Haitian hubs like Méli Mélo — abound.

Where to Start on Eater Montreal’s Top Maps

Eater regularly puts out numerous maps detailing the top places and things to eat and drink within a wide range of categories in Montreal. Below, we selected some notable ones to help time-starved eaters decide which spots to prioritize.

Old Montreal by night
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Essential restaurants: There are 38 essential places on this guide, which tries to capture the amalgam that is Montreal’s culinary scene. These include classic French bistro L’Express, Italian pasta specialist Moccione, Syrian stalwart Damas, next-generation Jewish nosh bar Arthurs, and, in the Angus Shops, Hoogan et Beaufort, an outstanding homage to the Quebec terroir. For something a little more casual, pick up a roti filled with deeply flavoured curry goat at Caribbean Curry House, some tasty barbecue meats at Hong Kong-style diner Dobe & Andy, or dive into a poutine and burger at modern-day casse-croûte (snack bar) Chez Tousignant. Other commonly cited can’t-miss spots are the oh-so-Québécois Au Pied de Cochon, Normand Laprise’s famed downtown spot Toqué, almost ridiculously creative Le Mousso, and pretty much every branch of the Joe Beef family.

New restaurants: This map covers restaurants that have been open for six months or less, particularly those that have become fast favourites or show a lot of promise: At the moment, consider Americana-themed Bon Service, the city’s latest tribute to Filipino cuisine, Tadhana, and caviar-slinging Kabinet, inspired by 1970s Paris.

Brunch: Montrealers will line up in temperatures well below freezing for brunch, and the places on this map are prone to such queues. Old Montreal’s Dandy is only three years old but already a classic, Larrys, with slightly British vibes, is a long-time Mile End favourite, while Jewish-deli-meets-brunch-hotspot Arthurs draws perhaps the longest waits in the city — and for good reason. Le Vieux Vélo in La Petite-Patrie and time-honoured Mile End diner Beautys are both staples for homey fare. (For weekday breakfasts, try this guide).

Québécois eats: For something local-leaning, Old Montreal classic Le Club Chasse et Pêche and Rosemont newcomer Mastard both boast a solid focus on Quebec ingredients. Au Pied de Cochon and Joe Beef are oft-cited as the pinnacles of local food, but nabbing a table can be tricky. For something fine dining but also zany and fun, try Montreal Plaza.

Jewish eats: Jewish culinary traditions have shaped Montreal. For the city’s famed smoked meat, tourists visit Schwartz’s. Slightly less iconic but arguably just as delicious is Snowdon Deli, located out in Côte-des-Neiges. Cheskie’s is the traditional Jewish bakery of choice, while Fairmount Bagel and Saint-Viateur Bagel are the two must-visit spots for Montreal-style bagels. For modern Jewish fare, try Mile End bakery Hof Kelsten or St-Henri’s Arthurs.

Poutine: Quebec’s national dish is available, in large numbers, all over the city — guidebooks channel tourists towards La Banquise, which does the job, but neighbourhood spots like Chez Claudette, Chez Ma Tante, and Greenspot are considered the real deal in the eyes of many. For an elevated, foie gras-laden spin on the dish, go to Au Pied de Cochon, or for something even less traditional but just as quintessentially Montreal, there’s Portuguese poutine (filled with chorizo, chicken, and São Jorge cheese) from Ma Poule Mouillé.

Coffee: Third-wave cafés have popped up everywhere in recent years; Café Myriade is frequently credited as the one that kicked it all off, but Saison des pluies and Pastel Rita are the cool kids now, while Café Saint-Henri, Dispatch, and Paquebot are mainstays. The city is also home to a flurry of old-school Italian cafés, with Olimpico in Mile End, Café Vito and Ferlucci in Villeray, and Caffé Italia in Little Italy all being stellar bets. For the city’s most stunning coffee purveyor, head to Crew Collective & Cafe, located in an Old Montreal bank building from the 1920s.

Bars: The city saw somewhat of a drinking boom in recent, pre-pandemic years, dominated by spots dedicated to craft cocktails, natural wines, and Quebec microbrews. Cold Room, Bar St-Denis, and Le Royal are good bets in the first category. For an excellent wine bar, consider vinvinvin or La Buvette Chez Simone, and when it comes to beer, Mellön Brasserie, Brasserie Harricana, and Messorem Bracitorium are where it’s at.

French: Montreal might not be France, but there’s some pretty good French fare on offer here. Aside from L’Express, the big-name go-to, La Chronique, Leméac, and Monarque also merit your attention.

