If you’re visiting Montreal, here is a list of classic Montreal foods that you must try, and where to eat them. This isn’t necessarily your list of best restaurants in Montreal, but a list of where to eat in Montreal to try all the best local dishes.
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The origin of poutine is debated, but it’s a delicious comfort food meal that originated somewhere in the province of Quebec. And Montreal has some great places to get poutine.
One of the best places to get poutine in Montreal is La Banquise. This restaurant, in the Plateau Mont-Royal area, is open 24 hours and features a menu of over 30 different poutines. If it’s your first time getting poutine, start with a classic poutine made of fries, fresh cheese curds and gravy. Otherwise, try something more adventurous. At La Banquise, a regular serving is a perfectly respectable serving size, but for larger appetites splurge with a large. La Banquise also serves a selection of local beers. Line-ups form around lunch and dinner time on weekends, so try going for an early/late meal. Accepts cash and debit cards, no credit cards.
2. Montreal Smoked Meat
One dish that is purely Montreal is Montreal smoked meat (or just smoked meat when you’re in Montreal), made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices, then cooked by hot smoking and steaming. It’s traditionally served on white rye bread with yellow mustard. By default, medium-fat meat (from the centre of the brisket) is served, but a lean (and less flavourful) meat is also available.
The classic institution for getting your smoked meat sandwich is Schwartz’s. Order it with a pickle and cherry cola. Be prepared to wait in line during peak hours, and to be seated a crowded tables with strangers, but that’s part of the experience.
3. Montreal-Style Bagels
Montreal-style bagels are hand-made, and sweeter and denser than the New York-style bagel. They’re boiled honey water, then baked in a wood-fired oven. Classic varieties include sesame seed and poppy seed, but a local favourite is all dressed—a combination of sesame seed, poppy seed, dried onion and dried garlic.
The 2 most famous Montreal-style bagels makers are St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel. Both are solid options, with bagels made on premises. The St-Viateur original bagel shop is open 24 hours/day, and they also operate several “bagel cafés” throughout Montreal offering a menu of bagel sandwiches and salads.
4. Croissants and Chocolatines
Montrealers love their fine breads and fine pastries. There’s no shortage of pastry shops throughout the island.
There’s no better way to start the day than with a pure butter croissant or a chocolatine—a croissant with semisweet chocolate in the centre, called a pain au chocolat France.
5. French Bistro
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French cuisine and French bistro restaurants are all over Montreal, and they serve amazing food. Some offer the classic French bistro experience, while others offer contemporary twists on French cuisine. Avoid the tourist traps, and head to one of the following recommendations. Try some classic French bistro dishes, such as beef or salmon tartare, bavette (blank steak), duck confit, or mussels (most of these served with real French fries). If there’s crème brulée on the dessert menu, give it a try!
For a truly authentic Parian bistro experience, go to L’Express, a Montreal institution for over 30 years.
If you’re in the Old Montreal area, Holder Restaurant is a reasonably-priced option with great food and good portion sizes.
In the theatre area, try Brasserie T!, an affordable bistro offering from the high-end Toqué! restaurant. A great restaurant option before a show at Place-des-Arts. They also offer a great deal on an after-theatre menu.
For a more casual, everyday option, head to Steak Frites. The go-to “steak frites” dish (flat iron steak with French fries) is a safe bet, but fancier cuts are also available. All-you-can-eat fries and bring-your-own-wine are perfect for big appetites and small budgets.
6. Foie Gras
Ethics aside, foie gras is delicious. And Quebec (like France) produces a lot of foie gras.
You can find foie gras in many restaurants, but for an original take on foie gras, head to Au Pied de Cochon (with a large appetite). Au Pied de Cochon serves a unique menu of hearty food, with most dishes including foie gras.
A must-try appetizer is the foie gras cromesquis, which are essentially small cubes of foie gras that are breaded and deep fried. The foie gras melts inside the breading, becoming small flavour explosions in your mouth.
The foie gras poutine is a heavenly combination 2 amazing things: foie gras and poutine. The poutine is topped with a couple large chunks of foie gras, and foie gras is also blended into the gravy.
If you’re a fan of blood sausage, try the foie gras and boutin tart. You get both foie gras and blood sausage on a flaky pastry so rich you can taste the butter.
One warning: the portions sizes are huge, so order sparingly.
7. Craft Beer and Microbrews
Montreal and Quebec developed a craft beer and microbrew culture long before is spread throughout the rest of Canada and the United States.
For a Montreal institution, and some unusual infused beers, go to Dieu du Ciel. Located on the north end of the Plateau Mont-Royal area, this craft brewery is located close to several other restaurants featured in this article (including Schwartz’s, Au Pied de Cochon, La Banquise, St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel). Popular beers include Péché Mortel, a strong imperial coffee stout, as well as a hibiscus-infused wheat beer.
On a hot summer day, head to Terrace St-Ambroise, a beautiful outdoor patio at McAuslin Brewery overlooking the historic Lachine Canal. Try a beer flight and order a burger or pizza from the kitchen. Open in summertime only, and closes if rain is in the forecast. Accepts cash, debit and credit cards. Leashed dogs welcome.
In the Old Montreal area, visit Bistro-Brasserie Les Soeurs Grises, offering a small selection of house-brewed beers and a great food menu.