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An Eater’s Guide to Montreal

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

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


Welcome to the Land of Maple

With the obligatory maple reference out of the way, let’s clear something up: Montreal is not some North American stand-in for France. Some visitors see a few cobblestone streets and subsequently describe the city as “so European,” but that’s not so. Montrealers do speak French, and the city is undoubtedly French-influenced, but it also takes cues from the hefty expanses of English North America that surround it — hence why you can find a decent burger, for example. A distinctive immigrant diaspora also makes the city unique. 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 unique creativity in our 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 maps to help time-starved eaters decide which spots to prioritize. Also worth checking is our Visitor’s Guide to the city, which gathers a range of other useful maps in one place.

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, Syrian stalwart Damas, next-generation Jewish nosh bar Arthurs, and outstanding homage to the Quebec terroir Hoogan et Beaufort. For something a little more casual, pick up a roti filled with deeply-flavoured curry goat at Caribbean Curry House, some caramelized 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 part-French, part-local-produce 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 promise: At the moment, consider sizzling new Saint-Henri restaurant Gia, Beaubien Street specialty grocery shop and noodle counter J’ai Feng, and cute and cozy Little Burgundy steakhouse Mignon.

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 indispensable, Larrys, with slightly British vibes, is a long-time Mile End favourite, while Jewish-deli-meets-brunch-spot Arthurs likely draws the longest waits in the city — for good reason. For homey fare, Le Vieux Vélo in La Petite-Patrie and time-honoured Mile End diner Beauty’s are both staples. (For weekday breakfasts, try this guide).

Québécois Eats: For something a bit more specific to the city or the province of Quebec, 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, out in Côte-des-Neiges, which doesn’t have the same line-ups. Fairmount Bagel and Saint-Viateur Bagel are the two places for Montreal-style bagels, and most locals have a semi-arbitrary preference for one or the other. For more modern Jewish fare, try Mile End bakery Hof Kelsten or Saint-Henri deli Arthurs.

Poutine: Quebec’s national dish is available, in large number, all over the city — guidebooks channel tourists towards La Banquise, which does the job, but neighbourhood spots like Chez Claudette, Paul Patates, and Pataterie Chez Philippe are significantly better in the eyes of many. For an international spin, try the Portuguese poutine (filled with chorizo, chicken, and São Jorge cheese) from Ma Poule Mouillé.

Coffee: Third-wave cafes 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. (Café Saint-Henri, Dispatch, and Paquebot are always reliable Montreal 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 worthy bets. For the city’s most stunning coffee purveyor head to Crew Collective & Cafe, located in an old bank building from the 1920’s.

Bars: The city has seen somewhat of a drinking boom in recent years, dominated by spots dedicated to craft cocktails, natural wines, and Quebec microbrews. In the first category, Cold Room, Bar St-Denis, and Le Royal are good bets. 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, which is the big-name go-to, La Chronique, Leméac, and Monarque also merit some 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 iconic 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, Carribean Curry House and Le Jardin Du Cari are the must-try spots. Looking for something a little fancier? Try Kamúy in Quartier des Spectacles, a pan-Caribbean project from rising culinary star chef Paul Toussaint.

Bakeries: Montreal has a lot of great patisseries, and Patrice Pâtissier (sadly slated to close at the end of the summer) and Au Kouign Amann arguably lead the pack. Rhubarbe is a treasured spot for locals, Cheskie’s is known for its chocolate babka among other Jewish treats, and Alati-Caserta may just offer the city’s best ricotta 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 must-try 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 iconic 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 before or after your visit to Montreal, we have the best restaurants covered for that city ,too.

Montreal Food Neighbourhoods to Know

Montreal is broken up into a number of boroughs, but many of those boroughs are made up of smaller neighbourhoods. Here are a few key areas for visitors — especially the food-oriented. For other parts of town, each with their standout eats, consult our various neighbourhood 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, picture-worthy residential streets, punctuated with major commercial arteries like St-Laurent Boulevard and Mont-Royal Avenue. Those main streets are lined with restaurants, shops, and (in some cases) empty storefronts, where incessant roadwork and rent hikes have occassionally driven business away.

