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Aug 27, 2009 12:17 PM

Montreal restos - Please help me with my list

I need help. I'm spending a Wednesday night - Sunday noon vacation in Montreal and am having a really hard time choosing between restaurants. As usual, there are not enough meals to fit everything in. Here are my notes so far:

1. The Sparrow/Reservoir/Cluny ArtBar/Olive et Gourmando/Titanic
2. The Sparrow/Reservoir/Cluny ArtBar/Olive et Gourmando/Titanic
3. The Sparrow/Reservoir/Cluny ArtBar/Olive et Gourmando/Titanic
4. Saturday – JTM & picnic (I’ve read a lot of great things about the chicken at Romados)
5. Sunday – I need to be at the airport at 10:45. Le Cartet opens at 9. Can I eat there in an hour? I know their service is notoriously slow. Otherwise, I will probably choose between Byblos or Toi Moi et Café, but as of now I’ve heard more people comment on the Byblos breakfast.

1. Au Pied de Cochon
2. Schwartz
3. La Banquise (I hate to spend a dinner on La Banquise just to eat a poutine there, but the meal will be so heavy it doesn’t seem possible to make it a stop on the way to dinner.)
4. Le P’tit Plateau

I am having a lot of trouble choosing where to go for lunch. My favorite types of lunch places are more homey and casual and I also like areas that have a great aesthetic appeal. Anyway, I need help with what kind of vibe these restos have, what kind of food they serve, and if any of them are light enough to squeeze in a breakfast beforehand. I have been through the message boards and there are a lot of great comments that I’ve read, but I just can’t decide.

Also feel free to comment on the rest of the list. I had to cut out a lot of other great places (Le Club Chasse et Peche, Au Cinquieme Peche, L’Express, Lemeac, McKiernan’s) so tell me if I did the right thing with this list. FYI, if so many people hadn’t said that Schwartz’s and ________ (fill in your favorite place to get poutine here) weren’t essentials, I probably would have cut them out as well. My taste leans towards places that are not so hole-in-the-wallish and -referring to Schwartz's- not so meat centric. (I am not a vegetarian, I just normally don’t care about a meal that’s so completely centered around meat.)

To note, I have never been to Canada and don’t live in an area that has a lot of French food so I tried to fit in a lot of local cuisine and local specialties that will be unique to the area, especially for dinnertime. Mind you, the list above does not cover bagels, bakeries, and bars, many of which I hope to also be able to squeeze in.

Thank you in advance!

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  1. Cluny and Titanic are very similar (same owners and approach to food). I would drop Cluny and try the original. I prefer Titanic for both the food and the setting.

    1. If you have a small poutine at Banquise, you could count that as a lunch, and choose another place for dinner instead. Same with Schwartz. All of the lunch places you've chosen are pretty casual, laid-back places. But you're cutting out a lot of great dinner places. McKiernan's is good for lunch, too - perhaps you might consider that. While I love O&G, Titanic, and Sparrow, would I make a special trip to any of them for lunch if I was from out of town? Not sure - maybe just one of the three, depending on what area of town you'll be in.
      And be warned that traffic to the airport is horrendous these days - it might not be too bad on a Sunday morning, but with all the construction going on, you probably don't want to cut it too close. Unless you really want a heavy meal, perhaps you could consider picking up some goodies when you're at JTM, and having those Sunday morning, grabbing a coffee at a nearby cafe (or even the airport), instead of heading out for breakfast (not sure if Byblos is even open that early on a Sunday?) There is also a fairly decent sandwich/snack bar at the airport - MB&Co - that has a good variety of pastries and coffee, so you could always breakfast there (it's not too bad, price-wise, and the food is far beyond what you'd expect at an airport).

      1. I don't think I'd make poutine a dinner but, yes, you do have to try it at some point. Do you ever get late night cravings or do you plan to be drinking late? La Banquise is open 24 hrs (or nearly so) and makes a great stop on the way home from the bar. If worse comes to worse, you could always go somewhere like Frits Alors or La Belle Province where you could get an almost-as-good but smaller-sized portion of poutine (no fancy toppings, though) as a snack.

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodinspace

          I agree with the others. I wouldn't go to Schwartz for dinner and frankly if you don't like meat-centric meals, you could skip it altogether or grab a sandwich to go for your picnic plans.

          If you have the poutine foie gras at APDC you probably don't need to worry about having poutine again at La Banquise .. again, like Schwartz, La Banquise can be more of a snack/lunch. Le Petit Plateau is really nice. I really like Reservoir and Cluny Artbar, although perhaps the location of Cluny Artbar isn't as handy as others.