Caribbean: Montreal has been a hub for various Caribbean diasporas for a few decades now, including a particularly large Haitian community that’s propelled griot to the status of an essential local eat. For these tender, flavour-packed pork cubes, head to Casse-Croûte Sissi & Paul, Méli Mélo, or Kwizinn. For Jamaican jerk chicken, go to Lloydie’s or Boom J’s, and for some roti, Caribbean Curry House and Le Jardin Du Cari are the must-try spots. Were you looking for something a little fancier? Try Kamúy in Quartier des Spectacles, a pan-Caribbean project from rising culinary star Paul Toussaint.

Bakeries: Montreal has a lot of great patisseries, and Rhubarbe and Au Kouign Amann arguably lead the pack. Meanwhile, Cheskie’s is known for its chocolate babka, among other Jewish treats, and Alati-Caserta may very well offer the city’s best cannoli. For bread, Guillaume, Automne, and Miette are all spectacular choices — though there are many others.

Others: We already mentioned poutine and smoked meat, but there’s a guide featuring some other iconic local eats (and drinks) — such as the Special at Wilensky’s, Portuguese chicken from exceedingly popular Ma Poule Mouillée, or an Orange Julep at the spherical roadside diner by the same name — right here. Montreal isn’t a bad burger city, either; the same goes for sandwiches and Italian and Middle Eastern food. Lastly, if you’re headed to Quebec City or Ottawa before or after your visit to Montreal, we have the best restaurants covered for those cities here and here.

Montreal Food Neighbourhoods to Know

Montreal is divided into several boroughs, but many of these are made up of smaller neighbourhoods. Here are a few key areas for visitors — especially the food-oriented ones. Looking for a neighbourhood not listed here? Check out our other guides.

Famed Plateau restaurant L’Express
Randall Brodeur/Eater Montreal

Plateau

Officially known as Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, the Plateau is a large swath of colourful, photogenic residential streets punctuated by major commercial arteries like St-Laurent Boulevard, St-Denis Street, and Mont-Royal Avenue. Restaurants, shops, and, in some cases, empty storefronts (where incessant roadwork and rent hikes have occasionally driven businesses away) line those main streets.

Au Pied de Cochon, along with Schwartz’s (for smoked meat), and La Banquise (for poutine), are prominent tourist destinations, but there’s so much more to see and eat. The area is notably the hub for Montreal’s Portuguese community. You can literally smell the chicken grilling in the air from its two most famous restaurants: Romados and Ma Poule Mouillé. The Plateau is also home to numerous institutions — from French classic L’Express and Canadian gastropub Maison Publique to diner-y spots like newly reopened Beautys and Patati Patata for tiny burgers and filling poutines. Lastly, some gems are tucked away, like Le Réservoir, which excels at craft brews and better-than-your-average bar food, and Yokato Yokabai, serving up what is arguably the city’s best ramen.

Wilensky’s
Wilensky’s Light Lunch in Montreal’s Mile End
Randall Brodeur/Eater Montreal

Mile End

Officially part of the Plateau borough but its own distinct neighbourhood, Mile End has over the years been shaped by Greek and Jewish communities, local artists and students, and more recently, the arrival of tech companies. Rising rents have pushed out some iconic hubs, but it’s still a lovely place to visit and a must on any Montreal itinerary.

Tourists and locals flock to the bagels at Fairmount and St-Viateur (even if the best cream cheese on the market was recently discontinued), but the Special at Wilensky’s or an espresso at Olimpico is arguably more of an experience. Larrys is a go-to for anything from wine to breakfast to dinner, while Falafel Yoni and sibling establishment Pizza Toni are slinging some of the best chickpea balls and cheesy pies in town. Meanwhile, La Khaïma offers up Mauritanian cuisine in a cozy atmosphere. For killer doughnuts — or humungous, pillowy apple fritters — there’s newcomer Bernie Beigne. And in the summer months, don’t leave the area without grabbing a scoop or swirl from ice cream shop Kem Coba.

Inside Un Po’ di Più
Stephane Lavoie/Eater Montreal

Old Montreal

Courtesy of its cobblestone streets and general oldness, Old Montreal (often referred to as the Old Port) is typically the most touristy part of the city. It has a correspondingly high number of disappointing food establishments. But it’s also a magnet for fine dining restaurants run by some of the city’s most reputable chefs and some young guns, too.

