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Mar 17, 2010 02:45 PM

One full day in Montreal! What does a tourist do?

So my girlfriend and I will be in Montreal from a Friday night to a Sunday morning in the middle of April. I'd love some suggestions. Because of our short visit, we will likely spend our time in the city, as trips to the countryside would take a bite out of our precious time.

The most important thing for me is to find stuff that defines the region, and stuff you really can't get anywhere else, or with great difficulty, in my home of New York City. Where's the best poutine? What's the deal with this "sugar shack" food, and can you get it in the city? What international cuisines are fantastic in Montreal (I've heard Indian and various Chinese)? Is it worth it to get a Montreal bagel (my hometown has some pretty good bagels), and if so, where do I want to get them? Help us immerse ourselves in Quebecois life for two nights and a day.

I should also mention that our tastes -- and budgets -- favor interesting holes-in-walls, and not fine dining, though I might shell out a bit for a really cool experience.

Oh, and any suggestions on what part of town to look for a hotel in... that'd be appreciated.


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  1. This a classic thread that covers many of your questions:

    Quintessential Montreal?

    There are also these good ones:

    Montreal Locals - What do you consider the best small hole in the wall resto?

    Hidden gems around Guy/Concordia

    I personally recommend:

    smoked meat - Schwartz's -
    poutine - La Banquise -
    bagel - St. Viateur or Fairmount, or poppy at one and sesame at the other and have a contest with yourself -
    brunch - The Sparrow -

    Jean-Talon market -

    If you're from New York, I'd probably skip Montreal's Chinese & Indian.

    For traditional Québécois home-style cooking, you might want to check out Ma'am Bolduc for tourtiere, sugar pie and the like. (They also have poutine, but that's a lot of fries in one weekend if you also want to hit up Schwartz's & La Banquise!) There's also La Binerie Mont-Royal for hearty all-day Québécois-style breakfast:

    You won't get a traditional sugar shack experience in the city, though someone posted something recently about an urban cabane à sucre that may or may not be worthwhile. I'll try to find a link for you.

    EDIT: Here's the thread about the urban cabane à sucre. I don't know if any local hounds have been, or if you'll be here when it's still open.

    Have a fabulous trip!

    p.s. hotels are OT here, but if you're scouting out the places you want to eat, just look for a place near that area, or get Tourisme Quebec to help you out with accommodations.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kpzoo

      Thanks, kpzoo... that was just what I was looking for. And thanks for those other links. I am a new chowhound, so I guess I didn't search through the archives properly. Sorry if this whole post constitutes bad ettiquette!

      I will definitely map out all these great places and figure out a hotel within a distance where I can crawl back after finishing my meal(s).

      1. re: montyque

        > I am a new chowhound, so I guess I didn't search through the archives properly. Sorry if this whole post constitutes bad ettiquette!

        No, not at all! It's just that us locals remember the really great, comprehensive threads - they can be hard to find using the search tool if you don't know what search terms to use.

        Montreal is pretty compact relative to NYC, and we have a great public transit system, so you should be fine getting around if you stick to the core areas of the city for your hotel. (i.e. Old Mtl, downtown)

        If you need any further help don't hesitate to post again!

    2. If money is any sort of issue, I'd use Priceline to get a good deal on a 4 star, then money you've saved on food (and taxis if some of the restaurants are further afield). All the 4 star hotels in Mtl that are available through Priceline are in convenient locations. In the past, I've been able to get the Sheraton Centre and the Omni on Sherbrooke for $72 USD or less/night, which is less than most centrally located 3 star hotels are charging.

      If you'd like to splurge on your hotel, the Sofitel is a great centrally located hotel, and the breakfasts at Renoir (the restaurant on the main floor) are amazing. I've enjoyed several dinners at Renoir, as well (esp. the desserts, where you get to choose 3 of a selection of about 10 different miniature desserts), and have always found the food to be very high quality and interesting, although I probably wouldn't recommend eating dinner there if you only have 2 nights in Montreal. That being said, Renoir is one of my top 5 restaurants to eat in Montreal.

