Casual food in Montreal
November 8, 2017 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about your favorite not-white-tablecloth places in Montreal. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants, good chains, anywhere with counter service, buffets, street food, snacks, lovely cafes or markets that serve food, etc. Some follow-up questions inside.

I have been to La Banquise for poutine and Schwartz's Deli for a smoked meat sandwich, and both were great. Atwater Market and Jean Talon Market are also great, but they close by 6pm.

Are there good neighborhoods for this sort of thing? Because I was walking around Plateau (Rue St-Denis) and Little Italy (Boul. St-Laurent) around 4-7pm last Saturday night and wasn't seeing a whole lot in the way of casual food, specifically where I wouldn't have a waiter checking on me. But maybe I just don't know what to look for yet.

Is tipping expected for counter service (where you walk up, order and pay at the counter, then take your food back to the table with you, and there is no waiter serving you)? How much?

Finally, where do I go for the best hot chocolate in the city? Thick, creamy, European-style sipping chocolate?
posted by danceswithlight to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Do you like South Indian food? Because if so: Chennai Express. It's such a little hole in the wall that you might miss it (the door actually says 'Falafel Express'). Really good food.
Curry Mahal is also pretty good.
posted by halation at 2:43 PM on November 8, 2017

The first thing to say: St-Viateur bagels, my friend. Get thee to Mile End.

Elsewhere, Boustan is great Lebanese fast food. The one on Crescent, I believe, is the first, though now there's a location on Ste. Catherine.

Tipping isn't expected if you're taking away at the counter.
posted by Beardman at 4:04 PM on November 8, 2017

As for other kinds of places, Adonis grocery store (one on Ste Catherine, one down in Griffintown) sells good Middle Eastern takeout, and Atwater Market in St Henri is good for putting together a meal (plenty of places to sit and eat it, too).
posted by Beardman at 4:07 PM on November 8, 2017

I'm a fan of Jano, in the Plateau (just up the St. Laurent from Schwatz's). It's a sit-down place but extremely casual and friendly. Food is very dependable, good-but-not-sublime.

I'd say that Mile End is a good neighborhood for what you're looking for. Plenty of relatively casual options, like Comptoir 21 (fish & chips counter service), Nouveau Palais (hipster diner food), and Cafe Le Cagibi (vegetarian cafe). The thing about Montreal is that there isn't quite as stark a distinction between 'fancy' and 'casual' dining as in most of the US. A lot of sit-down restaurants with excellent food are decidedly 'casual,' particularly BYO (bring your own wine) restaurants.

For hot chocolate, try Juliette & Chocolat (several locations).
posted by googly at 5:07 PM on November 8, 2017

Orange Julep is one of those roadside stands that seems to attract a crowd; we stuck to the poutine and orange drink and it was really good, especially for the price.
posted by wnissen at 5:18 PM on November 8, 2017

Anytime I visit a trip to La Banquise is necessary. 24hr poutine joint. If you go late night on a weekend it's like a nightclub, there's a line outside with a bouncer. Their website seems to be down but here's their facebook page.

oh and Beauty's is a cafe/diner that is an institution and should be a mandatory destination for a proper Montreal experience!
posted by mannequito at 5:23 PM on November 8, 2017

ah didn't read below the fold, you've already hit up La Banquise

(hit it up again for me!!)
posted by mannequito at 5:25 PM on November 8, 2017

Arepera du Plateau is a really good casual place with delicious arepas and other Venezuelan food. It is small and normally has a lineup on evenings but it moves quickly because their system is really efficient.

Also Grumman 78 out in Saint-Henri is great. It's in an old service station/garage and the tables and chairs are all made out of reclaimed objects/materials.

Paul Patate in Pointe-Sainte-Charles is a diner famous for their spruce beer. They close pretty early, though.
posted by urbanlenny at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2017

We were only there for a long layover but really enjoyed Buvette Chez Simone. Charcuterie and a bottle of orange wine were solid and any rate.
posted by supercres at 7:24 PM on November 8, 2017

L'Express has white tablecloths but they also have counter service, and they're open until 3 AM most days.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:37 PM on November 8, 2017

How about, in Mile End:

-Le Depanneur on Rue Bernard
-Cafe Resonance – on Parc – I am a huge fan (both these places have live music in the evenings – actually, Le Depanneur does all day)
-Late at night, I do tend to end up at Fairmount Bagel – open 24 hours and just ridiculously delicious (esp. with Liberté cream cheese). Or, as already mentioned, St Viateur Bagel – you can try both and see which of the two rivals steals your heart!
-It closes fairly early but Cafe Le Falco on Avenue Gaspé is just heavenly, if you like Japanese-ish food.
-The Drogheria Fine also closes early, but if you want over-the-counter delectable gnocchi, this is the place!

Last, but not least, while the Montreal street food twitter account doesn't appear to be active anymore, it does have a marvellous list of Montreal Food Truck members (and their tweets) – so you could nose around that and see what's going on!

Oh, and I would feel remiss if I didn't mention that although it's not hot chocolate and mere chocolate chip cookies, Cafe Neve's famous chocolate chip cookies are just moreish and perfect. Head for the Cafe Neve on Rue Rachel!

Have fun!!
posted by considerthelilies at 8:17 PM on November 8, 2017

Oh! And I forgot – Aux Vivres is a vegan restaurant open pretty late on St. Laurent – you can also get takeaway. Their Buddha bowls & Dragon bowls are lovely. I v. highly recommend this place, even if you're not vegan.

Pastry/bakery style snacks: Hof Kelsten, also on St. Laurent, closes fairly early though; and Kouign Amann for croissants.

argh, food in Mtl is so, so good.
posted by considerthelilies at 8:22 PM on November 8, 2017

East Africa Restaurant, on Sherbrooke in NDG is one of my favorite Montreal restaurants, and used to be my birthday tradition. It's BYOB (there's a SAQ not too far down the street), tiny and cozy (make reservations for the window table!), and serves excellent food on shared platters. Good for romantic dates, or intimate gatherings among friends. Lovely owners, as well! (To clarify, this isn't really a "white tablecloth" kind of restaurant, even though it's BYOB. You can show up in jeans and a t-shirt and it's fine!)
posted by hasna at 9:00 PM on November 8, 2017

Sure get Croissants there too as considerthelilies advises, but really, have a slice of Kouign Amann cake at Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann. I'd never had it before. It's amazing.
posted by stray at 9:07 PM on November 8, 2017

Patati Patata is my favorite place to get poutine in the city. It's a tiny little place on St Laurent and it's open pretty late (though not 24 hrs like La Banquise).

Ma Poule Mouillée in the plateau for out of this world chicken.

To add on to the many bagel suggestions, Hinnawi Bros Bagel & Café and St-Viateur Bagel & Café are good places to get bagel sandwiches.

The bakeries here are so good I've had good luck just wandering in to any bakery I pass. But standouts are Rustique in St. Henri (mini pies!) and Au Kouign Amann in the plateau (the namesake pastry as well as the almond croissant).
posted by photoelectric at 4:43 AM on November 9, 2017

Les Iles en Ville is a cute family restaurant serving the food of Quebec's Magdalen Islands. Warm and friendly owner and staff. They have both bar and table seating.
posted by beyond_pink at 5:38 AM on November 9, 2017

Le Resto du Village is a little 24-hour diner in the middle of the gay village. It's inexpensive and has decent poutine.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2018

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