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The Ultimate Montreal Experience

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We are searching for the ultimate Montreal experience. Not incl. APDC (already have reservations there). Which lunch & dinner places (will be able to experience 3 of each) should we NOT miss in Montreal. We are in our early 30's and are very adventurous diners. We are looking for innovative menus- stuff we can't get everyday in the states. If anyone has any recommendations for drinks afterwards- that would also be much appreciated. We plan on visiting DDC and Unibroue during our stay the first wk in July.

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  1. Hey kelarry! There are some recent threads that will give you some great ideas:

    Inexpensive places not to miss in MOntreal:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/512945

    I think you have to try a Bring your own wine place here, there are some real gems. Pick up a good bottle of wine at a SAQ Selection (multiple outlets in the city, the SAQ Selections have better wine selections than the SAQ Classique):

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/97854

    I have also recently outlined a Bakery/espresso Mile End tour (Mile End is a very fun neighbourhood near downtown Montreal), so if you like that sort of thing, this is a great way to spend an afternoon:

    The Park bus (number 80) runs very frequently, and can be caught just outside the Place Des Arts Metro. It will take you to the beginning of the Mile End Boulangerie/espresso tour.

    In hommage to RGR's LES tour, here is a Mile End Boulangerie/espresso tour that would fit your bill:

    Take the 80 bus to Villeneuve. Stop here at about noon on Wednesdays through Sundays, and go to Cocoa Locale. You need to get here by noon when she opens to get the best selection. Pick out one of her delectable cupcakes, best in the city. Or if you are feeding a crowd, pick up a cake.

    Walk north on Park. If you want a bite to eat, you can turn right on Laurier and head to Toi Moi et Cafe for excellent coffee and breakfasts/lunches on the terrace. Across the street from Toi Moi et cafe is Patisserie Gascogne, go in and ogle at their magnificent display of decorated cakes, chocolate sculptures, and French pastry. They have very good croissants and chocolatines, but I would hold out til further on to try these. But I would consider buying one of their mini-quiches or sausage rolls, they do excellent quiche. The quiche is small (about 2 inches in diameter) and doesn't take a lot of stomach space.

    Backtrack back to Parc. Continue north about 1 and a half long blocks. On the east side of the street is Caffe in Gamba, one of the newer coffee shops in town. They do really great espresso and fabulous latte, one of the better places in the city. They also sell the beans, which are really great. I love the Paladino beans.

    Continue to head north on Parc until you get to St. Viateur. Turn right. Immediately, you will see St. Viateur Bagels to your left. Go in and buy a hot sesame bagel, consume it warm. If you want, buy some cream cheese, lox, various spreads, etc. But when they are warm, they are delicious alone, and a real Montreal experience.

    If you are needing more caffeine, continue down St. Viateur and hit Club Social and Cafe Olympico for straight espresso shots with the locals.

    Turn around, head back to Parc. Continue north to Bernard. Turn left. On the north side of the street, you will see Cheskies. Go. Buy the Challah. You must. Best to buy it whole, and I prefer the sweet challah that is braided. Cheskies also has good rugelah, although I find that these are not as decadent as some I've bought in NYC. Chocolate is my favorite. Note that Cheskies is closed on Fridays after sundown until Sunday am.

    Continue West on Bernard, and you will come to Premiere Moisson, one of the better "chain" artisanal bread shops in the city. They have a fabulous selection of loaves, all delicious, and I love their lardon/fromage (ie. Cheese and chunks of bacon) fougasse (or they have olive fougasse if you don't like bacon). They have good croissant as well, but again, I would hold off here and wait for later (or try it for taste comparisons!) Also nearby is Bilboquet, which sells lovely ice cream and sorbets. I think the sorbets are the better choice, the mango sorbet is extremely flavourful, and the lychee sorbet is also a major winner. If you like cheese, go to Yannick, probably the best cheese shop in Montreal. Here you can get perfectly ripened raw milk cheeses from France and other places. This is in my opinion the only place you should buy your Epoisses. But warning, Yannick isn't cheap. But it is worth every penny.

