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Mar 29, 2011 09:11 AM

favorite vegetarian food in mtl

first I need to say THANK YOU chowhound quebec!! I moved here in December and this forum has been incredibly helpful and useful on so many levels. It is the first place I look for advice.

I noticed that there are a bunch of vegetarian threads, but I want to pull it all together and make one thread for everyone's favorites... instead of hunting through food-specific threads to find mentions of vegetarian food at certain restaurants. I hope you will all contribute.

One thing that I find surprising about Montreal is that vegetarian choices in restaurants are few and far between. Does everyone really eat meat as the focus of every single meal?! I am also surprised that the saq stores do not carry any french liqueurs (st germain, benedictine, etc). And not surprised that frites alors fries are fried in animal fat - that seems to be the rule not the exception in Montreal.

Alas - Here are some of my favorites from the last few months:

1) Ba Le
this place is only open during the week until 7pm and not at all on sat or sunday, so it made it difficult to try... but it is worth getting there. It is the best vietnamese vegetarian food I've had in Montreal. The owner is actually vegetarian. This means you can be assured that your pho broth is animal free. They also have fantastic veg spring rolls and tofu lemongrass - she will even make you a vegetarian bun! It's fresh and fast and extremely affordable.

2) Bottega
Ok - I know this will cause some debate and maybe discredit me in your eyes as I've been following the pizza threads - but i really like Bottega. The pizza is pretty close to vera napoli style and it's not terribly expensive. Their margarita is pretty stellar and that's usually what I order. Sure it's loud, doesn't have the best atmosphere and you really need a reservation, but the pizza is really that good.

3) Lawrence
Granted, this restaurant is not particularly interested in vegetarians... but they do occasionally have something meat free and delicious on the menu. I'd rather have one amazing choice than 12 terrible ones (sorry fans of aux vivres). Watch their twitter, try it out when there is a veg option.

4) Chu Chai
It took me a while to warm up to this place. For what it is, it is a bit on the expensive side... and I'm not a huge fan of fake meat. However, their noodles are pretty great (and actually spicy!). After going deep into their menu, I've settled on a few dishes that I think they do really well. The appetizer TAO‐HU 
DAN is wonderful - the sauce du chef is really flavorful. The choo chi curry tofu is one of my favorites. This is a lukewarm recommendation, after a lot of trial and error I have found some things on the menu I really like.

5) Crudessence
I will admit that this place pleasantly surprised me. I thought I was going to hate it - we only ate here because we were starving and found out the hard way that Ba Le is closed on saturdays! However, I am a fan of vege pate - and most of the things we ordered seemed to run along these lines. It was delicious and fresh and I loved it.

6) tasting menus
this seems to be a big topic on chow hound. i read over the threads to try to decide where to take him. Cinquieme Peche seemed to be big at the top of people's lists... but they weren't friendly on the phone - they only have one veg choice and we were looking for something a little more elaborate - that said, I would like to try this place sometime.
So I moved on to thinking about Montee de Lait and DNA. Both restaurants were extremely friendly about doing a veg tasting menu with a reservation. We ended up selecting Montee de Lait due to its proximity to our plans post dinner.

They had 2 vegetarian appetizers - both of them were stellar. Interesting, complex flavors - we loved both of the options. Then for the main course, they opted to take a lot of the veg platings from their other dishes and combine them into one plate for us. This seems to be what most restaurants in France do for vegetarians, and I've had some fantastic meals this way so we went for it. It fell really flat however - we lovingly dubbed this course the mayonaise course. We did the cheese course for 2 and then dessert. They only had 6 choices of cheese - all from Quebec. I was surprised about this, I thought I read on here that they had an extensive cheese selection. Desert was pretty standard but it was good.

We had excellent service and fantastic wine. If I go again, I would skip the main entree all together and split a desert.

I hope this thread is helpful to someone and I can't wait to hear about other peoples favorites... particularly restaurants that aren't specifically vegetarian but do offer interesting choices.

