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Fish at Le Virunga
Randall Brodeur/Eater Montreal

14 Underrated Restaurants to Try in Montreal

They’re serving delightful dishes from underneath the radar

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Fish at Le Virunga
| Randall Brodeur/Eater Montreal

We can be a fickle lot in our dining preferences in a city with so many choices. The hot new things (hello, food halls!) can relegate places with craft — and longevity — to the dusty recesses of the mind when you’re thinking about where to go for dinner. Then, there are the places that might be newer, but never drew major publicity, or never had a critic visit.

Here, for your consideration, are 15 restaurants we’ve deemed underrated. There is no scientific measurement for what makes an underrated restaurant, and it might vary from person to person — one diner’s beloved neighbourhood haunt may be an unknown entity to many others in the city. Overall, two things unite the restaurants below: they’re good, and they deserve more mainstream love, right now.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Thai Sep

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1900 Rue Jean-Talon, Montréal
QC H2E 1T6, Canada
(514) 303-7767
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At this Rosemont restaurant, familiar Thai starters and curries at the front of the laminated picture menu give way to some unique Lao selections at the back: homemade sausages, Lao-style papaya salad (very spicy, and they’re not kidding), and nême kao, a crispy rice salad with pork, all of which might just become the dishes of your dreams. If it’s still mango season, check out the sticky rice with mango and coconut cream, a perfect ending to the meal. Also, it’s BYOB.

2. Les Affamés

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4137 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Montréal
QC H1V 1X1, Canada
(514) 508-8566
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The platonic ideal of a neighbourhood restaurant might just be this Hochelaga bistro. Open brunch, lunch, and dinner, it’s the sort of restaurant that might be described as “contemporary”, by virtue of drawing on a range of international influences. But there’s nothing scattershot about the dishes that come out of that approach — dishes like bison tartare, boudin with jalapeno-cheddar pancake, or bone marrow with chimichurri may be wide-ranging, but they’re thoughtfully composed, well-edited, and (bonus) reasonably-priced.

3. Santa Barbara

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6696 Rue de Saint-Vallier, Montréal
QC H2S 2P7, Canada
(514) 273-4555
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Taking a “vegetarian, but carnivore-friendly” approach that’s light on meat, Santa Barbara is a popular neighbourhood brunch spot, although its evening menu warrants love, too. It featuring fresh ingredients and international recipes that vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters can all get behind. Try the seasonal pierogies with fillings that range from ginger and bok choy to beets and balsamico, or the very well-massaged kale salad. Cocktails are fun here: check out the Resurección with cava and tequila, and the Oaxacan Brunch, with mezcal and chartreuse.

4. Café Via Dante

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251 Rue Dante, Montréal
QC H2S 1K3, Canada
(514) 270-8446
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The team at Via Dante seem genuinely pleased to see you, graciously sharing their enthusiasm with first timers and regulars alike. The daily menu leans towards comforting old-school classics like eggplant parmigiana and homemade pastas; don’t miss the famous rabbit with polenta, though, or the sliced-to-order San Daniele prosciutto di Parma waiting for you in its very own glassed-in room. As an added bonus, the mostly-Italian wine list is very affordable.

5. Mile-Ex

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Mile-Ex, Montreal
QC, Canada
(514) 272-7919
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Chef Grégory Paul’s tiny restaurant will likely have you dining cheek-by-jowl with people you don’t know, but never mind: by the end of the evening you may be sharing frites from their mussels with blue cheese or grabbing a bite of your neighbour’s Motherf***cker Burger. Known for generous portions of their primarily sea- and street-food menu, the ambiance at this no-reservations spot on tranquil Jeanne Mance Street is down-to-earth and decidedly friendly.

