Bonjour Montréal!
May 2, 2005 3:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm spending next week on vacation in Montréal, and so I'm looking for any suggestions that Mefites (Québecois and otherwise) might have about what to see and eat and do.

Above all else I'm visiting to enjoy the food. I've been doing some research online and have found a couple good pages that have supplied me with some ideas. I'll get smoked meat and bagels, of course, but I'd really like to hear about the little holes-in-the-walls that tourists don't tend to find, places with real local character. I'm staying on the eastern side of the Plateau; walking distance is great, but I don't mind riding the Métro either (closest station to me is Sherbrooke).

Extra credit: in between meals, what might I do to aid the digestion and pass the time (besides study my French book)? The Jean-Talon and Atwater markets are already on my to-do list...
posted by letourneau to Travel & Transportation around Montréal, QC (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
letourneau--I also will be in Montreal next week (renting an apartment for a week adjacent to Parc Mont Royal near McGill)--thanks for the question and looking forward to the responses
posted by rmhsinc at 3:58 PM on May 2, 2005

Calories on St-Catherine is close to the Atwater station and it has amazing cheesecake.

Chalet BBQ is a bit of a walk from the Villa-Maria station, on Sherbrooke near Decarie, but it has excellent BBQ chicken and fries.

If your stay includes a Sunday, and it is warm, they might have Sunday in the Park going, which is at the Cenotaph on Parc Ave - a great way to aid digestion.

Also, there are some really tasty places in Chinatown, but it's been a while, so I don't know which are still around/still under same management/cooks.

Food is one of the main things I miss about Montreal.
posted by birdsquared at 4:13 PM on May 2, 2005

I was there with my wife a few weeks ago and in addition to some of the places you mentions (Schwartz's in particular) we had great meals at:

- Modavie - the most amazing duck confit I've ever had

- Restaurant Bonaparte - for a nice dinner out, this was great. From a nice window table looking out on the cobblestone street, you'd swear you were in Paris.

Both of these are in the old city near Notre Dame
posted by gregchttm at 4:26 PM on May 2, 2005

did you consult Chowhound? the entire country of Canada has its own section on the web site [no comment] but the thoughts and opinions about Montreal restaurants could be very helpful.

...and I second the recommendation from gregchttm for Schwartz's

NOTE: there are French names and English names (different) for some of the more popular streets of Montreal. For example, Schwartz's is on Boulevard Saint Laurent (also known as St Lawrence Boulevard in English). It's also referred to as 'La Main' (pronounced as in Maine).

Have fun - I grew up in Montreal and left the city in 1990 for 'a year, maybe two' in Vancouver and I'm still here. But I return home often - so if you have any questions, send me an email at gmail
posted by seawallrunner at 4:46 PM on May 2, 2005

First, let's clear up some misconceptions you are already laboring under. While the St. Vaiteur bagels are aright I definitely find Fairmount bagels superior. Since the original St. Viateur bagel shop and the Fairmount bagel place are a few blocks away from each other I'd suggest you try both and decide for yourself.

You've mentioned the metro and I'll simply advice you to get a weekly pass since with it you can get on any bus or metro on the island. Check out the rest of the stm site since it has some useful info. Take note of the final ride times for the metro and the night bus schedule.

Food wise I'm always suggesting my favorite resto La Louisiane. They do Creole & Cajun cooking. For a good piece of cake take a trip to Kilo. If you prefer ice cream to cake then try Bilboquet which has a european flavour to the place unlike most ice cream around here. Breakfast places are fairly common around here. A good chain is Chez Cora which does everything from the usual (waffles, eggs...) to the typically Quebecois (beans, creton). While you are here you need to try poutine at least once. My suggestion is you go to a 'La Belle Province' which is a sort of franchise dinner and order a small poutine. Not an italian poutine but just a regular one. You may or may not like it but it's required.

Entertainment wise, well, that all depends on what you like to do. museums we have quite a few of. The Architecture museum is probably not that well known. Musée des beaux-arts currently has the "Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum" show which is worth a look. If it's your thing then the Canadian Centre for Architecture has some interesting shows about expo 67. There are several other museums listed here.

The old port is worth going to check out. Just walk around and look at the old building. Maybe grab a bite.

If you're going to check out a strip club then don't go to the "Super Sex". It's where most Americans end up. Try Chez Paré instead.

Drop me a line at my email if you'd like to discuss other options or maybe just meet up someplace.
posted by cm at 4:51 PM on May 2, 2005

A stroll up Mont Royal at midnight is really romantic. A mountain-bike ride up (and down) at midnight is a real thrill. I used to do it a few times every week.
posted by randomstriker at 5:01 PM on May 2, 2005

Appologies for that post. I didn't preview that corrently.
posted by cm at 5:02 PM on May 2, 2005

i'll second or third Schwartz's, Chez Cora, and throw in Commensal--vegetarian buffet places--great for lunch.

