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Trip to Montreal...so many questions!

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We (my husband and I) are headed for to my first trip to Quebec, and obviously Montreal, for a few days at the beginning of January. For our trip to Ottawa in the summer I planned around recs from the CH board and it went fantastically, so I was hoping for the same sort of feedback for this trip.I have a few questions...

Considerations:
1.We are students, who are willing to splurge for one meal, but then will have to make everything else rather light on the wallet, although credit cards are always available for must-not-miss opportunities
2. My husband is a pesco-vegetarian
3. We do not drink and he cannot consume anything with alcohol...

Where to go for dinner? A special place? A hole in the hole with unbelievable food suggestion?

What are quick grab and go places for lunch?

Where is the best bakery?

What not to miss? What should we miss (that every tourist is tempted by)?

Thanks for the responses, it is greatly appreciated! I will make sure to update on our plans!

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  1. Look for an area up St. Denis called the Plateau. Streets are roughtly St. Denis and Duluth. Here there are dozens of little restaurants. Although you don't drink, there's a guide to Montreal BYO-license restaurants which are nearly always reasonable in price, and generally friendly in attitude. On the expensive end of the Plateau is my favorite fondue place, fonduemental (a pun) - www.fonduemental.com

    What areas are you going to be in, especially staying in? It's a big city.

    You're probably not going to want to check the Smoked Meat threads, but the bagel threads might help.

    1. One of the most unique places I ever experienced was an atmospheric little cafe called Santropol on St Urbain (on the Plateau). These sandwiches are works of art within themselves and are made with thick-cut homemade bread, lots of veggies and are perfect for even the most picky pesco-vegetarian (and of course there's ham for the rest of us). My favorite was the Pepper Island, which had Santropol's homemade jalepeno pepper jelly. Bring cash as they don't take credit cards. www.santropol.com

      1. The quick and easy lunch - downtown, the shopping concourse of the train station, Les Halles de la Gare, has a Premier Moisson bakery counter with excellent pâtés and sandwiches, and bread and pastries, of course. We often stay downtown and stock up there. There are good quick restaurants (and some chains) in there too.

        The Second Cup franchise in Les Halles has good baked goods, much better than Ottawa/Toronto Second Cup. The coffee is competent.

        1. santropol is over-rated in my opinion

          you should check out casa del popolo on st laurent and st joseph for vegetarian sandwiches that are only $5 and amazing.

          1 Reply
          1. re: celfie

            Celfie,
            I agree with you that Santropol is over-rated. I also found it to be rude. They talk about their customers (not realizing that some actually understand French) and they made us wait 25 minutes for a table. The place was not busy and there were two free tables when we arrived... one of which we were ultimately given. The decore is very cute though and they do seem to be creative with their sandwiches.
            Anyway, I am writing because Casa del Popolo was an unexpected gem that we stumbled upon during my last visit, so based on your post I would love any suggestions from you on a place to grab a delicious yet casual dinner for 10 and a favorite breakfast joint. A large group of us is heading there for a long weekend in a few weeks.
            Any suggestions would be great!

          2. You have to have to have to have to go to Olive et Gourmando located in Old Montreal. www.oliveetgourmando.com
            It's a café, eatery, bakery, take-out place, etc. O&G breads like the fig bread and the chocolate bread are beautiful. And you can't leave the place without a valhrona chocolate brioche.
            Prices are reasonable, and its a good place to get a quick lunch including panini, salads, etc.

            1. Le Commensal is a name I used to hear a lot for vegetarian in Montreal. About five years ago the place I worked was getting Le Commensal entrees and they were pretty good. Vegetarian buffer by weight, several locations, McGill and St-Denis & Sherbrooke, looks like.

              1. Actually Le Commensal locations in Montreal are:
                1720 St. Denis, just below Ontario (not Sherbrooke anymore!)
                and right in the heart of downtown at:
                1204 McGill College Avenue, corner St. Catherine, Tel.514-871-1480
                Recommend it, very good vegetarian food (it does go by weight)!

                2 Replies
                1. re: morebubbles

                  Le Commensal is not that great. Most of the food is heavy, fatty and starchy. Although they do have a few good dishes, it's really nothing to write home about, and a bit expensive for what you get.

                  1. re: SnackHappy

                    Choose carefully is my advice. There are a few dishes made with tofu for instance that are pretty good (no starch there!), the one with ginger is great. Their salads are good, so are their desserts (I adore the chocolate coffee mousse cake for instance). When I go I make sure to avoid 'heavy' items, both in terms of fat/starch and of course actual weight! Love their fresh pressed carrot juice; also the cali tea. The view from the corner of McGill/St. Catherine is pretty nice, & it's relaxing, esp. after the lunch crowd/before dinner crowd, e.g. 2-6 pm

                2. My most fervent advice: avoid Le Commensal. Little more than an overpriced vegetarian cafeteria, the kind of place that convinces non-vegetarians that vegetarianism is the triumph of conviction over taste.