6. Le Virunga

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851 Rue Rachel E, Montréal
QC H2J 2H9, Canada
(514) 504-8642
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At this cozy Plateau restaurant decorated with golden, earthy tones, chef Maria de Frias does some truly unique dishes, drawing on cuisines from a range of sub-Saharan African cultures. Using some of Quebec’s finest meats and seafood, try options like braised goat with a Cameroonian green aniseed, or ginger-cinnamon roasted duck with Amarula cream. The foods of the Congo and adjacent countries may not get representation on Montreal’s fine dining scene, but Le Virunga’s innovative menu proves that they should.

7. Maria Bonita

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5163 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal
QC H2T 1R9, Canada
(514) 807-4377
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Mexican cuisine in Montreal can feel like it’s limited to tacos above all else, but that’s not the case at Maria Chavez’s Mile End restaurant. Cazuelitas (small, saucy plates in terracotta dishes) are the specialty — go for spicy, chocolatey mole, pork-stuffed poblano peppers with walnut sauce, or cactus gratin, and a range of margaritas on the side.

8. Robin des Bois

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4653 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal
QC H2T 1R2, Canada
(514) 288-1010
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This homey bistro in Mile End doesn’t hone in on one cuisine — rather, its menu features an array of solid, comforting classics, from dahl to French onion soup, to a chimichurri-topped steak, or caesar salad. It’s family friendly, and rather affordable, plus, you can feel extra-good about visiting, as Robin des Bois is a non-profit that donates all its proceeds to organizations that support disadvantaged Montrealers.

9. La Prunelle

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327 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal
QC H2W 1J1, Canada
(514) 849-8403
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Drawing on French cuisine but not rigidly beholden to it, this Plateau BYOB has a hearty menu that’s infused with an array of intriguing bright notes — grilled octopus gets laced with an umeboshi vinegar dressing, gnudi is made with feta, and a chocolate dessert pie spiced up with espelette peppers. It’s all enjoyed alongside floor to ceiling windows that look out onto charming Duluth Avenue.

10. Kanbai

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1110 Rue Clark, Montréal
QC H2Z 1K3, Canada
(514) 871-8778
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Kanbai’s menu showcases dishes from Sichuan and Hunan, home to some of China’s hottest cuisines. If you’re not a Chinese reader, look for translated key words “hot” and “chili”, ideally combined with “garlic” and “sauce”.  You’ll then find your way to options like poached fish filet in hot chili soup or eggplant and minced pork with hot garlic sauce. Solo diners can find good specials on the reasonably-priced lunch menu with equally numbing flavours. (For the spice-averse, there’s an extensive range of more seasonally-focused Cantonese food as well.)

11. Stash Café

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200 Rue Saint-Paul O, Montréal
QC H2Y 1Z9, Canada
(514) 845-6611
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Don’t be put off by Stash’s location at the epicentre of touristy Old Montreal, or the cave-like interior decked out with church pews: It’s a great bet for Polish fare. Head down in the winter when the tourists are gone for gut-sticking kielbasa, pierogies, potato pancakes, and cabbage rolls, plus various other eastern European staples that are hard to come by in Montreal.

12. Gia Ba

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5766 Av de Monkland, Montréal
QC H4A 1E9, Canada
(514) 564-7698
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NDG residents probably know this place well, but for other Montrealers, it’s well worth the trip to Monkland. Mixing Sichuan and Taiwanese cuisines, chef Andy Su puts forward options such as cumin fried chicken, a tingly ma po tofu, and dan dan noodles — while the menu does also feature certain, um, staples, like peanut butter dumplings and General Tao chicken, stick to the spicy options and you’ll be well-served.

13. Les Délices de l'Île Maurice

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272 Rue Hickson, Verdun
QC H4G 2J6, Canada
(514) 768-6023
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One of Montreal’s very few Mauritian restaurants is this spot in Verdun — expect various Indian and east African touches (Mauritius is, after all, between the two) on a well-spiced menu. The table d’hôte costs around $24 for most options, and features a choice of meat or various seafoods, with curry, creole, or saffron sauces (to name a few).

14. Parisa

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4123 Rue de Verdun, Verdun
QC H4G 1L2, Canada
(514) 768-7777
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Soups, dips, and an array of grilled meats dominate at this Verdun Persian restaurant, alongside a few specialties like fesenjan (a chicken walnut stew) or stewed lamb shanks — it’s bold, flavourful, and rather hearty.

