It would be hard for me to go to a place and not look into the local food offerings. I think an area’s food preferences gives you such an interesting glimpse into the culture and Montreal is no exception. While you can find excellent French food, Montreal has some offering that are unique to their area, namely poutine, the Montreal style bagel, and Montreal smoked meat (which we didn’t have a chance to try but judging from the line we saw as well as reviews Schwartz’s is the place to taste it).
I’ll start with poutine because it’s probably the best known and it’s hard to resist fries swimming in gravy topped with cheese curds. You can also add toppings (such as the aforementioned smoked meat) but it’s pretty lovely just on its own. Perfect for a cold Montreal day or a late night craving.
Our favorite (pictured above) was from Mâche. The gravy was pipping hot, the fries were crispy and the cheese curds were soft and oh so melty when combined with the gravy, all for $6. Perfection.
Where we would have liked to try poutine but didn’t make it to: La banquis: located in the trendy Plateau neighborhood, the restaurant is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and features 30 varieties of poutine. There are also quite a few food trucks that serve it and you can find it on many menus (including fancy foie gras or lobster versions) across town.
Montreal style bagels are another must try of the region. These doughy treats are denser, sweeter and more bready than their New York counterparts. They also contain no salt (though my American palate wishes they did) and are hand formed and made in a wood fired oven, which gives them a unique look.
There are a few places to get them but the great rilvary is between two companies St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmont Bagel. Both are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have a few locations. We went to the original spots and compared both side by side to see which we liked better.
We went rather late in the day (maybe 8:30 pm), though in all fairness both are open all day long so I feel like you should be able to get a good bagel anytime. Fairmont had many varieties (including chocolate chip which went pretty well with the sweet dough) but it was a pale imitation of the St-Viateur bagel. St-Viateur only had one kind ready (white seed aka sesame, which is one of the most popular varieties) but it came hot off a wooden paddle from the wood fired oven. Not only was it warm but it had a better texture and flavor overall. Still, the two shops are a short walk apart so check them both out and see for yourself!
Best place for 5 à 7 (aka happy hour) that we enjoyed in Montreal:
Cartel: The cute place (complete with patio) serves Latin and Asian street food in a tapas/small plate style. It can get kind of pricey but they have happy hour for an awesome six hours, from 5-11pm, with daily specials: $2 taco Tuesday, $1 oyster Wednesday, Thursday select menu items/drinks (7 food items, 7 drinks $5-7). We went on a Thursday and enjoyed the salt and pepper chicken as well as their green papaya salad, which was the best I’ve ever tasted.
Lastly, a great place to dream about the food you could be cooking or to enjoy a tasty treat from the many stalls and restaurants that surround it, check out the Jean-Talon Market, one of the oldest markets in Montreal.
Delicious! Bon appétit!