          The chicken at Romados is nice but it is perhaps more fun to have Portugese chicken at Chez Doval and sit comfortably and have a casual evening there. Still, there are a lot of great restaurants serving good French food so you might want to add in at least one of those. Another idea is to try some good Vietnamese food, something you also might not get a lot of in Italy (I'm assuming Italy from your username). Pho Tay Ho is a good one not too far from JTM.

        2. Italyvespa, are you on your own or travelling with companions? If you are on your own, you may need to selectively not finish some of your meals, as your list looks pretty packed, and full of some heavy meals.

          The Sparrow: casual but hip vibe. The Sparrow is a pub without alcohol, it looks and feels like a pub but everyone is sober (well maybe). The food is excellent, almost everything is made in house from scratch (they do source their blood sausage from outside). Upscale pub offerings, like the fashionable "gastro-pubs" in England, very Anglo (in the European sense, not the Quebecois sense).I find the food rich and filling, when i eat at the Sparrow, I don't have to eat a lot the rest of the day. So if you go, and you have a big day of eating, either plan to walk a lot (or jog) to get you ready for your next meal, or choose lightly and carefully, or eat only a portion of your food. I love their food though.

          Reservoir: also casual but hip vibe, the atmosphere/setting is very similar to The Sparrow. I'd say exactly the same things about Reservoir that I say about Sparrow, except that the food is based on French culinary traditions than English culinary traditions. I also love their food.

          Cluny Art Bar: Again, casual but hip vibe. Feels a bit more like a cafeteria (and indeed food is served cafeteria-style, you get a tray and go through a line and pick what you want). Very nice sandwiches, lovely grilled vegetable plate, and I love their chocolate pot de creme. Very casual, and I love the room. Food is very good. Maybe not a place that I would make a specific trip for, but if I am in Old Montreal, I'd make a stop for sure.

          Olive et Gourmando: (say it with me) casual but hip vibe. Great sandwiches. I'm not as big a fan of their baked goods, but I may be the sole dissenter. Wait - i really like their brownie (but the problem is, I make a really great brownie, so I am not as excited about purchasing their very delicious but pricy brownie. If you don't make your own, then yes, it is worth purchasing, they are very very rich and delicious). Extremely busy and popular, expect a wait if you go during rush hours.

          Can't comment on Titanic.

          I don't think I would go to both Olive and Gourmando and Cluny, in my mind, there is a lot of similarity there. I'd choose one or the other, and put something else into the lunch slot, perhaps move Schwartzes or the poutine stop in there?

          Re: Sparrow and Reservoir, again, their vibes are very similar. But since one focuses on English pub-style food, and the other is more French, it would still be worth making a trip to both.

          Absolutely do Jean-Talon Market. Make sure you stop at the Marche de Saveurs, it features many unique Quebecois products. And if you like cheese, make sure you try some of the local cheeses, they are wonderful. Get the advice of the cheesemongers, and try to also find some raw-milk cheeses, which are hard to find in most North American cities. And seriously consider lunch at Petit Alep, near the market, if you like Middle Eastern food. This place is a real gem, very unique, the quality of the spices and food is outstanding. Very special.

          I eat fairly regularly at Toi Moi et Cafe. I'd skip it if I were you. It's been a little 'meh' lately. Fairly standard breakfast offerings. I like it well enough, it is a fun local neighbourhood bunch place, but it isn't someplace that I would tell a visitor to go to.

          Byblos, I really like Byblos, delicious offerings, very reasonably priced.

          Re: Sunday Am: I would agree with Cherylmtl, traffic has been frustratingly bad these days. Eat goodies saved up from Jean-Talon or various bakeries.

          Au Pied du Cochon, P'tit Plateau: Both keepers! APDC is a Quebecois original, extremely unique. The food is not light, expect to be very very full. P'tit Plateau is a classic local bring your own wine French neighbourhood restaurant, very homey, very comfortable, wonderful food. Don't forget to bring some wine. Love these two places.

          Schwartzes: I love this place, and there is no question it is a Montreal classic. But I am concerned about your meat-centric comment. Schwartzes is all about the smoked meat. If you like pastrami and corn beef, then you will like Schwartzes. But a meal there is a major appetite killer, it is very heavy food. Gotta do the fries, gotta do the big deli pickle! I usually share a sandwich, an order of fries and the pickle with my partner, and I am very full after. So doing the whole thing on your own, especially given the rest of the itinerary, well, I suggest you plan on not finishing the whole meal. I wouldn't devote an entire supper to it, I would maybe make it a brunch (because it can replace two meals easily), and plan to walk it off, Olympic stadium and back.