      I brought some American relatives to Mtl for a visit last summer. In addition to the poutine, smoked meat & bagels, we included a dinner at Au Pied de Cochon.

      The bagels in Mtl are nothing like the bagels in NYC, so I'd definitely give at least one a try.

      re: international food that's done well in Mtl
      Ferreira on Peel serves great Portuguese style seafood, as well as other Portuguese dishes, and has an a good Port selection, including some Ports the owner imports directly from Portugual. Their warm pasteis de nata (custard tarts) are delicious. I'm not aware of any Portuguese restaurants of the same calibre in NYC.

      11 Replies
      1. re: phoenikia

        Thanks everyone for your help... Anna and I have everything planned out, and our experience will definitely be flavored by your responses. I'll let you know how it turns out next month.

        1. re: montyque

          This thread hits the quintessentials for anyone having only one day to sample the city's signature gnoshes. I don't wish to complicate matters, but where you choose to partake of some of these offerings might depend on what else you want to do and see in Montreal. (Shopping? History tourism? Enjoying the relaxed street life?) You'll only have time to experience a few neighborhoods Those of us on the boards might be able to advise you as to whether your total itinerary is realistic, and make suggestions to help you accommodate.

          1. re: Damfino

            Appreciate it, Damfino. I think we're in a really good place now -- I have a tight itinerary that leaves just enough time for napping/lying in the park in food coma. We're staying downtown, close to the Station Berri hub, and I think we're okay with being in the Plateau most of the time, although we're blocking out a nice chunk of time to see the Old City. No shopping for us, really... we're in it for the food, drink, and atmosphere.

            I'm pretty confident I can fit in Pied du Cochon, smoked meats, bagels and lots of good Quebecois fare. I can't wait to give a rundown of my trip and see what you all think.

            One thing I don't have quite ironed out... I thought this could be my one area of spontaneity, but what the hell... any suggestions about a cool bar somewhere between Stations Mont-Royal and Sherbrooke? Our tastes run toward the dive-y, definitely away from dancing. Anything within spitting distance of Resto Banquise is great... that will be our last stop.

            1. re: montyque

              Hey if your looking for a cheap way to move around the city, the public transport system in montreal ain't bad at all, and they offer special tariff for tourist, 14$ for 3 days, 7$ per day, for unlimited transit.


              1. re: vanierstudent

                That's great to know - thanks! I was planning on using the Orange line like crazy to get back and forth from Downtown and the Plateau. This will help.

              2. re: montyque

                There is a cool bar right next to La Banquise, if I'm not mistaken, but I can't recall the name - perhaps someone else can chime in.

                1. re: cherylmtl

                  That would be la Quincaillerie, indeed a nice little bar, great selection of cocktails, and they let you come in with a banquise poutine if you want to, a nice way to combine both!

                  1. re: westaust

                    Ha, sounds like our winner for the evening.

                    1. re: montyque

                      Here's their site:

                      FYI Quincaillerie means "hardware store" in French!

                  2. re: montyque

                    My hangout is a place called Else's, on Roy, 3 blocks east of St. Laurent and about 2 blocks south of Swartz's smoked meat. It's a bright blue corner building with a clientele of quirky local regulars, generally anglophone. A great relaxed atmosphere. And, again, about a five minute walk from Swartz's, and not too far from the recommend La Banquise poutine emporium.

            2. Thanks, everyone, for the advice! Anna and I don't regret a single excursion. It was truly a fantastic 42 hours in your fair city. Here's how the food rundown went:

              Friday night: Au Pied de Cochon - Oreilles de crisse, foie gras cromesquis, PDC melting pot, foie gras tart (recall there are two of us, of course)

              Saturday morning: Stroll around Marché Jean Talon, eating savory crepes and strawberries coated in maple syrup

              Saturday lunch: Schwartz's - Smoked meat sandwiches, frankfurter, cole slaw, black cherry soda

              Saturday dinner: Ma-am Bolduc - Poutine with bacon & onion, Pate Chinois, sugar pie

              Sunday (this) morning: St. Viateur bagels - A whole bunch of sesame bagels, along with a tub of "Liberté cream cheese product with active cultures."

              All delicious. Thanks again.