65 Rue Saint-Zotique E, Montreal, QC H2S1K7, CA

Chu Chai
4088 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC H2W2M5, CA

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  1. It bears repeating over and over that Quebec food culture does not stem from any kind of vegetarian tradition. Ours are peasant roots growing in a northern climate, overlaid with French cookery. Neither are vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination.

    Vegetarian cookery remains for the most part a cultural import. If anything, being vegetarian was a form of punishment / abstinence for the Catholics, ie Not To Be Enjoyed.

    I like eating vegetarian myself, but I get weird looks from my family, as educated as they are, when I try to go full veggie on occasion. It's just NOT part of our culture.

    Snowpea (aka Yet Another Pure Laine)

    PS However, thanks for starting that thread, because it IS a question that comes up often on the Mtl Board.

    1. As someone who eats a lot of vegetarian food, here's a place of places I like in the city (much of it a repeat of what I wrote in another post):

      1. La Banquise on rue Rachel east (just east of St. Denis in the Plateau) for 24 hour poutine, including vegetarian poutine. Warning: Late-night line ups!

      2. Patati Patata for *super* cheap eats and veg-friendly dishes. Poutine gravy is made of chicken broth, however. Warning: Super small space.
      4177 Saint Laurent Blvd. at Rachel, in the Plateau.

      3. Olive et Gourmado for brunch in Old Montreal, 351 rue Saint Paul west. Amazing pastries, sandwiches, coffee. Moderately priced, unpretentious and very cute, veg-friendly.

      4. La Paryse in Latin Quarter (just south of Plateau) at 302 rue Ontario east, just west of St. Denis for burgers and fries. The best burgers in Montreal, including 3-4 types of veg burgers and milk shakes.

      5. Le Cartet for brunch in Old Montreal, 106 rue McGill (NOT the same as rue McGill College, which is downtown). Moderately price, much bigger space than Olive et Gourmado, and you'll have more chance of getting a seat right away.

      6. Aux Vivres in Mile End/Plateau border: My favourite vegetarian restaurant that I have ever been to.

      7. If you want to splurge a bit, P'tit Plateau (330 Marie-Anne, east of St. Denis) in the Plateau is great for French/Quebecois fare. Costs are minimized since this is a BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine).

      8. Agree with Au Cinquieme Peche in the Plateau: They always seem to have veg options and the French/Quebecois dishes are fantastic.

      9. Vasco de Gama (downtown): Great sandwiches, and coffee, cute cafe. A bit pricey for what it is, however.

      10. La Chilenta (Plateau): Empanadas, burritos, sandwiches are available vegetarian. Cheap, cute, friendly, yummy.

      11. Kaza Maza (Mile End): Syrian foods, plenty of veg options. Some grumblings on Chowhound regarding the uneven service, however.

      12. Gandhi (Old Port): Indian food in an upscale setting. It's the best Indian food I've had in the city, though it should be noted that I have not ventured to eat Indian in Parc-Ex yet where the Indian restos are supposedly very cheap and great quality. I find Indian food generally lacking in this city, however.

      13. Tri-Express (Plateau): Sushi and Japanese food in Laurier Village. Love their vegetarian tartare. Reservations recommended (place is super small), cash only.

      14. Petit Alep (Marche Jean Talon): Syrian foods as well, bigger than Kaza Maza but they do not take reservations so expect line-ups.

      15. Burritoville (downtown): An ethically-minded resto serving huge burritos with very interesting fillings.

      16. Atti (downtown): Korean restaurant steps from McGill University. Fancier than the smaller and more casual Korean restaurants in the city and though, in my opinion, it's not amazing at Korean food, I find it one of the better Korean restaurants in the city. Lots of vegetarian items available.

      17. Kam Fung (Chinatown): Dim sum includes vegetarian options. Their regular menu includes lots of vegetarian options too. One of the better Chinese restaurants in the city, though it's fancier than the ones in the Concordia Ghetto.

