Help Me Shorten My Lists: 3 Dinners, 2 Lunches
Excuse the long-winded saga: I am a Boston foodie going to Montreal in early August with my wife and two children (ages 12 and 16). We will be staying downtown at the Square Philips but are all willing to go far out of our way for great food. I have little clue about the distances/travel time from downtown to many of the restaurants I have already identified. I am planning for dinner on Sunday, all meals on Monday and Tuesday, and breakfast on Wednesday before we hit the road back home. My kids are adventurous eaters so there is no need to restrict options; although menus that have more rather than fewer options are desired. We will spend $$$$ but we value great food over atmosphere. None of us speak French. We will have a car. Based on research, here's what I have so far, and please offer your comments on what I have and/or any additional suggestions:
3 DINNERS -- I would like diversity between classic French, Quebecois, or eclectic fusion. With 3 dinners, I'm assuming 1 Big Splurge and 2 others a bit more reasonably priced.
1 Big Splurge Dinner: Looking at Toque, Club Chasse et Peche, La Chronique, Joe Beef, Ferreira. I'm concerned that Toque may be too precious, small portions, haughty and unwelcoming. I don't have a great feel for Joe Beef between seafood and beef, but they may be closed for vacation. I'm getting good vibes about La Chronique but their website is under construction. Not sure if Club Chasse would be welcoming to children and worry about duplication with APDC for another one of my dinners. Ferreira is different cuisine altogether, and sounds intriguing but is it really something that is unique to the Montreal area?
2 Other Dinners: Looking at Lemeac, Au Pied De Cochon, Brunoise, L'Express, Holder, Au Petit Extra, Au Cinquieme Peche. APDC sounds unique but with exceptionally heavy food that could dampen appetite for the next day. Brunoise sounds great but menu is possibly very limited. Ditto for Au Cinquieme Peche. L'Express/Holder/Au Petit Extra sound fairly similar to one another.
2 Lunches: Looking at Olive & Gourmando, Basha, Boustan, Schwartz's, or perhaps grazing at JTM. As I have had great smoked meat deli many times in NYC and also sometimes in Boston, is Schwartz's worth going to for one of my two lunches? Also, perhaps consider something from my dinners list for a lunch alternative.
3 Breakfasts: I'm assuming that with all my eating at lunch and dinner, that this could be fairly simple. All I require is strong coffee. Suggestions welcome for fantastic breakfast pastries and my children adore Eggs Benedict. I will voyage to St. Viateur/Fairmont to compare bagels and to get in bulk to bring home. Friends have brought these to me for gifts in the past and I loved them, but don't know which of the two placed they came from.
In terms of "walking around snack food," I believe that it's my duty to visit Bibloquet for ice cream and I'm also curious about Juliette & Chocolate for dessert crepes (my children love chocolate so figure this is a can't-miss). Somehow, I also want to squeeze in great frites and have heard of Frites Alors, but figure I may be able to satisfy this urge at one of my lunches or dinners (heard that Holder had great frites). If we go to APDC for dinner, I figure I'd use that event to try poutaine as it could be too heavy for a between-meal snack.
So.....am I way off base here? Any suggestions?
Also, for a reality check, please let me know if any of the places I'm thinking about are a ridiculously long distance from downtown. Happy to take cabs, metro, etc.
Thanks very much in advance for any of your help.
Don't bother with Bilboquet. It is not the be all and end all of Montreal ice cream. Havre-Aux-Glaces and Meu-Meu do ice cream much better, plus you won't have to queue as long.
On a side note, I had the Tamarind combined with the Ginger at Meu-Meu, a few days ago. It was a transcendent experience.
Despite the screw-the-cholesterol image promoted by Bourdain and propagated the countless breathless reports on the web, Au Pied de Cochon doesn't have to be a gut-busting experience, especially this time of year, when seafood abounds. But even in the colder months, there are excellent salads and a wide range of appetizers that can be ordered in lieu of the over-the-top dishes. Plus your kids will probably love the ambiance.
I also wouldn't equate Au Petit Extra with classic bistros L'Express and Holder (and Continental, for that matter). It's bistroish in atmosphere but more French restoish in cuisine. Again, it's another place where kids would feel at ease (unlike stuffy Toqué! or even Cartesian La Chronique, I'd say).
