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Visiting Montreal for the first time... Need your opinions

My husband and I along with another couple are visiting the city for the first time this weekend. We're staying in a hotel on President Kennedy Avenue. My question to other devoted foodies, can you share your favorite cheap eats?

I've read about Indian, Ethiopian, Mexican places. Can you share your secrets on cheap french (if such a thing is possible), bistro & asian (chinese, thai, korean) food? Vegetarian friendly is required since one of the people

A good place to get poutine with no beef or pork? And bagels?

We highly support local restaurants and holes in the wall as long as the food is worth it. I read in a different post about out of town tourists wanting to experience fine dining... not us. We prefer to hang out and eat where the locals eat, for low price.

Something walking distance from our hotel would be great, if necessary we don't mind catching the metro.

Thank you in advance for your replies

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  1. For bagels, you'll have to walk or take the bus to Fairmount street or St-Viateur. From your hotel, you can walk to Place des Arts metro and take the bus that goes up Avenue du Parc and ask the bus driver to advise you when you get to one of those streets.
    For chinese or vietnamese, you are at about a 10 minute walk to the Chinatown. Pho Bang is cheap and their soup is great. There is an Ethiopian restaurant on St-Denis called Nil Bleu. If you want french food, it's hard to find a cheap place but Lemeac on Laurier Street has a 20$ menu after 10pm, best deal in town. As for poutine, it might be hard to find one for vegeterians as the gravy is made out of meat....But try La Banquise on Rachel or Frite Alors (there are several but the closest to you will be St-Denis street or Rachel). For vegetarian food, you might want to try Cluny Art Bar on Prince Street (Old Montreal). They make the best vegetable dishes and also have great sandwiches.

    2 Replies
    1. re: isa1

      Frite Alors fries in beef tallow, so it's out for vegetarians. Also, Cluny is open for dinner only on Thursdays (and even then it closes earlier than most).

      For good affordable French food in a great setting, you can't do better than Au Petit Extra, though I wouldn't call it cheap. The cheap French joints -- e.g. L'Académie, Au 917 -- are uniformly depressing. That said, table d'hôte (soup or salad but no special apps and usually no dessert) at a decent BYO like Le P'tit Plateau isn't exorbitant.

      1. re: isa1

        Almost all poutine sauce is made from a mix that contains no animal products. Most places use Berthelet powder mix. You can ask and make sure when you go, but regular poutine is vegetarian by default.

      2. I once had the same problem, trying to find French food that was vegetarian-friendly. The best I managed to find was the pasta entree that is available at most restaurants. Cheap good French is probably out of the question. The closest you'll get on that brief is to go to a bakery and order a croissant; it's vegetarian too. Seriously, though, I highly recommend picking up a pastry or two, since they are IMO one of this city's treasures.

        From what I hear, the best Thai food in town is actually in a food court on Ste-Catherine just east of Guy. The place is called Le Faubourg, and the 'restaurant' itself is Bangkok. From what I've tried, I would recommend Patati Patata at Rachel and St-Laurent for cheap eats, as well as La Paryse on Ontario just a little east of St-Denis. It's a burger joint, but vegetarian-friendly. Just be prepared to wait a little for a table.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JQReid

          a previous post mentions pastries as a vegetarian alternative. I just want to mention that a few times i ordered a pastry and was surprised by a strong lard taste. make sure you ask.

          1. re: JQReid

            Le Fauberg Ste Catherine is West of Guy - it comprises the entire block between Guy & St. Mathieu & is still (mostly) under construction but via the entrace closest to Guy the escalator will take you to the 3rd floor & you will be right in front of Bangkok. Their pad thai ranks right up there with the best of.

            1. re: RhondaB

              I think you mean 2nd floor. There is no mezzanine anymore. And eating in the faubourg has been a nightmare lately because of the construction noise.

          2. Vegetarian and not too expensive? Though it is known more for its terrace than for the food, Santropol, http://www.santropol.com/pages/rdirec..., might be what you are looking for.

            1. I'm pretty sure Mondo Fritz on St. Laurent has vegetarian poutine. They also have a wide selection of burgers, hot dogs and homemade dipping sauces for their fries.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jellybelly25

                The so-called poutine at Mondo Frtiz is not Poutine. It's something more akin to cheese fries. They use shredded cheese (oh, the horror!) and green peppercorn sauce. That's just not right.