    Ok: Now the croissant. The rest of the trip is not so bad. You could walk from the first stop Cocoa Locale to Premiere Moisson in about 20 minutes, 30 minutes at a leisurely pace, without the stops. And there are mulitple opportunities on this trip to get very good croissant. But if you want what I consider the best croissant, you have to add on this extra leg. You will be wanting exercise at this point anyways.

    Backtrack back to Parc. Turn south (right), backtrack back to Laurier. Turn left on Laurier. Walk all the way to Fous Desserts, which is a couple of blocks past the Laurier metro. This walk will take you about 30 minutes from the Premiere Moisson. But at the end awaits the crispiest butteriest croissant you'll ever have. Also worth tasting: the chocolate pear croissant. The almond croissant is apparently also good. And if you see them, buy the caramel au fleur de sel tart with nuts. Insanely good. This is the only part of the tour that is not in Miles End, it is in the PLateau. If you are really tired, you can take a quick cab to Fous Desserts, wouldn't cost more than $7-8. Note that Fous Desserts is closed Sundays and MOndays I believe.

    I hate to say, I haven't even put all the places I could have on the list. Mile End is a treasure trove of great places. I haven't included gourmet food shops, a bunch of great restos of all types, etc. I have really only included the bakery and coffee shops. But I should add a chocolate stop or two:

    Genevieve Grandbois is a shop that makes handmade chocolates. They are beautiful, delicious but pricey, it is worth buying a few pieces to try. My personal favorites are the balsamic vinegar chocolate, the piment d'Espelette chocolate and a butter crunch caramel with sea salt that is dipped in a thin coat of dark chocolate. This place is on St. Viateur, past the bagel shop on the opposite side of the the street.

    Others wold also recommend Juliette et Chocolate, a cafe/chocolate shop on Laurier, west of Parc. Dedicated to all things chocolate, they have light meals (non-chocolate crepes), hot chocolate, cold chocolate, brownies which are very delicious and rich, chocolate decadence. I like it very much, but have a few personal favorites that are not in Mile End.

    Have fun!

    10 Replies
    1. re: moh

      Holy moly! Moh I think you missed your calling.

      1. re: Aspiring Foodie

        Ahh Aspiring Foodie! If you saw my belly and butt recently, you'd realize I have missed no calling... that diet thing is just impossible in this neighbourhood!

        (BTW: Read your NYC report! Sounds like you had a great time!!) :)

      2. re: moh

        Awesome! Thanks so much!

        1. re: moh

          This is amazing!!! I am arriving in Montreal this Sunday with my husband. We are spending a few days to wind down. Can you add the gourmet food shops etc, something we would also like to visit. Coming from NY which has food galore, I can't wait to try some of your suggestions. We are both foodies and love to explore. We will be there only four days. Thanks.

          1. re: Hilary

            For gourmet food shops, my two biggest recommendations would be:

            1) at the Jean-Talon Market, don't miss the Marché des Saveurs - Quebec-made products galore, including a whole section of maple products, as well as local ciders, beers & wines, cheeses, jams/jellies/preserves, and teas

            2) at the Atwater Market, Les douceurs du marché, for a huuuge variety of international gourmet goodies.

            If you only have time for one, make it the Marché des Saveurs. It's uniquely Québécois, whereas I'm sure there are places in NYC like the second suggestion. There are lots of other gourmet shops at the Jean-Talon Market you can also check out while you're there, many of them along the eastern-most aisle.

            Have a great trip!

            1. re: Hilary

              Hilary, sorry, I hope I haven't missed your visit, I'm a bit behind on posting.

              Re: Gourmet food shops - I agree completely with Kpzoo's post, I think you'd love Marche des Saveurs, and the great thing is that the place has many uniquely Quebecois products. And Jean-Talon Market is so wonderful!