      18. Qing Hua Dumplings (Concordia Ghetto): Dumplings that are steamed, fried, or in soup. I think there are at least two vegetarian options, if not three. Really good, really filling.

      19. Le Bleu Nil (Plateau): Ethiopian food, a bit fancier setting than places you find out of the city's core. Some Chowhounders seem to not like this place, but I really like it. For me, it's about spicing of the dishes and the texture of the bread; sometimes I find some Ethiopian restos make the injera a bit weird in texture for me.

      Vegetarian places that I am not too fond of include:
      1. Le Commensal (various locations): I can't believe how expensive it is to eat there, and their food is just bland and not very tasty.
      2. Lola Rosa (McGill Ghetto): Other than their nachos, I don't find their food that great. OK, but not great.
      3. Le Crudessence (plateau): I find that I need to be in the mood to eat raw, and usually I'm not. It's super filling and the tastes are something to be acquired, in my opinion, and not to mention really pricey. But some of their foods are indeed tasty, though not quite my thing for most of the time.

      And I agree with The Snowpea that eating vegetarian is definitely not part of the Quebecois culture. I'm originally from Toronto where vegetarianism is normal and it's rare to find a restaurant that doesn't have at least one veg food option, but here the opposite is true--if you want to eat vegetarian, you have to double check the menu so you don't end up eating iceberg salad or bread rolls.

      Although I am not strictly vegetarian, I would say that I eat mostly vegetarian but love my fries from Frites Alors (made with animal grease; burgers are great there too), love buttery croissants, make a great steak for my family (not a fan of eating steak though, sorry), and will consume ethically derived non-vegetarian items such as farmed oysters. However, eating is a pleasure, and without venturing to much into vegetarian and meat-eating philosophy here, I try to balance my values without compromising the traditional and social aspects of food--including those foods that aren't vegetarian--and without demonizing any food group. I would love to see a restaurant here in Montreal that runs along those lines, perhaps one that has both meat and vegetarian options with ethical and environmental aspects in mind, but still one that of course at the end creates tasty dishes. In the meantime, the above-mentioned restaurants are great if you are vegetarian-minded. But if you're vegan, your options are strictly limited in this city.

      5 Replies
      1. re: looosia

        There is a new vegetarian restaurant that opened up this week on Rachel near St-Denis, called, I think, Su Shian Yuang, with an intriguing menu that includes a wide variety of dishes that appear to be a mix of Chinese Korean and Vietnamese. Oh, I see a Twitter post that says it is Taiwanese vegetarian. But perhaps someone will have a chance to go soon and report back for us? They have a vegetarian hotpot and bimbibop on the menu, that much I did note.

        1. re: looosia

          As The Snowpea says, vegetarianism is not part of our local culture, but Looosia that is a great list! In general, I've found that there are a lot of vegan / vegetarian options at Indian and Chinese restaurants due to these cultures' Buddhist traditions in many parts of their countries.

          1. re: looosia

            CORRECTION: For number 7, I incorrectly stated P'tit Plateau when I meant Les Héritiers, also a BYOW in the Plateau. Excuse me for any confusion!

            Also to add to my list:

            20. La Salle à Manger (Plateau): As bananamtl stated, they do have one main usually available that is vegetarian.

            21. Buvette Chez Simone (Mile End): My favourite wine bar, also serves a few selection of vegetarian tapas in addition to the charcuteries to nibble/dine on.

            22. Green Panther (Mile End): Never been, but know the menu is vegetarian and I hear good stuff about the place.

            23. Café Santropol (Plateau): Huge sandwiches, but I really go there for the value factor (price/portion ratio) than to be wowed by the food.

            24. Chez José (Plateau): Cute, funky café with vegetarian options in a small and casual setting with wallet-friendly prices. Great brunch as well.

            25. Casa Tapas (Plateau): Only been there once but they do have some vegetarian options available, unlike the other Spanish tapas places in the city.

            26. Khyber Pass (Plateau): The Afghan resto is a BYOW that serves vegetarian options. It was more of a novetly factor for me to go there as I never had Afghan food, which was still yummy though I wouldn't say mind-blowing. Big portions.