High-end spots like Pastel, Monarque, and Le Club Chasse et Pêche offer something local and unique, while places like Dandy and Un Po’ di Più have shaken up the neighbourhood’s reputation of consisting of only high-end fare and tourist traps. Olive & Gourmando (for sandwiches and general lunching), Stash Café (for traditional Polish food), and fish and chips counter Brit & Chips are three more exceptions to the rule.

red and gold ornate gate at entrance of Chinatown.
Chinatown’s south entrance
Getty Images

Chinatown

Montreal’s shrinking Chinatown may be tiny compared to others in North America, but it packs a culinary punch. Make your way to Nouilles de Lan Zhou for piping hot bowls of full-flavoured broth and hand-pulled noodles, Dobe & Andy for Hong Kong-style barbecue meats, family-run Mon Nan for a broad array of Chinese classics, and Patisserie Harmonie for savoury and sweet baked treats, including buns filled with everything from red bean paste to curry beef. Beyond Chinese food, the neighbourhood is also home to one of the city’s best taquerias, La Capital, Vietnamese soup destination Pho Bang New York, fermentation-forward pub Poincaré, and Japanese sake and snack bar Fleurs & Cadeaux.

Don’t leave Chinatown without a stop at Dragon’s Beard Candy, a long-standing stall making small, sweet morsels of peanuts and sesame wrapped in hair-like strands of sugar.

Atwater Market, on the edge of Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri
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Le Sud-Ouest: Griffintown, Little Burgundy, and St-Henri

The Sud-Ouest borough’s roughly three-kilometre stretch of Notre-Dame Street West has seen a wild number of restaurant openings in recent years, with many crediting Joe Beef’s success for attracting them. The landmark Montreal restaurant is typically booked solid weeks out, though its neighbouring sibling establishments — Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon — are generally easier tables to snag.

Lively Stem Bar and knockout Filipino restaurant Junior are also in Little Burgundy. Further east along Notre-Dame is Griffintown, where Foxy, specializes in charcoal grill and newer arrival Nolan serves farm-fresh cuisine. Still in these neighbourhoods, but away from the action of Notre-Dame, are Candide, Nora Gray, and Mano Cornuto — three top-notch spots to consider.

Heading west into St-Henri, there’s pizza and pasta at stylish Italian restaurant Elena, Singaporean cuisine at Satay Brothers, and delicious plates of hummus, muhammara, and falafel at Sumac. Don’t overlook poutine expert Greenspot or Tacos Frida for more casual eats, or the Atwater Market, a great place to spend an afternoon.

Verdun

Much has changed since Verdun was a “dry” town; the borough only lifted its over century-old ban on alcohol in 2010. These days, the historically working-class neighbourhood is getting recognition for having what Time Out readers deem “the coolest street in the world” (Wellington) and as the setting for a stream of exciting new openings: Cambodian noodle counter Ketiw, rule-breaking French bistro Paname, and self-described “casse-croûte 4 the masses” Millmans. Slightly older, but no less buzzy Beba, which explores the confluence of Italian and Spanish immigrant communities in Argentina, and dynamite Italian sandwich maker Bossa demand a spot on every Montreal itinerary (or roster of local faves).

The Jean-Talon Market, near Little Italy
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Little Italy and Mile Ex

Visitors will often come to these areas to visit the Jean-Talon Market (which has solid food on-site), but it’s worth branching out for a few restaurant meals. For some of the best — shocker — Italian in Little Italy, there’s Impasto, Pizzeria Gema, or for something more casual, San Gennaro. Locals also head to Little Italy for fantastic Thai at Épicerie Pumpui or a near-guaranteed delicious night out at wine bar Mon Lapin.

Just west of Little Italy and St-Laurent Boulevard is the so-called “Mile-Ex” (officially named Marconi-Alexandra), home to several great eats. Dinette Triple Crown is the place for fried chicken as good as you can get in the South, while Le Diplomate, Salle Climatisée, and Marconi are notable for their creative takes on local flavours. For something more casual, grab a pulled pork sandwich from Dépanneur Le Pick-Up, a bánh mì from Tran Cantine, or a craft brew from the neighbourhood’s latest addition Wills.

The nearby neighbourhood of Villeray — home to utterly indispensable (and recently revamped) Italian spot Moccione, pan-African takeout counter Mokili, and Syrian restaurant Le Petit Alep — is just to the north, and worth the detour.