              If you are planning to be in the Mile End area for some of the bakeries, there are a bunch of great little stores to explore while munching on baked goods. On Laurier, there is Gourmet Laurier for an excellent selection of European gourmet products (including a wonderful selection of bars of chocolate and packaged cookies and candies). Anjou Quebec is a butcher on Laurier that sells jarred confit du canard that is delicious, and comes with a whackload of duck fat for frying potatoes and other yummy things ( mind you I don't know rules for customs, if they will let you take it home with you). Further east on Laurier, there is Esprithe, a tea house with pretty yummy macarons, plus a really wonderful kitchenware place (Les Touilleurs) to browse through. If you like raw milk cheese, then you must go to Yannick Frommage exceptional on Bernard. It is a must stop for cheese lovers. On Parc, there is a small little Russian shop called Vova, they have lovely Russian tortes and Russian canned products.

              Montreal is a great walking town. It is always fun to walk in the neighbourhoods and walk into anything that looks interesting. Have a great trip!

              1. re: moh

                Wow, that was really nice of you, and you haven't missed my trip. We will be arriving Sunday afternoon coming from the Albany, NY area where we will be dropping off our son at school. Then we steal a few days for ourselves before I go back to work after Labor Day. Can you tell me how far any of this is from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, where we will be staying? We love to walk, as long as the weather is favorable. Thanks again for all of your suggestions.

                1. re: Hilary

                  To get to Jean-Talon Market, it would be best to take the metro, it is a pretty easy trip by metro, wouldn't take you more than half an hour.

                  To get to Mile End, you can walk from the Queen Elizabeth, just walk to Bleury (which becomes Parc), and go straight up. You walk by Jeanne-Mance Park and Mont Royal Park, and it is a nice walk. It will take about 45 minutes from the hotel to Cocoa Locale (cupcake place from heaven!) Or, you could take the 80 bus up Parc from downtown, and it would be much faster with less walking. I'd consider bus up to Mile End, as the tour does involve quite a lot of walking. Comfortable shoes are key. Have a great trip!

            2. re: moh

              Just got back from 3 days in Montreal. We printed out your tour and altho the weather was a bit rainy, we had a great time exploring the mile end bakeries! If it weren't for this site and your remarkable tour, we probably would still be wandering around the old town wondering where all of the good food was!
              Some highlights: Cupcakes at Cocoa Locale, brunch at Toi et Moi, and there certainly is much to ogle at Patisserie Gascogne! Talking to the locals shows that the whole neighborhood loves their food, everyone had a suggestion and would go on at great length about it!
              The only problem we encountered was finding the bus line, as they were setting up for Jazz fest and everything was detoured. But a BIG thanks to moh, really loved this!

              1. re: kittenwithawhip

                Gosh, Sorry! I just saw this! I am so glad you had a good time. It is a fun way to spend a day. We do love our cafes and bakeries in this part of town, it is part of the local vibe for sure. Thanks for the kind feedback!

            3. This sort of broad question has been answered many times before so I suggest doing some more searches on the board. A lot of the best places are recommended again and again and it should be pretty easy to pick out the things that appeal to you.

              1. Inspired by moh, I am going to suggest a Marche Jean Talon tour; sort of a ritual I like to perform at every visit. Lunch-time preferred. Serves two. Feel free to adapt the recipe, but sharing one of each snack is the best way to pace yourself and prevent yourself from over eating.

                Start on the North-East corner of the market (Henri Julien and Place du Marche). If you are taking the metro, this is where you will be coming from.

                1. Stop at Aqua-Mare, the fish store with a fryer stall. Get a half calamari/half smelt (eperlans) to share. I like the spicy mayo better than the tartare. Eat them on the stands or small tables next to the store.

                2. Turn left and stop on the little sausage stand Les Cochons Tout Ronds and get a dried sausage. Not sure what to get? Ask for samples, they are generous. Put the sausage in your bag, it is for tomorrow (or an afternoon picnic depending on your plans).