1. Thai Sep

1900 Rue Jean-Talon, Montréal, QC H2E 1T6, Canada

At this Rosemont restaurant, familiar Thai starters and curries at the front of the laminated picture menu give way to some unique Lao selections at the back: homemade sausages, Lao-style papaya salad (very spicy, and they’re not kidding), and nême kao, a crispy rice salad with pork, all of which might just become the dishes of your dreams. If it’s still mango season, check out the sticky rice with mango and coconut cream, a perfect ending to the meal. Also, it’s BYOB.

1900 Rue Jean-Talon, Montréal
QC H2E 1T6, Canada

2. Les Affamés

4137 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Montréal, QC H1V 1X1, Canada

The platonic ideal of a neighbourhood restaurant might just be this Hochelaga bistro. Open brunch, lunch, and dinner, it’s the sort of restaurant that might be described as “contemporary”, by virtue of drawing on a range of international influences. But there’s nothing scattershot about the dishes that come out of that approach — dishes like bison tartare, boudin with jalapeno-cheddar pancake, or bone marrow with chimichurri may be wide-ranging, but they’re thoughtfully composed, well-edited, and (bonus) reasonably-priced.

4137 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Montréal
QC H1V 1X1, Canada

3. Santa Barbara

6696 Rue de Saint-Vallier, Montréal, QC H2S 2P7, Canada

Taking a “vegetarian, but carnivore-friendly” approach that’s light on meat, Santa Barbara is a popular neighbourhood brunch spot, although its evening menu warrants love, too. It featuring fresh ingredients and international recipes that vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters can all get behind. Try the seasonal pierogies with fillings that range from ginger and bok choy to beets and balsamico, or the very well-massaged kale salad. Cocktails are fun here: check out the Resurección with cava and tequila, and the Oaxacan Brunch, with mezcal and chartreuse.

6696 Rue de Saint-Vallier, Montréal
QC H2S 2P7, Canada

4. Café Via Dante

251 Rue Dante, Montréal, QC H2S 1K3, Canada

The team at Via Dante seem genuinely pleased to see you, graciously sharing their enthusiasm with first timers and regulars alike. The daily menu leans towards comforting old-school classics like eggplant parmigiana and homemade pastas; don’t miss the famous rabbit with polenta, though, or the sliced-to-order San Daniele prosciutto di Parma waiting for you in its very own glassed-in room. As an added bonus, the mostly-Italian wine list is very affordable.

251 Rue Dante, Montréal
QC H2S 1K3, Canada

5. Mile-Ex

Mile-Ex, Montreal, QC, Canada

Chef Grégory Paul’s tiny restaurant will likely have you dining cheek-by-jowl with people you don’t know, but never mind: by the end of the evening you may be sharing frites from their mussels with blue cheese or grabbing a bite of your neighbour’s Motherf***cker Burger. Known for generous portions of their primarily sea- and street-food menu, the ambiance at this no-reservations spot on tranquil Jeanne Mance Street is down-to-earth and decidedly friendly.

Mile-Ex, Montreal
QC, Canada

6. Le Virunga

851 Rue Rachel E, Montréal, QC H2J 2H9, Canada

At this cozy Plateau restaurant decorated with golden, earthy tones, chef Maria de Frias does some truly unique dishes, drawing on cuisines from a range of sub-Saharan African cultures. Using some of Quebec’s finest meats and seafood, try options like braised goat with a Cameroonian green aniseed, or ginger-cinnamon roasted duck with Amarula cream. The foods of the Congo and adjacent countries may not get representation on Montreal’s fine dining scene, but Le Virunga’s innovative menu proves that they should.