Canadian Center for Architecture and MACM definitely--hopefully the Kentridge show is still at MACM. I actually was a little impressed, too, with Pointe a Calliere (sp?)--i didn't think i would be.

I see it as a great walking around, lounging in cafes, going out at night, and shopping city. I bought lisieres (sp?) instead of the weekly pass.
posted by amberglow at 5:28 PM on May 2, 2005

Fuck Chez Cora. It's a chain and you pay way too much. I present the following options for breakfast (taking into account your location):

a) Place Milton. 220 Milton (one block north of Sherbrooke, three blocks west of St-Laurent). It's in the McGill ghetto, lots of students, great spiced potatoes and the the 7 (3 eggs, potatoes, bacon, ham, sausage, pancakes, toast and coffee) can be replaced by the 7 meatless (same thing, no meat). Bad to go after 11h30 because it's a small place and will be packed with students.

b) Dusty's. 4510 Parc and Mt-Royal (if you're going for Tam Tams on Sunday a great place for breakfast, just walk past the MacDonalds). If you want more of a classic diner try Beauty's, two blocks east on St-Urbain and Mt-Royal (one block west of St-Laurent), but it will cost you more.

c) La Binerie. 367 Mt-Royal East (less than a block west of St-Denis). If you want a traditional Québecois breakfast that consists of home made beans, eggs, bacon and lots of maple syrop, you'll find it here. This is old school, not cheezy revival crap.

d) If you want something closer to sherbrooke metro, go to Cafe Republic, it's on St-Laurent just south of Prince Arthur (you know, the street with all the bloody greek restaurants) on the east side of the street (about three doors down from the Scotia Bank and just before or after the SAQ). They serve breakfast until about 3pm, and have a good variety, the quality is excellent and the price is good too (between $5 and $7). I usually go for the special, or for the Orford when I want crepes with my eggs.
posted by furtive at 5:32 PM on May 2, 2005

oh the Kentridge show at the Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal was absolutely /fantastic/!

I heartfully second amberglow's recommendation
posted by seawallrunner at 5:32 PM on May 2, 2005

just checked the Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal re Kentridge - he's no longer there :(

HOWEVER, this museum, which is located near the Metro Place des Arts, across the street from Complexe Desjardins is a Must-Do. Superb collection and imaginative exhibitions. I saw Kentridge there when I was in Montreal earlier this spring, and I saw 60 of Burtinsky's work when I was in Montreal in early December. Walking in, I had no idea what I would see or experience (both visits) and walking out, I was deeply moved.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:38 PM on May 2, 2005

Weekly bus/metro pass is available on Sunday and Monday only (unless you get it at Berri), it's effective from Monday to Sunay and costs $18. A lisière costs $11,50 and is only good for 6 rides, which is 3 days at best.

If you are here on a Sunday, take a walk up to the park on Mt-Royal, especially towards the George Etienne Cartier monument on Parc/Rachel. That's where Tam-Tams happens. It's like going to the beach, but with more hippies and midevial revivalists and less sand.

Oh, more than any other place in Montreal, if you want the best poutine, take a walk over to La Banquise (994 Rachel East, about 3 blocks east of St-Denis and right on the north west tip of Parc Lafontaine, a very nice park). It's open 24/7, and serves more types of poutine than you can shake a stick at. Plus it's not crap poutine but amazing poutine, with squeeky cheese curds and excellent gravy/fries. You can get beer there too. Did I mention it's open 24/7? You can pretty much hope into any cab after partying until 3h00am and say "we want a poutine" and they'll take you there. Don't miss it.
posted by furtive at 5:41 PM on May 2, 2005

I quite enjoy l'avenue, a neat little restaurant at 922 Mont-Royal East. It's uber trendy and the queue for a table is long but the food is really really good (especially for breakfast). It also has--and I'm not kidding--the most interesting bathrooms I've ever seen. Montreal is also a wonderful city to walk about: you'll find all sorts of neat things whilst strolling about.
posted by lumiere at 5:44 PM on May 2, 2005

I will respectfully disagree with cm's Fairmount Bagels preference but agree with their "try 'em both" suggestion. A good place to do that taste test would be at the café at the corner of Waverly and St-Viateur, just down the street from St-Viateur bagel. Best coffee in Montreal.

Don't call it "La Main." It's just "St-Laurent."

Do go to Dusty's; don't go to Beauty's -- overpriced, caters to suburbanites, and they treat their staff poorly. Also don't go to any place on St-Laurent between Sherbrooke and Prince-Arthur -- bad, overpriced food that Canada's best food critic called places of "tits n' glitz." The pedestrian mall on Prince-Arthur is hit and miss: Do go to a terasse for a drink and to people-watch, but most of the restos don't have good food. Unless you like "Festival Homard." Do check out places on Duluth, especially between St-Laurent and Saint-Denis. There are some good places; but most of the places east of Saint-Denis are tourist traps. On Saint-Denis, do go to L'express for the real deal on Montreal French food.