                3. Walk and graze as much as you can, until you see the crepe stand. All through the market, you'll see lots of samples. Get a crepe to share. Ham and cheese is good.

                4. Go across (you are still in the eastern aisle. There is a store called Balkani with the best feta (the Macadonian) in town, and it is ironically the cheapest one they have (or perhaps I know nothing about feta). But it is not the time for feta; if you want you can tuck a chunk in your purse, but you are here for the sausage. At the stand in front of the store, ask for a spicy with coleslaw. You have two options for mustard, your call. The sausage is usually straight out of the grill. It is hot, watch out

                5. Your next stop is Havre aux Glaces, conveniently located just next door. There will be a line. I do the unmentionable, the grotesque and wait for my turn while stuffing my face with my sausage sandwich. If you have manners, you can sit down on a bank at the south end of the marche to finish your sausage, and come back. This is perhaps the best ice cream in town. The flavors are dense, sparkling and even sometimes sharper than the natural state of the fruits they use. Unbelievable. It is hard to share ice cream, so here it is suggested to take one each. Usually you can get two flavors with one small order, and don't afraid to ask for samples. Board favorites are chai, maple creme brule, chocolate cherry, cassis (with just a hint of vanilla ice cream it is even better, learned from the board), dark chocolate, grapefruit and strawberry pepper (haven't seen it for a while though). Eat it. We are just starting...

                6. After this, you can take a tour and graze. Cherries are in season, berries are popping up, and there is greens exploding everywhere (just saw some purslane at Birri). On the way back, stop at Hamel to get a couple of cheeses and SAQ (the alcohol monopoly) next door to get some wine. This will be dinner, or next day's lunch, alongside the sausage from Cochons.

                7. Next day, or the same afternoon you are about to have a picnic... A little note, you can drink at Montreal parks as long as you eat something with it, and you already scored your sausage and cheese. Now you need to score the bread. Go to the area of Laurier/ Christophe Colomb with your wine/sausage/cheese and whatever else you have gathered. You will see the holy Fromentier there at 1375 Laurier E, unless it is a Monday during which they are closed. Get a bread (goat milk/kamut is a good one, but I am very partial to the walnut/rye/caraway one). There is a small cheese/butcher shop within the same building, called Queue de cochon, that sells some cold cuts/sausages if you need more. Fromentier has desserts too, but you might want to restrain since a Fous Desserts is nearby, which is reportedly one of the best bakeries in town. You can also go to Maison Cacao for chocolate and brownies. There are way too many opportunities on that little block between Christophe Colomb and Papineau, you have to pick or do the grande bouffe. You can even get a cone of fries from Frit Alors.

                8. Take your inventory and go the the Laurier Park, conveniently located a few blocks West. Enjoy a lunch time or an afternoon picnic.

                8 Replies
                1. re: emerilcantcook

                  Oh reading my post again, I realized that I should have said choucroute/sauerkraut instead of the coleslaw for the sausage at Balkani. Can't edit it either. So before someone corrects me, here I do it meself. Where is my fact checker?

                  1. re: emerilcantcook

                    Yummy tour Emerilcantcook! No wonder diets are so difficult here...

                    I might add a few other Jean-Talon stops. I must say that I love all fried seafood they serve across from Atkins fish market. If they have the fried fish filet, it is well worth stopping for those. Also, across from the fried fish, the shop on the corner sells yummy bison ribs from time to time, and their fried potato chips are also quite delicious. Across the road from both of these places, on the south side of the market, the middle eastern store that grills fresh meat makes a mean lamb sandwich, great topped with olives and the spicy sauce.

                    1. re: emerilcantcook

                      We will be in Montreal this weekend. We usually go to Jean Talon on Sunday morning before we leave. This time we are leaving on Monday. Should we still go on Sunday morning or try Monday? Since our usual trip is in mid July it will be interesting to see the difference in produce. TIA.

