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May 23, 2007 05:30 PM

Visiting Montreal during the Grand Prix: Must try and must avoid?

I'll be visiting in a couple weeks during the Grand Prix. My DC has been to the city for this event in the past but isn't much of a hound. We are planning to go to Toqué and Au Pied de Cochon. I'm still doing home work for the trip. We'll be there for five days and staying on Summerhill Ave (still getting a handle on precisely what part of the city I'll be in).

I'm wondering if the city gets ridiculously busy with Grand Prix tourists and if so what restaurants and tourist dining traps should I skip on this particular trip? What should I be sure NOT to miss while there? Anything out of the ordinary happen food-wise during this event? I'd also love some off-the-beaten-path recs for lunch, brunch, and general people watching and beer drinking.

Really excited to get up there!!

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  1. If I were you, I would avoid restaurants offering Grand Prix menus during Grand Prix week. It usually means, they have reduced their menu offerings, & raising their prices(15-25% higher).

    1. Toqué and APdC will be tough to get in during the grand prix, so get your reservations in early.

      If you want to get off the beaten path, try St-Denis Street from the Berri Metro and start walking north. St-Denis is great for people watching and drinks (average food wise) you'll hit The plateau area, which is great day or night.

      If you are looking for "Grand Prix" nightlife, stick to Crescent and St-Laurent, but if you want a taste of Montreal the Plateau is the place to be.

      I will let my fwellow hounders give you their specifics on the latest and greatest restaurants.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ScoobySnacks20

        Avoid Crescent street at all costs. During the grand prix it becomes one big tourist trap. That said, I think Summerhill is only a few blocks away from crescent. Right nearby I would reccomend you get a drink/brunch at "Cocktail Hawaii" (St-mathieu & maisonneuve, I think) This place has a bizarre decor, but really great fruit shakes (Lebanese style).

        1. re: Moosemeat

          There is a lot of Grand Prix fever up in my 'hood as well, especialy on St-Laurent in Little Italy - between St-Zotique and Jean-Talon. Obviously you'll have to take the métro or bus up here, if you aren't driving, but it is quite a show and I don't think there is any price gouging.

          1. re: lagatta

            This sounds great. My DC lived in the N. End in Boston for years so this should be nice for him to check out. Which night would expect to be more hoppin' - Friday or Saturday?

      2. You will love Au Pied de Cochon, the foie gras tart is a revelation. The staff there is super friendly, the atmosphere is lively, and they have a great wine list. I also love L'Express (3927 Saint-Denis). Both have menus in English if you need that. Gourmet magazine did a cover story on food in Montreal last year. It is also a good resource.

        8 Replies
        1. re: jrcw75th

          We stay in the Plateau area every June for the GP, which is not touristy at all, except for the "daytrippers". One of our favorite places in that area is Biere et Compagnie - they have about 30 different preparations of mussels - and at least 100 kinds of beer! La Banquise for poutine... St. Hubert for inexpensive quick chicken dinner. We went to APdC last year, and it was worth every penny.

          This year we are going to Justine Bistro au Vin after the race- it is far removed from all of the hoopla. We are also meeting friends for drinks at Gibby's, so we'll see how that goes.. Crescent St. is a zoo on GP weekend- we went a couple times but it is next to impossible to find a table!

          And just a hint, if it is REALLY hot at the track, the Casino is air conditioned and has restaurants. Plan on waiting a long long time (2 hours on race day, easily) to catch the Metro back to the mainland after the events at the track each day.

          1. re: oddcouple1

            The Portuguese grill places such as Chez Doval (find others by search for Portuguese Montreal) on the Plateau are no more expensive or time-consuming than St-Hubert, and MUCH better food.

            In past years the part of St-Laurent between Sherbrooke and Rachel (if I recall) was closed off during Grand Prix), though this might be complicated by the extensive infrastructure work going on there now. And of course come up to my area, Piccola Italia, where there is always a nice buzz, as much local people as tourists. Indeed, kittychow, probably quite similar to Boston's North End. I don't recall any difference between Friday and Sunday - both were full of people, but in a nice way.

            I prefer Ma-am Bolduc to La Banquise - it has a nice terrace, and there are a lot of trees on that street (corner de Lorimier and Marie-Anne) - a pleasant place to be if it is hot.

            1. re: oddcouple1

              I must say that altough I love the chicken at St-Hubert, everything else there is either disappointing or just plain bad.

              I second lagatta's suggestion of skipping St-Hubert for Portuguese chicken. You can't go wrong woth any of the places around Rachel/St-Laurent, although Janos has a slightly more upscale atmosphere than the other joints.

              I've recently discovered and fell hard for Peruvian rotisserie chicken. I've only tried two places yet, but I must say that i was very pleased with the chicken at Les Deux Fours on Bélanger near Iberville. It's BYOB and they also make some serviceable pizzas. I would avoid their caesar salad though. It's really awful. Just go for the chicken.