Check to see if the Tam-Tams are still going (Hour or Voir, the local weeklies, might have something); I had heard they were being closed.

Also check the weeklies for a good sense of what's going on.

Toqué is usually listed in the top 5 restaurants in Canada. I went once -- incredible! It might be too late to get a reservation, but you might be able to slip into an early sitting. Also try Moishe's for the best steak in Montreal -- a must if you're a fan of Mordecai Richler. In the same vein, have a bologna and mustard sandwich at Wilensky's.

Have fun! It's the greatest city in Canada.
posted by docgonzo at 5:48 PM on May 2, 2005

We love Au P'tit Lyonnais. Small, intimate, and divine food.
posted by picklebird at 6:00 PM on May 2, 2005

docgonzo, while I grant you that it's a personal choice (St Viateur vs Fairmount) there is nothing like going into the place where they bake them and getting a fresh one right out of the oven. My suggestion is to get yourself down to the Fairmount bagel location (open 24h a day) and getting a fresh bagel. Then going north 1 block north and 3 blocks west to the St. Viateur location. Try them both fresh at those locations.
posted by cm at 6:43 PM on May 2, 2005

A second vote for Fairmount Bagel.
posted by furtive at 6:52 PM on May 2, 2005

For a good crepe, try Jardin de Nelson in Old Montreal. I had a deer crepe filled with thick demi-glace on there last weekend...delicious.
posted by Succa at 10:59 AM on May 3, 2005

I found Commensal very disappointing. The best meal I've had in Montreal is at Au Pied de Cochon. Try the poutine au foie gras. No, seriously!
posted by escabeche at 11:14 AM on May 3, 2005

I was going to post but I got deja vu and remembered that I'd already spilled everything I know (not much) in this thread about things to do Montreal - worth checking out for some additional answers.
posted by Gortuk at 11:18 AM on May 3, 2005

One thing you should try is the local brews. You will find a big selection a your nearest Dépaneur: Unibroue, Griffon, Belle Gueule, Boreale and so on...

My favorite place for microbrews is Brewtopia
It's a small place (compared to the Irish bar next door), the staff is friendly and the clientele is diverse. I particularly like their IPA. The prices are also very reasonable: 4$/pint for house beers during happy hour. They also have a good cider (Cidre du Minot) on tap but it's a bit steep at 7$ a pint. If all else fails, they have Guinness. If you want to have supper there, you can order food from the restaurant next door.

A good alternative is Le Cheval Blanc . It will be very close to where you will be staying. Stumbling distance even, I would say...

A restaurant I like is Boris Bistro Nice clean design, relaxing music and ambiance, big terrace if the weather is nice. Tasty cuisine at reasonable prices: main dishes are in the 13-19$ range for meals such as Grilled swordfish and 3 decker duck sandwich.

As for what to do, pick up the free weeklies (Mirror and Hour) and take a look at the events taking place around town.

Have a great time!
posted by TinTitan at 11:58 AM on May 3, 2005

People are recommending some pretty odd restaurants in here. Chez Cora? Place Milton? Nothing you can't get in any other city. Moishe's is subpar - it banks on its name alone now.

My favorite restaurant in North America is in Montreal. Escabeche has mentioned it. Au Pied du Cochon. They shove foie gras into absolutely everything. Foie gras poutine! Go there.
posted by painquale at 1:34 PM on May 3, 2005

A couple doors east of Pied du Cochon is La Colombe, which is very very good as well. There's also a relatively new French place on Duluth at de Bullion called Aux Petits Onions which is quite good.

If you're serious about trying some little, oddball places, I highly recommend trying the Portuguese grillades at Chez Doval, at de Bullion and Marieanne. If you can't get in (and there's a good chance of that most nights of the week, and they don't take reservations), then even go down to Bistro Duluth. Not nearly as great as Doval, but not bad either. If the weather is nice you definitely want to go have a beer on their terrace in the late afternoon.

For breakfast I am partial to the original Toi et Moi et Cafe on Laurier near du Parc (aka Park Ave). Pretty standard fare, but with a bit of a euro twist that makes it interesting. I agree with whoever it was above - forget Chez Cora. Alternatively, near the Jean-Talon market on St Denis at Mozart (I was sure it was Beaubien, but Google Maps tells me otherwise) is Aux Derniers Humains, which is excellent though crowded for breakfast.

Two other brewpubs worth mentioning are Dieu du Ciel on Laurier at Clark and Reservoir, on Duluth just East of St Laurent.