                  Vegetarian restos have been discussed frequently in the past. See www.chowhound.com/search/std?q=vegeta...

                  See also the recently updated (at last!) www.montreal.com/tourism/veggie.html

                  For your splurge meal, consider Brunoise (you can check their online menu to make sure it's husband-compatible) or Les Chèvres (slightly less vegetarian-friendly than it used to be but there are always vegetarian options available and the chef has repeatedly expressed a willingness to produce a more elaborate pesci-vegetarian spread if given advance notice). Anise can also accommodate diners like your spouse.
                  www.brunoise.ca
                  www.leschevres.com
                  www.anise.ca

                  1. A few quick suggestions which may help you out :

                    Special dinner :
                    - Two options I really enjoy with great fish/seafood are Jun-I on Laurier O. and Joe Beef on Notre-Dame. I would chose one of them for the splurge.

                    Grab & Go lunch :
                    - Segafredo on Ste-Catherine near Mansfield is a favourite. Sort of an Italian Starbucks, with great a nice selection of paninis. Combine it with their side garden salad and it’s a perfect lunch, flavourful but not heavy. Not sure on the “go” aspect though – I’ve never taken it to go. Their peach iced tea is yummy (their own brand). It’s a nice break if ever you are doing some shopping.
                    - Olive & Gourmando as previously noted.
                    - on the weekend, Cobalt in the Old Port (unsure if they are open in the day on weekdays) (no “go” though). Great Panini sandwiches, and small “snacks” to enjoy with a coffee/hot chocolate in the afternoon. Brunch hours there’s often live jazz and it’s a truly charming spot.

                    A few dinner options that are not too costly:
                    - Chu Chai on St-Denis is popular among my vegetarian friends, as it’s quite interesting – everything is “faux” meat but somewhat mimics the flavour of meat (although some things are simply tofu, etc).
                    - Ginger on des Pins just off St-Laurent is always nice. Sushi, varied teriyakis/stirfry’s/and salads. Their dessert maki is heaven.

                    Hole in the wall:
                    - Lotus bleu on Duluth. It’s Vietnamese BYOW but the veggies are always really fresh, it’s inexpensive, and again, veggies love it and plenty of seafood.

                    Take a miss on :
                    - Cora’s/ Eggspectations/Beauty’s for brunch
                    - Anything on Prince-Arthur. It’s fun in the summer to sit outside and people-watch, but it’s cold now and the BYOW aspect is of no interest to you I’m sure!

                    1. Despite the occasional comment that Olive and Gourmando is overpriced, their website is extremely enticing so that is on our definite list.

                      I am still trying to decide on the splurge, I want to make sure that we have a true Quebec experience but the two most popular do not sound veggie-friendly (Au pied du Cochon and ...sorry drawing a blank I am referring to the other french named restaurant which gets a lot of buzz on here).

                      I have yet to look at the website for Joe Beef, is it wrong that the name turns me off a bit?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: HBOO

                        "I have yet to look at the website for Joe Beef, is it wrong that the name turns me off a bit?"

                        The name is somewhat misleading. It's a historical reference to a famous 19th century tavernkeeper, not a reference to the menu.

                        Although carnivores will usually find something to please them, the real star is seafood. (Based on just one visit and plenty of word-of-mouth.) A quick search says the place has no site of its own, but there is much discussion of it, so it's worth googling. Be warned that it's quite expensive, but IMO worth every penny.

                      2. go to a creperie for lunch,
                        pesco-vegetarian does that include fish?
                        well then theres lots of nice places in what what is it port vieux or vielle (gosh and i take french)

                        its a gorges city.Enjoy,have fun!

                        1. Second the suggestion for Chu Chai, don't miss on the tofu appetizers with spicy sauce and the fake duck... And get a side order of deep fried spinach! This would be my spot not to miss...

                          To me, the best bakery is La Premiere Moison (http://www.premieremoisson.com/ for locations), with Au Pain Dore (several locations also) a close second.

                          Myself, I like Schwartz's from time to time, but being vegetarian you can probably miss it... Although it's a cheap eat.

                          The best place for poutine (about $7 and is huge!) is arguably Maam Bolduc (De Lorimier and Marie-Anne), try the one with curry and the bourguignonne.