              1. re: SnackHappy

                SnackHappy, I agree fully with your assessment of Les Deux Fours, good and bad. The chicken is excellent, other things not so good. Though that is a bit out of the way for our friends - I was thinking more Plateau and up to Little Italy - of course Bélanger and Iberville is not at all far from Little Italy - and in-between it and its newer and larger suburban incarnation in St-Léonard - that part of eastern Villeray/western St-Michel was long an Italian area, now there are many Latin Americans and Maghrebians as well.

                Another summertime chicken solution is to get the good rotisserie chicken from a place like Coco Rico (also Portuguese) and enjoy it in a park. It is legal to enjoy beer or wine WITH A MEAL in Montréal parks, by the way.

                1. re: lagatta

                  or without a meal in Montréal alleyways

                  1. re: celfie

                    Well, actually, I don't think that is legal... Certainly not a pleasant prospect for guests to our city.

                    By the way, Summerhill avenue is a small, pleasant street just off the southern end of Côte-des-neiges, which becomes Guy south of Sherbrooke, just north of the western part of downtown Montréal. You are within easy walking distance to Crescent, but will have to take public transport, a car or taxi to the Plateau or Little Italy. It is walkable to the Plateau, along Sherbrooke, but it is a long walk.

              2. re: oddcouple1

                I just looked at the menu at Biere et Compagnie. Looks fabulous! We absolutely love mussels. Are there additional menu items you'd suggest we try? I'm thinking this would be nice for Thursday evening. Are reservations required? Is Summerhill Ave. in the Plateau area? I'm having a ridiculous time getting my geographic barings.

                1. re: kittychow

                  Summerhill avenue is situated in a neighbourhood know as the Golden Square Mile. It is about a twenty minute walk to the southwestern most part of the Plateau. Maybe a thirty-five minute walk from Bière & Compagnie, which IMHO is not that great a restaurant although it has a great beer selection.

            2. Far from the sounds of the track....

              Restaurant Agora
              6544 AVENUE SOMERLED
              MONTRÉAL, QC H4V 1S8
              (514) 227-0505
              A short taxi ride from downtown and worth the visit:)
              You must try the grilled chicken, the whole bird is $15.95 and feeds two real well. Order a salad and drinks, enjoy the comp tzatzki and pita while you wait, about 45 minutes because it is prepared Fresh with a capital F.
              After enjoying the meal you will know why Montreal is such a great food city.
              The total cost of the bill is joke...(the menu prices include tax) and the chicken gives new meaning to the words scrumptious and delectable.
              When they plunk that platter down in front of you, you think you will never finish it, but trust me you will ...oh you will...then you will wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if you can get back there one more time before you have to leave.
              Agora is a low key, come as you are, kinda place...great to unwind from all the hype with some authentic food.

              Have fun and enjoy the race!

              1. Have fun! I'm an F1 fan, too, and have been to most races since 1990. It does indeed get ridiculously overrun with tourists. Old City - where we stay - is touristy, but not ungodly like Crescent. Do have smoked salmon at least while you're in town.

                IME, though Montreal is really bilingual, it's polite to start off speaking French, even if your French is both limited and lousy. People will immediately and automatically switch to English, but give you points for not assuming the whole world should speak English for our convenience, if ykwim.

       - Vieux Montreal Polish resto (great food - modern and relatively light
                )Chinatown, esp a few pho places
                Le Bourlingueur (French, not fancy, small - get reservation) - St-Francois-Xavier @ rue St-Paul, Vieux-Montreal
                Bonaparte (more upscale, French, do get reservation. great tasting menu or table d'hote, much more serious about wine now than years ago)

                If you have even the slightest interest in jazz, *GO* to L'Air du Temps (same neighborhood as above). It's my favorite jazz club in the world, with some of the most amazing musicians and they're perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy (jazz not being very commercial).

                6 Replies
                1. re: Mawrter

                  L'air du temps is defunct. The space is now occupied by a Java U coffee shop.

                  1. re: carswell

                    The Java U location in Old Montreal recently closed. That space is now occupied by Santos(a restaurant-bar).

                      1. re: BLM

                        I was at Santos actually for drinks before dinner yesterday. The cocktail I had was made with fresh fruits and quite good. The menu was simple, but the plates I saw looked very good.

                    1. re: Mawrter

                      I love smoked salmon. I hadn't really given it a thought though for this trip. Do you know of places where I can get hand cut lox? In Boston I havne't been able to find a single place. If I could enjoy some in Montreal it would be a very welcome treat.

                      1. re: kittychow


                        New Victoria is something of a schlepp but would give you the chance to see a working-class immigrant neighbourhood not much visited by tourists. Atwater Market is a 10-minute drive down CDN/Guy from Sommerhill. Saum-mom and Le Queue de Cochon (the charcuterie in the Le Fromentier space that RhondaB refers to) are in the heart of the Plateau, which much to see, do and eat in the immediate neighbourhood. And Leméac is in tony Outremont, on the other side of Mount Royal from where you're staying.