          I agree with making the poutine stop a late night snack stop, again understanding that you might not finish the whole thing. I wouldn't make a whole supper of it. For one thing, if you hate it, then you've wasted a supper slot. The rest of the offerings at La Banquise are your standard burgers, hot dogs, etc, but frankly, I have not really found anything on the menu worth ordering except for the various poutines. Banquise is open all the time, it is a great late night stop after bar hopping, and I'd argue, you get more of its vibe later on at night. So take it of the supper list, put something else in instead, and sample the poutine late at night, or any time you want. They are always open... Put in one of the other places instead. I would lean towards Club Chasse et Peche and Au Cinqiueme Peche myself, followed by your other suggestions. Both of these places are a little more formal than the other places you are going to, but not excessively so.

          Don't forget the bakeries! I love the bakeries here. My personal favorite croissant place is Fous Dessert, they have lovely pastries and tarts and cakes and chocolates.

          Gotta do the bagel too.

          Have a nice trip!

          1 Reply
          1. re: moh

            "The Sparrow is a pub without alcohol, it looks and feels like a pub but everyone is sober (well maybe)"

            Not in the kitchen (not in any kitchen), I can assure you.

            "plan to walk it off, Olympic stadium and back." (from Schwartz's!)

            That's a good 2 to 2 1/2 hour round trip! A desolate one past Iberville at that. Up St-Laurent a-ways or to Parc Lafontaine will do.

          2. Such great comments from everyone so far – very helpful. This really sheds light on the list. Also, let me thank you for reading my long posts. I originally considered trying to break my questions up into multiple posts, but I just didn’t think it would work.

            Good to know about traffic to the airport. I won’t push it. I did notice that Caffe ArtJava is close to where I’ll be staying in the downtown area (a fifteen minute walk) and they open at 7am on Sunday morning. That might be an option if there’s no food leftover on Sunday – unless someone tells me that they’re a bad choice.

            Plateaumaman, although I love Vietnamese food, I’m okay passing on it for this trip. The meals are such precious few in quantity that I’m already agonizing over the many places that I can’t eat at (some named above, but so many others that I didn’t bother listing.)

            I’m really glad to get confirmation that I don’t have to make a poutine a dinner. Didn’t want to do that, but didn’t see how to get around it. I guess I just have to make sure that Schwartz’s, La Banquise, and Au Pied de Cochon are spaced out so I don’t explode.

            And though I do really like the casual but hip vibe, I agree with choosing between some of the places picked instead of trying to squeeze them all in. It helped to hear that the lunch options were redundant. I wasn’t able to decipher this on my own.

            A side note . . . I have tried to narrow the lunch down to just one from the list above to open up a spot for something else. But here’s where my guilty pleasure comes out: the kind of food these types of places serve would probably be the choice for the last meal I ever ate. I revere good, gourmet sandwiches marrying quality ingredients in just the right order and proportions. It’s not a talent that not everyone posses. I also think creativity with the menu items and made-from-scratch baked goods ranks just as high. And I don’t take any of this for granted. I taste it and savor it in every bite. But too many of these types of restaurants waters down the experience and limits the scope of other types of food experiences that I can enjoy. So I’ve been looking at websites for menus (translating when necessary), perusing Flickr and Googling for food photos and trying to make the hard decision of what to cut. I think I’ve finally decided to cut The Sparrow off my list (heartbreaking) and the only reason was that there was no website, no menu, and hardly any photos convincing me of the incredible food that I’m sure they offer. (Take notes, owners. You’ve been open for at least half a year now.) But now I have to choose between the other four and it’s still an agonizing decision. I guess this is a true sign that you’re really a food lover.

            I will be traveling with someone else and this other person is interesting in free Wi-Fi locations around the city. I haven’t come across too many places that offer this, yet ironically Cluny ArtBar and Titanic both do. Cluny ArtBar opens at 8:30am and Titanic opens at 7:30am so this will probably mean that I’ll try and squeeze them into a breakfast time so I at least get the experience of being there, even if I don’t eat lunch there. Or it will mean that I’m so persuaded by the breakfast and atmosphere that I make sure I eat lunch there. Repeating a food stop on a vacation hardly ever happens with me, but it has happened once before so I won’t say it’s impossible. Anyway, this leaves Reservoir and Olive et Gourmando. And both look perfect. It will be a hard choice and it might just come down to whichever one has a more convenient location for the other plans of the day.

            Sad news (incredibly sad) on the food front: I just realized my plane actually doesn’t get into Montreal until after 5 on Wednesday, so that actually cut one of my lunches out.

            Oh, and to moh – oh no, you better believe I’m not forgetting the bakeries! Or the bagels, for that matter. Can’t wait, can’t wait.