Have fun - montreal's a great town.

And there's free WiFi in many many locations, but a favourite is to sign on through Ile Sans Fil from Laika.
posted by mikel at 8:35 PM on May 3, 2005

OK, a few months ago some friends of friends came to Mtl and I sent them this...some of these you've seen above & elsewhere, but this is a pretty good rundown of some of the better places to spend some time in the city in my opinion. Most in or close to plateu. Here it is:

Note on food: Old Montreal is "charming," but geared to tourists, and is not real-life montreal. Lower St-Laurent (btwn Sherbrooke & pine ave) is geared to big wallets and big boobs. Downtown (Crescent Street etc) caters also to tourists in general. Elsewhere the city is, however, filled with lots of great restos, bars, cafes, and if hole-in-the wall is what you want, then here are some food suggestions (most in plateau):
-p'tit plateau: this is your best bet for a true Montreal experience. a tiny,charming bring your own wine bistro tucked away on Marie-Anne & Drolet. Make reservations, get a nice bottle of wine, and expect a great table d'hote (prob $25 for 3 courses?). (514) 282-6342
- keur fatou – a great little hole in the wall senegalese resto (you'll feel like you're in someone's apartment) where the owner/chef/dishwasher sings and tells Senegalese folk tales thurs-Friday. bring your own wine. Choice of 3 plates usually, about $12? each. St-Viateur & St-Urbain. 514-277-2221
-pho bang new york: best Vietnamese soup shop in the city. Order a #10 large ($4.95), on your way home from Old Montreal. Corner St-laurent & viger.
-reservoir: good place for lunch, another brew pub. the chef was once a sous-chef at Toque (very expensive fancypants place), and lunches are exceptional ($15?). Duluth & St-Laurent.
-chez doval: portugese peasant fare at its best. ask for a table in the lively back room. $15. Marie-Anne & St-Dominique? 514-843-3390
-senzala: brazilian, with best brunch in town ($15). Bernard & Esplanade. 514-274-1464

- A note on alcohol: beer can be bought at depanneurs (corner stores), but wine (tho available at deps) should be bought at the SAQ (liquor stores). Best bet for price/quality is French wine.
- mcauslan makes the best locally available beer, good pale ale (st-a), excellent cream ale, and good stout.
-dieu de ciel: best brew pub in montreal, usually lively, their cask ale is best I've had outside of England. Corner Laurier and Clark.
-else's: a good afternoon/early evening pint, filled with regulars, students, artists etc. corner Roy & de Bullion (gets busy later).
-barfly: a drinkers bar, a real dive, with plywood floors and heaps of charm, a rowdy crowd, usually excellent, if rough & tumble music. atmosphere & characters, not décor. St. Laurent, above Duluth.
-café Sarajevo: a Yugoslav bar, with gypsy music most nights, check listing to make sure they've got something on. Clark, between Sherbrooke & Ontario.
-blizzarts: if you're looking for a mix of a lounge/club with a usually friendly, arty crowd, this is as good a place as any. music good & varied. good prices on domestic beer etc. very smoky though. St-laurent, below Duluth.
-Bily Kun, arty tavern, busy night & day. music. mount royal & st denis.

check Mirror & hour for listings.
-casa & sala: Jazz & alt-stuff, occasional clown cabarets … casa del popolo & sala rossa (st-laurent above villeneuve)
-divan orange: little arty/hipster bar with music st.Laurent, above Duluth.
-club balatou: live African & reggae music. st-laurent & rachel

I always have trouble suggesting what to do for tourists in montreal. The real answer is wander around, drink coffee and read newspapers. If you want to do that:
-laika – uber chic little café on st-laurent above Duluth. great brunch sat & Sunday.
-café Italia – in little italy on st-laurent. combine an espresso here with a trip to the jean-talon market.
-Art: BELGO BLDG: This is a big old industrial bldg filled with little art galleries. usually open thurs-Sunday. 302 (?) St-Catherine & Bleury-ish.
-Architecture: Check out the Royal Bank Bldg, the Bank of Mtl (both in old montreal), and the Sun Life bldg (on Mansfield & Rene Levesque); also check the Big-O; and for classic Montreal architecture wander up Laval street by the carré st-louis. Also de l'esplanade, north of Duluth.

Have a good trip!
posted by mackinaw at 6:45 PM on May 4, 2005 [2 favorites]

Beaubien Bagels are better (and around the corner from me, that helps too).

Strangest restaurant in Montreal: "Le Spirit Lounge". (1205 Ontario East) Vegan food in a nice decor. If you don't finish your plate you get a fine, and if you don't finish your optional desert you can never come back. Turn your cell phone off, if it rings you're kicked out.
posted by kika at 10:16 PM on May 5, 2005

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