                      1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                        I must say I am not sure. I don't usually go to the market on Mondays, not that it is bad but it is a busy work day. It might be delightfully calm compared to crazy Sundays; but cannot say if the produce differs or all stores are open. Lagatta? Lagatta?

                        1. re: emerilcantcook

                          It's also the day between the weekend & Jean-Baptiste, not sure what difference that'll make in terms of # of people & stands open.

                          1. re: kpzoo

                            Being that a lot of people will take the day off on monday to stretch the weekend, I'M pretty sure the market will be livelier than on any other monday. But it should still be more quiet than any sat. or sun. Most stalls are open daily during the summer so the selection should be just as good.

                          2. re: emerilcantcook

                            lagatta, after a rush of translation, had turned her computer off and cycled to the street sale on St-Laurent (between Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal).

                            (Not much foodie to report except a good price for frozen duck livers at Le Canard libéré and cheapo prices for tinned crabmeat and Québec goat gouda at Segall's).

                            The main thing that isn't open at the beginning of the week is some of the small, organic and artisanal stands. However the organic stand at the SOUTH end of the "fancy stuff" row (eastward, closer to Henri-Julien) is open on Mondays - then not open until Thursday or Friday. The wonderful little farmers, the sons of Señora Jimenez, are only there from Friday to Sunday. They are the people with the crooked carrots and tiny asparagus at the southwestern corner of the stands, with their truck. And they are there until there is deep frost and snow, with wonderful dark-green vegetables.

                            Remember that if you don't feel like going down to Laurier Park, you could do the tour roundabout, getting your Le Fromentier bread first (I agree that it is excellent, and sometimes do go there, in cyclable weather or if I have business in that area). You can walk up to Jarry Park. Yes, most of that park is playing fields (I do my dirty-old-lady riding around to keep fit and seeing the young lads playing soccer etc)... but closer to St-Laurent there is an artificial pond, many trees, and some picnic tables if you wish. We go there for picnics if we don't feel like cycling up to Parc de la Visitation at the northern edge of the island. Another picnic spot, even closer, is Dante Park at the corner of Dante and Alma, opposite the Italian church (just south of the market). One very nice touch there is that there are a couple of round tables with half of the spaces bench seats, half empty for wheelchairs or more appropriate seating for seniors or others who need back support. I picnicked there with my mum for that reason - we took a comfy outdoor chair with a high back.

                            I live so close to the market that it is rare that crazy work days prevent me from going there in the summertime - the stands are open VERY early, so I can go do a bit of fitness cycling at Jarry Park and then pick up stuff and get back to work with my brain awakened. I'm talking 6-7am. Those farmers are tough.

                            Moh is right that some producers are only there at weekends - and the key then is to go early, but that is the key if you are going there to shop and not people-watch or graze.

                          3. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                            Best to go on the Sunday. There are definitely producers that only make it in on the weekend. As well, there are less prepared food products to buy and eat right away. The market is best on weekends. Although with the holiday on Tuesday, it might be better on Monday, there are still a lot of people working on Monday. I would not risk it, I still think the market will be at its peak on the Sunday.

                        2. For a great dinner AND after-dinner drink spot, try Garde-Manger in Old Montreal. Reserve in advance for the 9:30 PM sitting. A tiny spot with cool decor, great food (especially the cold seafood platter) and great ambience for the 30's crowd. Music is groovy and volume goes up gradually as the place gets packed.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Montreal Cat

                            Christ..there's so much to do in this city! And these are all such great recommendations! My wife and I are going to Montreal for the first time over Labor Day Weekend (August 29 thru September 2). Is Monday, September 1 a holiday in Montreal? Will places be closed?

                            Also, the foodie stuff is covered pretty well on this board and others but what about non-foodie places? Any good thrift stores or local stores with cool things you can't get here in New York? I'm thinking Lower East Side/Williamsburg type shopping.

