Authentic, casual dining for 30th bday visit
My husband is taking me to Montreal for my 30th birthday. It'll be my first-ever visit (to Canada, nontheless!) and I want to make sure that I eat at all the right places, taste all the right food in our short trip. There is nothing I hate more than being on vacation and having a bad meal, horrible snack or just mediocre food.
After doing a bunch of research, I am ready to turn over my planning to public opinions. So, please help! My husband and I will be coming off of a very fine dining experience (going to Daniel in NYC for our anniversary just 10 days before this trip), so I am looking to have a laid-back, but authentic dining experience in Montreal.
Types of places I'm looking for are: cozy, romantic, casual, hip, fun -- not too trendy or fine dining/haute cuisine (I know Montreal can be a fine dining destination, but that just isn't the vibe we're looking for this trip -- next time).
Food/Cuisines of interest: French, Bar/Pub, Quebequois, Italian, Eclectic, American/New American
Also, the last weekend in April...I know it is early for Spring, but is there any outdoor dining, or places to have a drink or coffee outside? We'll be staying in Old Montreal, but I'm interested in places in the Mile-End or other areas.
> Friday Night: Arriving around 9 p.m., want to go somewhere in Old Montreal (poutines or burger and a beer?)
> Full day Saturday
> Sunday: Maybe try brunch at Le Cartet? Will need an afternoon snack or something to take on the road before leaving
well, let's just copy'n'paste all the previous answers...
For brunch, I can suggest : Réservoir, Byblos and Bazaar.
For "québecois" cuisine (great on an empty stomach): Au Pied De Cochon ( I did get it right !! yeah), Joe Beef, ...
For good pub/bar (mostly bar) : Réservoir, Dieu du ciel, L'amère à boire, Bily kun, L'assomoir, ...
For French: La Porte.
For "French"/Bistro oriented : Lemeac, L'express, Bouchonné, Trois Petits Bouchons, Justine bar à vin ...
Friday night : I'd skip old-montréal and directly get to "La Banquise" for the best poutine in town (do they serve beer??).
Saturday morning : Go north on st-laurent to Cafe Italia for a quick espresso and a slice of Panetone and head for Jean-Talon market, if it's warm, then it will be a fun experience.
Saturday lunch : Go down on st-laurent and to schwartz and get a smoked meat sandwich.
Saturday evening : depending on your "hungry-ness" go to "Joe Beef" or "Au Pied De Cochon" or if you do not want to eat that much, "Pinxto" can be fun.
Sunday morning : Résevoir (get there early)
that's it that's all for now.
Maximilien's list is very thorough. I don't think you could go wrong with any of his suggestions.
As for eating outside, if the weather is nice, you'll be tripping over tables on sidewalks in the sun, no fear. There will be tonnes of places along St. Denis to have a good coffee and accompanying nibbles. Same in Mile End. Just look for a cute looking place with lots of people. Fortunately, the good coffee quotient is high here. Please please please avoid Tim Hortons. That is the antithesis of the Montreal coffee scene.
Some of my favorite coffee places right now: Caffe in Gamba on Parc (Mile End), Patisserie Gascogne ( on Laurier, Mile End) Toi, Moi et Cafe (on Laurier, Mile end, across the street from Patisserie Gascogne). I'm also partial to Festin du Babette on St. Denis (near Duluth).
A wonderful place for brunch and coffee is Bouchees Gourmandes in Old MOntreal on St. Paul West: Here is my report:
I just went back to Bouchees Gourmandes in the last few weeks. The omelette and crepe were as wonderful as ever. But be warned that if you go for brunch, the service is slow. The couple who own it are charming, and this is about as french an experience as you will ever get. The place is absolutely unique and the food is special. Even if you decide you don't want to eat there, they open at 8:00 am I believe. Go in for an early morning cafe latte (or even better, the cafe mocha - YUMMM) and a chausson au pomme. If you like apple flavoured pastries, this is heaven. And I can't say enough about the omelettes and crepes. So delicious.
Re: Afternoon snack or something to take on the road: Whenever we leave Montreal on a road trip, we stop of at a Premiere Moisson (multiple locations) and stock up for the car ride. Artisanal breads, delicious sandwiches, cakes, cookies, pastries, you name it, its good. So much better than McDonald's or Wendy's or KFC on the road. The only thing, since you're heading to NYC (I assume), you hit the U.S. border pretty quickly. I don't know how strict they'll be about fresh produce and beef products (maybe it is different if you have them in a sandwich?), so maybe stick to products that you know will be safe. That, or be prepared to scarf them at the border. I do know that croissant and breads would be fine....
I think the only things that may be problematic are citrus fruits, so don't take along any oranges. We regularly stock up on snacks and sandwiches before heading out on any highway trip, and while they were asking about beef products at the US border a while back, they haven't on the last few trips. But if you stick to things like ham and cheese, chicken, etc. in sandwiches you should be fine.
And while it might be nice to try Schwartz's, there is no way, unless you are really big eaters, that you would want to try Joe Beef or Au Pied de Cochon the same evening - personally, I'd skip Schwartz's (especially if you're having poutine late Friday night) and go for Joe Beef or Pied for Saturday dinner. Don't forget to reserve for either place - especially now that they've been mentioned in the NY Times, they will be harder to get into without advance reservations.
For cafe sitting patio/curb-side: patisseries Premiere Moisson and La Gascogne in Mile End / Outremont as well as Juliette et Chocolat on Laurier have chairs out already. In the spring sun yesterday the outdoor seating at the Premiere Moisson on Bernard (I think it's Bernard/Durocher) was packed! It's a nice place for a soup/salad/sandwich or a quick pastry + coffee in the a.m. I love that - during this maple syrup season - they use the ingredient in so many of their offerings. Yum!
Also, for what it's worth - and if you're in a salty state of mind - the Frite Alors on Av de Parc had picnic tables out yesterday and had quite a few people outdoors munching and enjoying the sunshine...
For the Old Montreal vibe, I really like going to Olive et Gourmando for paninis (I love the cubain!) / great coffees / baked goods / etc. Not open on Sundays, though, I think, but a great daytime stop (or Saturday brunch).
For bistro: I recently went for the menu de degustation at Bistro L'Entrepont in Plateau. I had a delicious vegetable soup with fried leeks, delicious bread, smoked trout, trou Normand with apple sorbet, in-house duck confit and duck breast with 7 (count 'em 7!) vegetables, and creme brulee for a very reasonable $40 (I think). It's a BYOB, very small, and there were only 7 guests! I loved the feel of it, the host was wonderful, price was definitely affordable for the quality/quantity, and it felt like a neighbourhood secret that I had unearthed. (also, I was impressed with how many things were locally sourced. My friends had deer sausage, Quebec cheeses, foie-gras-stuffed deboned quail, homemade cheese torte and the other options looked equally tempting. It's not flashy or avant-guarde, but low-key and intimate; the cuisine certainly translates in my stomach as "authentic" food in both feel, preparation, presentation, and taste!)
I'd also recommend Au Cinquieme Peche on Mt. Royale and O'Thym on Maisonneuve...