            27. Philino's (Mile End): Mid-priced Greek place in a nice setting.

            Casa Tapas
            266 Rue Rachel E, Montreal, QC H2W1E6, CA

            Khyber Pass Restaurant
            506 Av Duluth E, Montreal, QC H2L1A7, CA

            Philinos Restaurant Bar
            4806 Av Du Parc, Montreal, QC H2V4E6, CA

            3990 Rue Saint Urbain, Montreal, QC H2W 1T8, CA

            Green Panther
            66 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest, Montreal, QC H2T 2K9, CA

            1. re: looosia

              Khyber Pass also has a branch in Laval, Restaurant Khyber Pass (Afghan Cuisine) 1694, boulevard Saint-Martin Ouest, Laval, (Québec) Phone : (450) 688-5907

              It is also BYOW. Useful to know for people living or working in that area.

              Khyber Pass
              1694 Boul Saint-Martin W, Laval, QC H7S1M9, CA

              1. re: lagatta

                Khyber Pass has changed names to Le Cavalier Afghan. I don't know if it's still affiliated with the one on Duluth.


                Khyber Pass Restaurant
                506 Av Duluth E, Montreal, QC H2L1A7, CA

          2. Vegetarian and Persian:
            1) Byblos has plenty of tasty vegetarian options
            2) For a more (very!) casual setting and cheap prices, Kolbeh Amu Jamal on Sherbrooke (across from Akhavan) has 4 or so vegetarian options.

            1. imtardy, thanks to you for your list. One very vegetarian-friendly and mostly vegetarian place you will want to check out is Tribu-Terre Bistro: As you can see, they have a lot of events. But yes, they are out of the way for most people, on Jarry near the Cirque du Soleil and la Tohu.

              The South Asian restaurants in Parc-Ex are definitely worth checking out; there are several threads on them here. Several are byow, by the way. And you must go to Petit Alep. Not only the vegetarian plate - enough to share - but several other small dishes. Especially the muhramma.

              2 Replies
              1. re: lagatta

                Thanks so much for this, imtardy, looosia. I am a vegetarian in Montreal, and have indeed found it harder than in other cities. I am delighted to hear about the veg pho at Ba Le. i have been dreaming about vegetarian pho.

                My additions to your lists:
                1. Miga on Rachel and Rivard is pretty veg-friendly Korean food. Diner vibe, not fancy, but homey and they play relaxing classical music.
                2. Kazu on Ste-Catherine and St-Mathieu always has enough vegetarian options for an exceptional meal. Their veg rice bowl and homemade tofu are to die for.
                3. I am putting in a plug for the vegetarian pies at Tourtière Australienne, also on Parc, because there's a lot of love in those pies and they don't get enough attention.
                4. Nonya, the Indonesian on Bernard, always has one vegetarian main course on offer, and they make better tempeh than anyone else around this town.
                5. Don't forget the vegetarian pulled pork sandwich and other offerings at Dépanneur Le Pickup on Waverly near Jean Talon.
                6. Yes, many of the Indian restaurants on Jean Talon are great and cheap, but can I also suggest Mirchi in Old Montreal? It's hard for vegetarians to eat well for dinner in Old Montreal, and this place is rather fine Indian food in a pleasant elegant setting.

                I have a lot of friends who like going for local bistro-ey stuff which risks, as Snowpea pointed out to be really veg unfriendly. I thought I'd point out the spots where you won't have to eat buttered carrots and french fries:

                1. I've managed, but barely, at Trois Petits Bouchons;
                2. Le Comptoir has one Beet Salad, but I keep trying to sweet talk them into expanding their veg offerings cause i really like it there.
                3. I love the "Farrotto" (farro risotto) at the Salle à Manger on Mont-Royal, but they often don't have much else, especially in the winter.
                4. Leméac always has a few things, and i really really love their salade tiède (hold the lardons).
                5. Laloux -- no problem, always something.
                6. Kitchenette: have not been yet, but their menu suggests i would eat quite well as a vegetarian there.