                            1. re: pastoralia

                              > Is Monday, September 1 a holiday in Montreal?

                              Yes.

                              > Will places be closed?

                              Some. Best to call ahead.

                              > Also, the foodie stuff is covered pretty well on this board and others but what about non-foodie places

                              Better to ask about this type of thing on a general travel board, responses will be deleted as CH is very strict about sticking to food-related topics.

                              Have a fantastic trip, and remember - you can always come back if you can't fit everything in! ;-)

                              1. re: pastoralia

                                I also frequent the Lonely Planet travel board. Non-foodie stuff is strictly removed on this one. (But chowhound is an unparallelled resource for foodie stuff)... I'm very much a thrift-seeking person, though a lot of our best buys are at church/synagogue/temple etc bazaars and estate sales...

                                However, I will say that unless it is too terribly rainy - well, I imagine you've had that weather as well - you MUST have a picnic or two, on Mont Royal, or in one of the many rather formal parks in central neighbourhoods. Get a Portuguese grilled or rotisserie chicken, some prepared salads, good cheese, fresh fruit, good bread, wine or beer if you wish - you can imbibe in parks here, though you are supposed to be eating at the same time - and have a great time.

                                You'll find a lot of the supplies you need either along "the Main" (the stretch of St-Laurent from about Sherbrooke to Mont-Royal, though some would extend it a bit northwards) or in JTM and thereabouts.

                                1. re: pastoralia

                                  Pastoralia, you will be here on Labour day weekend, there is a good chance you will be here for the St. Laurent Street Festival. They block off the street between Sherbrooke and Mont Royal, and there is a lot of fun bargain shopping, people watching and cheap food eats! Look for the Grilled sardines - such a treat! Mont Royal might also be a fun place to walk around, from Parc to Christophe-Colombe there are tonnes of great places to shop, and you will pass by many great food stops as well, like Kouinn Aman (?sp) where the specialty is a buttery yummy pastry from Bretagne, and Cafe Art Java, where the espresso and cafe latte are wonderful!

                                  1. re: moh

                                    That's great news! I love street festivals. Is it actually on Monday or is it on the weekend?

                                    It's sort of crazy how much I'm looking forward to my trip. Got reservations at Club Chasse et Peche on Monday, Pied au Cochon on Saturday, and L'Express on Monday.

                                    I was wondering is Club Chasse a formal place or are jeans and a nice shirt OK? Since it's so close to our hotel (Place D'arms) maybe I should try Garde Manger for a more casual experience on our first night?

                                    We get in early on Friday and I think Jean Talon Market will be our first excursion for nibbling and getting acquainted with the city (my wife makes fun of me because I plan stuff out so much- it's a problem).

                                    1. re: pastoralia

                                      > I love street festivals. Is it actually on Monday or is it on the weekend?

                                      Unfortunately it looks like this year's late summer St-Laurent street fest (aka Main Madness) will run August 21-24 instead of Labour Day weekend. Sorry! You should still check out St-Laurent Blvd., though.

                                      http://www.boulevardsaintlaurent.com/...

                                      1. re: kpzoo

                                        Dang! Good thing you mentioned this! I would have missed it. Kpzoo, do you know if there will be another Mont Royal Street festival as well?

                                        1. re: moh

                                          Hiya, I found this site devoted to ave. Mont-Royal:

                                          http://www.mont-royal.net/

                                          Looks like there are a few events coming up, including an arts festival called Paysages Éphémères (27-31 Aug.) but I'm not sure if I see any "street" festivals per se; the calendar feature isn't very helpful. Check it out and see what you think!

                                      2. re: pastoralia

                                        Pastoralia, sorry to get your hopes up about the street festival, St. Laurent is fun even without the festival.

                                        You would be ok at Club Chasse et Peche with a nice shirt and jeans and nice foot wear. Montreal is a chic town, you gotta look sharp, but we are also more casual in a chic kind of way.