851 Rue Rachel E, Montréal
QC H2J 2H9, Canada

7. Maria Bonita

5163 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2T 1R9, Canada

Mexican cuisine in Montreal can feel like it’s limited to tacos above all else, but that’s not the case at Maria Chavez’s Mile End restaurant. Cazuelitas (small, saucy plates in terracotta dishes) are the specialty — go for spicy, chocolatey mole, pork-stuffed poblano peppers with walnut sauce, or cactus gratin, and a range of margaritas on the side.

5163 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal
QC H2T 1R9, Canada

8. Robin des Bois

4653 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2T 1R2, Canada

This homey bistro in Mile End doesn’t hone in on one cuisine — rather, its menu features an array of solid, comforting classics, from dahl to French onion soup, to a chimichurri-topped steak, or caesar salad. It’s family friendly, and rather affordable, plus, you can feel extra-good about visiting, as Robin des Bois is a non-profit that donates all its proceeds to organizations that support disadvantaged Montrealers.

4653 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal
QC H2T 1R2, Canada

9. La Prunelle

327 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal, QC H2W 1J1, Canada

Drawing on French cuisine but not rigidly beholden to it, this Plateau BYOB has a hearty menu that’s infused with an array of intriguing bright notes — grilled octopus gets laced with an umeboshi vinegar dressing, gnudi is made with feta, and a chocolate dessert pie spiced up with espelette peppers. It’s all enjoyed alongside floor to ceiling windows that look out onto charming Duluth Avenue.

327 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal
QC H2W 1J1, Canada

10. Kanbai

1110 Rue Clark, Montréal, QC H2Z 1K3, Canada

Kanbai’s menu showcases dishes from Sichuan and Hunan, home to some of China’s hottest cuisines. If you’re not a Chinese reader, look for translated key words “hot” and “chili”, ideally combined with “garlic” and “sauce”.  You’ll then find your way to options like poached fish filet in hot chili soup or eggplant and minced pork with hot garlic sauce. Solo diners can find good specials on the reasonably-priced lunch menu with equally numbing flavours. (For the spice-averse, there’s an extensive range of more seasonally-focused Cantonese food as well.)

1110 Rue Clark, Montréal
QC H2Z 1K3, Canada

11. Stash Café

200 Rue Saint-Paul O, Montréal, QC H2Y 1Z9, Canada

Don’t be put off by Stash’s location at the epicentre of touristy Old Montreal, or the cave-like interior decked out with church pews: It’s a great bet for Polish fare. Head down in the winter when the tourists are gone for gut-sticking kielbasa, pierogies, potato pancakes, and cabbage rolls, plus various other eastern European staples that are hard to come by in Montreal.

200 Rue Saint-Paul O, Montréal
QC H2Y 1Z9, Canada

12. Gia Ba

5766 Av de Monkland, Montréal, QC H4A 1E9, Canada

NDG residents probably know this place well, but for other Montrealers, it’s well worth the trip to Monkland. Mixing Sichuan and Taiwanese cuisines, chef Andy Su puts forward options such as cumin fried chicken, a tingly ma po tofu, and dan dan noodles — while the menu does also feature certain, um, staples, like peanut butter dumplings and General Tao chicken, stick to the spicy options and you’ll be well-served.

5766 Av de Monkland, Montréal
QC H4A 1E9, Canada

13. Les Délices de l'Île Maurice

272 Rue Hickson, Verdun, QC H4G 2J6, Canada

One of Montreal’s very few Mauritian restaurants is this spot in Verdun — expect various Indian and east African touches (Mauritius is, after all, between the two) on a well-spiced menu. The table d’hôte costs around $24 for most options, and features a choice of meat or various seafoods, with curry, creole, or saffron sauces (to name a few).

272 Rue Hickson, Verdun
QC H4G 2J6, Canada

14. Parisa

4123 Rue de Verdun, Verdun, QC H4G 1L2, Canada

Soups, dips, and an array of grilled meats dominate at this Verdun Persian restaurant, alongside a few specialties like fesenjan (a chicken walnut stew) or stewed lamb shanks — it’s bold, flavourful, and rather hearty.

4123 Rue de Verdun, Verdun
QC H4G 1L2, Canada

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