What about Brunoise for the "splurge" dinner - might be more kid-friendly than the others - it's certainly a bit fancier than the others you mention in that category. Joe Beef would also work, but I think they'll be closed then. Definitely try APDC, it's pretty unique. For fries (and poutine) there's always La Banquise - open 24 hours. If you go to Schwartz's, don't do it the same day you plan to go to APDC, though...
While I do love Bilboquet's maple taffy ice cream, I'd also recommend you go to Havre-aux-Glaces instead, especially if it'll be your one-and-only ice cream splurge in Montreal.
I find Havre-aux-Glaces to have more seasonal, inventive flavours, and to be of better quality overall. The biggest appeal, however, is the setting. One of my favourite weekend activities is to go to JTM, buy a sausage sandwich from Balkani for lunch, walk around the market perusing the stands, and then top off my visit with a delicious ice cream treat. Their black currant sorbet is delicious, and I’m also partial to pear-cider.
Meu Meu also serves up ice cream of exceptional quality, made from (whenever possible) organic ingredients. So if you happen to be (window) shopping on St-Denis anyway, I highly recommend you stop there. The Carmel & Black Sea salt flavour is my favourite.
Juliette & Chocolat is alright, I suppose. I’ve had a crepe there that was decent (I don’t have any better suggestions for crepes, unfortunately), and I enjoyed the “Grandma’s Style” hot chocolate. Though if you’re looking for a particularly delectable artisan chocolate, try Les Chocolats de Chloé, on Roy just west of St-Denis. I would venture to say that these chocolates are To Die For. And they make perfect gifts to bring home, since they are so delicious and you can’t get them anywhere but at Chloé’s little shop. (Note that Chloé is just a shop with a counter - no food is served there)
For lunch, I think it would be a great idea to get some Lebanese food. I don’t know how much Lebanese food there is in Boston, but there are so many good options here. I love Boustan so much. It’d be a great place to stop into if you’re wandering around downtown. Their vegetarian pita is the best I’ve had in town, especially since they warm it over charcoal and let it get crispy, instead of using a microwave. Today I asked them to put chicken into my veggie pita, and the result was spectacular. And cheap!
Basha is also quite good as far as Lebanese fast food goes. Their portions are very generous and the variety and freshness of their salads is exceptional. However, I’ve tried a few of them and they’re not all as great as the other. The best one (I find) is the one above Sports Experts on Ste-Catherine.
I highly recommend Leméac. The service there is very good, and I don’t think I’ve tried a single thing there that I didn’t like (except for the blood sausage, which I don’t like no matter what, but my boyfriend swears it’s fantastic). I also love Holder for the atmosphere. It’s loud and boisterous and the lighting is great. The duck salad there is a must, I’d say. I think either of these places would be great for the kids. There are lots of menu options at both.
I’d recommend O&G for breakfast. They have delicious hot chocolate, the coffee is good, and the pastries are delectable. Furthermore it’d be a great way to start a day of touring Old Montreal. You’re probably best off going early anyway, since it’s always packed by lunch time.
As for poutine, I second cheylmtl’s suggestion of La Banquise. It’ll really give you a better idea of true poutine than APDC’s fancy foie gras concoction ever could. My other poutine fave is Ma’am Bolduc. Both are within walking distance from Parc Lafontaine, which is a fun place to spend an afternoon anyway.
I agree with the above posts, where I've had the experience. I recently went to Lemeac for their after 10 (PM) special, and found their steak-frites to be very good; they know how to do rare, though the fries were a bit salty. Olive + Gourmando serves up a good lunch, but it will be busy, I might even recommend getting something (especially the chocolate-banana brioche) to go, eating while you tour the old city. Frites Alors definitely does excellent fries, though steak-frites at any of the mentioned bistro would probably satisfy. Bagels, it doesn't really matter (crucify me now), they're both really good, and I've never noticed a discernable difference. Schwartz's is worth the trip, IMO, but not during regular meal times; go at a really off hour to avoid waiting outside (even on a nice day, waiting is boring). Breakfast pastries: O+G I've covered, Le Fromentier has a decent selection, particularly on weekends when they bring out the special breads, and Les Co'Pains (the one on Mont-Royal is closer) is pretty packed whenever I'm there on a Saturday morning, they've got loads of particularly fresh goodies (e.g. still slightly warm apple flan and farz breton). Premiere Moisson, however, is closer and pretty darn good for a chain.