            Okay, so revised lineup to date of main meals:

            1. Cluny ArtBar
            2. Titanic
            3. Saturday – no breakfast; all JTM
            4. Sunday – Caffe ArtJava?

            1. Reservoir/Olive et Gourmando – please persude me towards one of these two places*
            2. Schwartz**
            3. Saturday – JTM & picnic (I’ve read a lot of great things about the chicken at Romados)

            1. Au Pied de Cochon
            2. Club Chasse et Peche/Au Cinqiueme Peche/L’Express/Lemeac/McKiernan’s – how to choose?*
            3. Club Chasse et Peche/Au Cinqiueme Peche/L’Express/Lemeac/McKiernan’s – how to choose?*
            4. Le P’tit Plateau

            LATE NIGHT
            1. La Banquise

            **I’ve heard great things about the Au Cinqiueme Peche lunch special. Should I consider switching it to lunch and switching Schwartz’s to dinner? Or will I be robbing myself of an incredible nighttime experience in lieu of the cheaper meal?

            5 Replies
            1. re: italyvespa

              Reading your preference for delish sandwiches I would say you can't skip Olive & Gourmondo (my favorite is the chicken on the most amazing bread ever). I really prefer it over Titanic and Cluny.
              Also you should reconsider putting McKiernan's back on your list for lunch. All their sandwiches are amazing. Although, their dinners are also great. Fresh local ingredients in a cozy atmosphere and they even grow alot of their produce in the back garden!
              Enjoy your trip..

              1. re: italyvespa

                «I’ve heard great things about the Au Cinqiueme Peche lunch special. Should I consider switching it to lunch and switching Schwartz’s to dinner?»

                What makes lunch special at Au Cinquième Péché is bang for the buck. But to get a real sense of what makes the restaurant special, go for dinner.

                Some people do Schwartz's for dinner but most rightly think of it as a sandwich place.

                I'd also echo moh's recco of Le Petit Alep and its big sister resto Alep. Middle Eastern is one of the non-French cuisines that Montreal does best and these two places are among the very best of their type in Montreal. They'd also be a welcome break from all the heavy/rich/fatty/meat-centric food you've got lined up.

                1. re: italyvespa

                  How far are you from Caffe Art Java? If you are on the west side (closer to Concordia/Guy metro) then consider going to Cafe Myriade on Mackay instead.

                  1. re: marblebag

                    My own opinion would be to skip Olive et Gourmando (nb closed sundays) and Lemeac, although i have been to both several times and food fine, I think your other choices will be more memorable and you cant do it all as you'll just remember Montreal as a kitchen! I used to come to Montreal for the French cuisine so well done and at affordable prices so thats what I would recommend--French style meals, French pastry stores, French chocolate boutiques etc and add in bagels for good measure Smoked meats and frits/fries nor poutine never appealed to me and other members of my family so i would never recommend them for visitors to Montreal. None of your places are terraces ie patios and Montreal dining in summer is all about dining al fresco, especially at night but anytime of day terraces are popular... I myself if a tourist would prefer for a pleasant summery breakfast experience le jardin(garden patio) de nelson in main square of Old Montreal, the terrace/patio in back not terrace out front as they have brunch with a music, basics of a breakfast and crepes are fine, lots of people and greenery to look at-- you will enjoy the locale and can walk around the waterfront, take in some of the street performers (they have acrobats on a sailboat out in harbour etc), even go for a caleche ride or boat ride, afterall you are on holiday! I like the other choices you have made, I passed by Reservoir earlier this evening and seemed to have a nice ambience, next on my list of places to try! Reservoir and Jardin de Nelson are a couple of blocks from each other and Olive and Gourmando is on Western fringe of Old Montreal about a 15-20 minute walk from central part of Old Montreal. Chasse et peche is near first two. I have had breakfast at byblos once, liked it for variety but that was it probably would not bother to go back, a little out of the way so think you should try to choose places easy to get to and there are such a great array of choices dont worry about finding the perfect place because they are all good, just enjoy and keep the list to come back again, because montreal has that effect beckons you back!

                  2. re: italyvespa

                    I'd skip L'Express. I'd probably also skip Lemeac (haven't been that happy with it lately). Chasse et Peche and Cinquieme Peche would probably end up being my two choices - another option would be Joe Beef (same owner as McKiernan's).

                    From what you describe as wanting for lunch, definitely Olive & Gourmando (although I do love Titanic, but if you're there for breakfast, then stick with O&G). Schwartz's is definitely not a place I'd waste a dinner on, but certainly would keep it for lunch.