              2. Ma'am Bolduc poutine is vegetarian, and it's a funky, inexpensive place that you'll have fun at. 4351 de Lorimier. So is the poutine at Chez Claudette, a great diner, on Laurier at Saint Denis. Both are in great neighborhoods, but very "local"! I might disagree with the above comment that "regular" poutine is usually veggie; my boyfriend is a strict vegetarian and there are only a handful of places in the city that stand up to his questioning. The two I mentioned are the best, in my opinion.

                1 Reply
                1. re: roarlaura

                  Thanks, a vegetarian friend of mine recommended Ma'am Bolduc - a fun place with an nice terrasse, on an only-slightly-busy street with a lot of trees (really enjoy being there) as a dependable vegetarian-poutine and other things place - it is not a vegetarian restaurant by any means; carnivores will find lots of meaty things. It is a particularly pleasant and typically-Québécois place.

                  Roarlaura, I'd love to hear more input about vegetarian-friendly places in Montréal (and hereabouts). Not just Aux Vivres, funky, fun places.

                2. The best vegetarian Thai in town, consistently is ChuChai on St. Denis. Two great and reasonably priced Japanese places that are very vegetarian friendly are Bleu Caramel on De La Roche and Oishi Sushi on Bernard (unfortunately not very handy to a metro, but worth the treck). For poutine, make sure to ask what they fry their fries in, as many use animal fat (even those who have "vegetarian" poutine listed on their menu). La Banquise uses beef gravy in their vegetarian poutine and just tops it with vegetables (unless they've changed this since the last time we were there, very disappointing, as they are supposed to have the best poutine in town).

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: ginger07

                    oops, forgot to mention, I see that Truffert- Bristro de Christophe, a French restaurant on Laurier East has a vegetarian option on their table d"hote.

                    1. re: ginger07

                      We just returned from our first trip to Montreal . . .
                      I can enthusiastically second the rec for Chu Chai, and Chuch their byob informal sister restaurant next door. The "duck" salad with chili and mint is deeeelicious. All the "meats" are made from seitan, each worked differently for a different flavor/texture profile. I didn't much care for the fake chicken -- it was like seitan with boullion added, although it was strangely like chicken in texture. Nice atmosphere, not cheap but most of the meal was absolutely delicious.

                      If you're up for a freaky but delicious vegan experience for about $12/plate, seek out the outlandishly decorated fixed menu at the Spirit Cafe. Look for shiny streamers outside -- it's near Amherst, but I don't remember the actual street ...Ontario?

                      The Portugese grill joints are pretty fabulous, if your vegetarian eats any seafood . . . Le Roi de Mont (thiiiink that's the name, on the corner of Rachel and Clark) has wood charcoal grilled sardines, and excellent lamb chops - I suspect anything on the menu would be delicious. A very neighborhoody informal place, that serves until around 10:30-11pm.

                      1. re: pitu

                        I think you mean:

                        Le Roi du Plateau
                        51 Rachel W.
                        (514) 844-8393

                        1. re: rcianci

                          Yes, that must be it -- thanks for the assist!
                          They make a lovely side of potatoes too -- I'd beg them for a substitution if your dish comes with rice . . . even for the pork/clams combo heaven. BTW I'm making an assumption on that particular dish -- it walked by and smelled great, and I love that Portugese combo, but I was deep in my four little lamb chops. What a crazy lively local grill . . . have 10yr tawny port and a short espresso and rice pudding (homestyle, delicious) while you're there. I think it was our favorite meal in Montreal...

                          You've no doubt read this on other threads, but make time for a spin around the Jean Talon market. I ate a great $2 merguez lamb sausage (dressed with green olives and red hot sauce, on a bun) before we found a bahn mi place, but there's a ton of other options up there for a snack of sweet or savory nature. And gorgeously ripe fruit.
                          There's excellent raw milk Quebecois cheeses to be had as well - Pied du Vent for example, at the excellent cheese shop
                          on the Rue Jean Talon side of the market . . . Hamel is the name, I think.
                          It is like Murray's in NYC - excellent service, top-notch quality and selection. You can also have a cheese and fig plate on the premises.