La Petite-Patrie

Sharing borders with bustling Little Italy (to the west) and the Plateau (to the south), it’s hardly a surprise that an influx of trendy new restaurants would make their way to La Petite-Patrie. In the past few years, the area has welcomed a refreshing new Italian spot called Antonietta, super cozy Moroccan eatery Darna, and chic Nordic wine bar vinvinvin on its main thoroughfares. The push continued with the even more recent additions of Thai wine bar Pichai, Sichuan shop and takeout counter J’ai Feng, and craft brew taproom Mellön, but longer-standing haunts, like capacious brewpub Isle de Garde and over-two-decade-old, family-run Pho Tay Ho, serving up what is widely considered one of the best bowls of the Vietnamese noodle soup in the city, also deserve a visit.

Head Out of Town

Montreal’s culinary terrain can keep diners busy for ages, but should they need a change of pace, the Eastern Townships and Laurentians are popular escapes from the city. The cities of Ottawa and Quebec City are common add-ons to a Montreal adventure and their noteworthy food scenes are covered in detail here and here. For those willing to venture farther afield, breathtaking Charlevoix and seafood-loving Îles-de-la-Madeleine will not disappoint.

Montreal’s seemingly endless summertime construction work
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Montreal’s Glossary of Terms

Déjeuner, dîner, and souper

This is breakfast, lunch, and dinner (respectively) in Quebec French. These terms are different in France, where it’s petit déjeuner, déjeuner, and dîner, in that order.

Entrée

This one is mostly for Americans: On a French-language menu, “entrée” refers to an appetizer, while “plat” or “plat principal” refers to a main. On an English menu, an appetizer will often be called just that (or sometimes, it’ll be called an entrée), with “main,” “main course,” or “main plate” used for what Americans would call an “entrée.” Got it?

5 à 7

Literally “five to seven,” but always said in French as “cinq à sept,” even when speaking English. It means “happy hour,” and yes, it is two hours here.

Casse-croûte

“Snack bar” is the official translation, though a casse-croûte usually resembles more of a no-nonsense diner serving poutine, burgers, hot dogs, and greasy breakfasts.

Table d’hôte

Roughly the same as prix fixe: a set-price menu with just a few options for each course.

Dépanneur

A convenience store that sells everything from snacks and toiletries to beer and sub-par wine. If you want hard liquor, you’ll have to go to the government-owned liquor store, the SAQ. The SQDC is the equivalent for weed.

Terrasse

A restaurant or bar patio — of which there are many standout options in the city. (Take note: Smoking is banned on outdoor terrasses and rooftops in Quebec.)

Poutine

Some (inaccurately) dub it Canada’s national dish, but it is, without question, a Quebec specialty — and this is the only province where you can reliably find a good take on it. Topped with gravy, a classic poutine has fries and cheese curds (grated cheese is an aberration). Diners are a good place for it; they’ll usually sell options with toppings (by no means necessary) like bacon, sausage, or vegetables.

Sugar shack (cabane à sucre)

A restaurant typically found on a maple farm that serves ham, pancakes, eggs, and other foods meant to be doused in maple syrup. They’re usually open from late February through April when maple trees are tapped for sap. Located outside the city, the experience of rolling maple off snow alone is worth the day trip.

Smoked meat

A Montreal specialty: beef brisket cured in spices, smoked, and served on rye with mustard at Jewish delis like Schwartz’s and Snowdon Deli.

Inside St-Viateur Bagel
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Montreal-style bagels

Wood-fired bagels of Jewish origin, unique to Montreal. They are smaller than New York bagels, much less doughy, and have a hint of sweetness. St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel are the two big bakeries. Eat them fresh or freeze them — they turn into rocks if left out for long.

Tourtière

A large meat pie often cooked around the Christmas season. It’s more of a rural Quebec specialty and isn’t terribly common in Montreal restaurants.

Pouding chômeur

Literally “unemployment pudding,” a cakey, maple syrup dessert born in Depression-era Quebec that can be tasted at La Binerie.

Pizzaghetti

Exactly what it sounds like — pizza and spaghetti fused into one (sometimes the pasta is placed alongside the pizza, though). This strange and tacky dish is endemic to Quebec and is most often found at neighbourhood greasy spoons and pizzerias.

Hot chicken

Not to be confused with Nashville hot chicken, this Quebec specialty consists of plain ol’ white bread with rotisserie chicken inside, topped with gravy and peas. Nominally a sandwich, it’s a knife-and-fork job and is usually served at a diner or casse-croûte-style spot.

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