Au Pied de Cochon, along with Schwartz’s (for smoked meat), and La Banquise (for poutine) are three big tourist destinations, but there’s so much more to see — and eat. The area is notably the hub for Montreal’s Portuguese community, and you can quite 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 oh-so-French L’Express and Canadian gastropub Maison Publique to diner-y spots like newly reopened Beautys, Leonard Cohen fave back in the day Bagel Etc., and Patati Patata for tiny burgers and tasty poutines. Lastly, there are some gems tucked away, like Le Réservoir, which excels at microbrews and better-than-your-average-bar food, and Yokato Yokabai, serving up some of 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, but its own distinct neighbourhood, Mile End has over the years been shaped by Greek communities (not so present anymore), Jewish ones, local artists, 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 (either at Fairmount or St-Viateur), but the Special at Wilensky’s or an espresso at Olimpico are arguably more of an experience. Larrys is a go-to for anything from wine to breakfast to dinner, Falafel Yoni and sibling establishment Pizza Toni are slinging some of the best chickpea balls and cheesy pies, respectively, in town. Meanwhile, La Khaïma offers up Mauritanian cuisine in a cozy atmosphere. For killer doughnuts — or humungous apple fritters — there’s Bernie Beigne. And in the summer months, don’t leave the area without grabbing a fresh and fruity ice cream from Kem Coba.

Atwater Market, on the edge of Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri
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Notre-Dame West and Surrounds (Griffintown, Little Burgundy, and St-Henri)

The Sud-Ouest borough’s roughly three-kilometre stretch of Notre-Dame West has seen an enormous number of restaurant openings in recent years. Many say Joe Beef’s success is responsible for attracting them, but the area’s proximity to downtown likely also helped. Joe Beef is typically booked solid, weeks out, but neighbouring sibling establishments Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon are typically easier tables to snag.

Still in Little Burgundy, you got bustling Stem Bar and Filipino restaurant Junior. A little further east along Notre-Dame, in Griffintown, Foxy, specializing in the charcoal grill, is worth the visit. Still in these neighbourhoods, but away from the action of Notre-Dame are Candide, Nora Gray, and Mano Cornuto — three great options to consider.

Heading west into St-Henri, you got market-driven fare at chic, yet cozy Tuck Shop, pizza and pasta at stylish Italian restaurant Elena, Singaporean cuisine at Satay Brothers, and Middle Eastern plates at Sumac. Don’t overlook poutine expert Green Spot or Tacos Frida for more casual eats, and the Atwater Market has a host of good bets, too, particularly in warmer months.

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 sticking around 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 top-notch Thai at counter spot Épicerie Pumpui and Mon Lapin wine bar for a near-guaranteed delicious night out.

Just west of Little Italy and St-Laurent Boulevard is so-called “Mile Ex” (official named Marconi-Alexandra), home to several great eats. Dinette Triple Crown is the place for fried chicken and smoked brisket as good as you can get in the South, while Le Diplomate and Marconi are notable for their creative takes on local flavours. Grab a pulled pork sandwich from Dépanneur Le Pick-Up and a coffee from Dispatch if you want something lighter.

La Petite-Patrie

Sharing borders with bustling Little Italy (to the west) and Plateau (to the south), it’s hardly a surprise that an influx of trendy new eateries would make its way to slightly more residential La Petite-Patrie. In the past few years alone, the hood has seen the arrival of refreshing new Italian spot Antonietta, super cozy Moroccan eatery Darna, and chic Nordic wine bar vinvinvin on its main thoroughfares. The effervescence continued with the even more recent additions of Thai wine bar Pichai 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, are also worth a visit.

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, and has a correspondingly high number of disappointing restaurants. But it’s also a magnet for fine dining establishments run by some of the city’s most venerable chefs, and some young guns, too.

High-end spots like Pastel and Le Club Chasse et Pêche offer something local and special, 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.

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Chinatown

Montreal’s shrinking Chinatown may be petite 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, to Dobe & Andy for Hong Kong-style barbecue meats, 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 city’s best taquerias La Capital, Vietnamese soup destination Pho Bang New York, and fast favourite Fleurs & Cadeaux, a Japanese sake and snack bar.

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

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 to France, where it’s petit déjeuner, déjeuner, and dîner, in that order.

Entrée, etc.

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.”

5 à 7

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

Casse-croûte

“Snack bar” is the official translation, though a casse-croûte usually resembles more of a 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 beer and bad 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 lots of stellar options in the city. (Take note: Smoking tobacco or cannabis is banned on terrasses and rooftops in Quebec.)

Poutine

Some (inaccurately) dub it Canada’s national dish, but it’s a Quebec specialty, and this is the only province where you can reliably find a good take on it. A classic poutine has fries and cheese curds (grated cheese is an aberration), topped with gravy. 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, serving 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 being 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, then smoked, and served on rye with mustard at Jewish delis like Schwartz’s and Snowdon Deli. Many Montrealers don’t eat it as much as tourist books would have you think.

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 Christmas season. It’s more of a rural Quebec specialty, and isn’t terribly common in Montreal.

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 in 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, obviously, and is usually served at a diner or casse-croûte-style spot.

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Houses on the Plateau
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Get in Touch

Have questions not answered here? Want to send in a tip or a complaint or just say hello? Here are some ways to get in touch with the Eater Montreal:

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