                See, not so bad!

                That's it for now. Thanks again for starting this thread!

                1862 Sainte-Catherine St W, Montreal, QC H3H 1M1, CA

                1. re: lagatta

                  Sadly, I see that Tribu-Terre has closed.

                2. I recently reviewed the Green Panther on my blog, I highly recommend it for veggie tucker! - here it is:
                  There are very few eating establishments which I can walk out of after gorging myself and feel fresh and revived, but this place is one of them. The Green Panther is an oasis of life, health and vibrancy in the chaotic urban jungle. The green shop front, fringed with florid hanging plants, is a vivid beacon on Saint Viateur amidst the stone and brick streetscape and immediately welcomes you. Inside, the verdant fluorescence has engulfed the artfully decorated walls, mismatched vintage furniture and leafy flower pots.

                  This is a place that not only looks green, but also thinks and eats green too. Bar a couple of items, all produce is organic and, when possible during the warmer months, is sourced locally. All takeout packaging is recyclable and delivery panthers peddle rather than pollute. When we enter, the store is pleasantly alive with the chatter of the lunch time rush and the intermittent whirr of fruits being pummeled into juice.

                  Speaking of which, let’s get down to the edibles. To drink, our cheerful pantherette, Kerri, recommends the popular ABC – apple, beetroot, carrot – which arrives as a magenta vision in a glass and tastes like sweet, cleansing tonic with every sip. It really is a wonderful thing that completely natural produce can produce such vibrant shades. My eating companion’s Carburant Vert (Green Fuel) – kale, celery, cucumber and apple – well, it matches the lurid décor and sure packs a veggie punch!

                  Those who know about the Green Panther know it’s their famed falafel that attracts the store’s loyal following. As a falafel devotee myself, I’ve tasted the golden chickpea balls in many corners of the globe and take the task of falafel sampling very seriously. And these…phew, they did not disappoint. For me, the key to a good falafel is a crisp, freshly fried outside, generous and multi-layered spice taste and finally, and arguably most important – a moist centre. Three ticks and we have a winner.

                  Kerri tells me that whilst several staff members know how to make the falafel mixture, the owner, an Israeli local, keeps the spice mix under wraps. Five balls stuffed with house-made sauerkraut, cabbage, carrot, pickles, sprouts and tahini sauce in a superbly fresh wholewheat pita make it a steal at $6 a pop. If that wasn’t enough to sell you, then try the pita with tempeh, tofu or veggie pattie.

                  The ample salad plates – in small or large depending on your appetite – allow you to sample all potted veggie creations in the front counter, garnished with seeds, sauce and crunchy croutons. Also on the menu is soup, flavours change daily, and barbequed tofu.

                  You can even bring home the green jungle magic. House-made granola, jarred soups and mustards, veggie patties and soy kefir are sold on-site, and the store claims to have the best value selection of Prana organic snack foods in town. If you can’t get out of the office, the Green Panther also offers a delivery service for the Plateau and Mile End – in fact, this is how the whole operation began – otherwise drop in to the store and grab a seat or takeout.

                  No matter how much you eat, you leave the Green Panther feeling as though you’ve done your body a favour. Nourishing, tasty and lacking any nasties, this tucker just plain makes you feel good. Stepping outside the green oasis onto the city street, I’m donning a smile and ready to face the urban jungle. At least, that is, until I can get my next falafel fix.

                  Green Panther
                  66 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest, Montreal, QC H2T 2K9, CA

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: thesauceoflife

                    ^^^ sounds like an infomercial

                    i had a falafel at green panther the other day
                    i found them greasy and the tahini was very
                    watery. it dripped everywhere and overwhelmed
                    everything else. They also put way too many sprouts

                    1. re: celfie

                      I'm going to try to take that as a compliment.....

                      That wasn't my experience at all - but I guess all restaurants have up and down days. I would think that any greasiness of the falafel was cut by the fresh and light veggies in the pita.