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Visiting Montreal this wkend -- looking for veg/vegan restaurant options

m
Mickey C Sep 6, 2011 08:25 PM

We'll be here from Friday until Monday. Did a search and found a great thread on this topic from earlier in 2011 (thread started in March; last post Aug 21). One thing that thread didn't let me know consistently is which places are sit-down "white tablecloth" restaurants and which are more spartan in decor and service. Agree that it's about the food but other things being equal, we'd rather be in comfortable surroundings with decent service. Specific recs along those lines greatly appreciated. We'll probably be staying in a downtown hotel with the Metro nearby, but we'll have access to a car too.

One other question: Travel lit I've read mentions that a relatively high % of Mtl restos are BYOW. How frequent is this really? If we show up at a resto and find it's BYO, how tough will it be to buy a bottle of wine in the immediate vicinity? Don't want to be caught dry.

Thanks to all.

  1. m
    Mickey C Sep 13, 2011 04:30 PM

    First let me say how grateful I am for all the responses. The collective wisdom here gave us more choices than we knew what to do with. And with so many choices, I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how little of it we got to sample.

    To answer Loosia's question, we are from NYC, which is home to an enormous variety of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, including a few that are quite elegant/high-end. I agree with some of the posters here that Asian (usually Chinese) restos that put tons of effort into creating faux-animal dishes can be pretty off-putting (although it can work quite well too sometimes).

    We arrived in town late on Friday evening and were pretty tired from a day of driving, so we walked the streets downtown near our hotel and settled on an Italian place called Rosalie (Rosalie's?) on Rue de la Montagne. We chose it mostly because it was a beautiful night and they had a very attractive open-air seating area in front of the restaurant, plus you can almost always find something that works veg-wise in an Italian resto. Had salads, pizza margharita and a mushroom risotto for mains, then finished with a fantastic cannoli-like desert that included fresh berries. On the downside, we were put off by someone's cigar smoke (pretty foul) and astonished by the waitresses, for whom high heels and tight-fitting skimpy all-black outfits (shorts or skirts as long as shorts) were apparently de riguer (how's my French?). You don't see much of that in NYC outside of Hooters.

    On Saturday, we did the tourist thing in Old Montreal. Considered three of the alternatives mentioned here for lunch (Bonnie's, Olive and Gourmando, and a place Loosia recommended on Rue McGill -- I forget the name), but we felt pressed for time (only a small window to see the inside of Notre Dame between weddings and a 5pm mass), so we skipped lunch (except for Ben & Jerry's while watching the entertainment on Place Jacques Cartier). For dinner, we went to Casa Tapas, where we enjoyed most of the veg tapas on the menu (my favorite: almonds, roasted peppers and pearl onions). Got lucky too, with a great table right by an open window (the other room seemed a little stuffy).

    Sunday, we did some shopping, then went to Aux Vivres at about 430pm for a late lunch. It was great -- maybe not the best vegan restaurant ever, but really impressive, and it was not a busy time, so the service was very attentive. We over-ordered, and ended up pretty much stuffed. Loved the faux pate and the buddha bowl and wowed by the drinks (La Vie en Rose smoothie and fresh apple juice). Discovered that seitan in Canada is different than in the US -- Aux Vivres' had an airy, almost spongy texture; back home the seitan is much more dense. Oh well -- viva la difference! (sorry)

    After that, our plans for dinner went awry when we got a call from back home that our dog got into a fight with another dog at the "doggy hotel" and that ours needed to see a vet and would probably need stitches. Decided to pack it in early (could not have eaten anything but a late dinner after that lunch anyway), then start out for NYC first thing in the morning, which we did.

    All in all, a very pleasant stay in your beautiful city -- great weather, good food (maybe not enough of it), interesting sights and very friendly natives. Am looking forward to getting back sooner (my last trip to Montreal was in 1973; no such thing as a blue line metro, let alone a bixi, back then).

    PS Roxanne (our dog) is doing well, although she's looking a little funny. They had to shave parts of her head, so she's sporting something of a Mohawk right now. But she'll be OK.

    Thanks to all again for the help.

    -----
    Aux Vivres
    4631 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2T1R2, CA

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mickey C
      p
      Plateaumaman Sep 13, 2011 07:24 PM

      Excellent report and such lovely franglais too. Glad Roxanne is healing well.

    2. l
      looosia Sep 12, 2011 11:41 AM

      I think it matters where you are visiting from as I like to direct my visiting friends to specific cuisines accordingly. That being said, Montreal excels on French/Quebecois cuisine but unfortunately these kinds of restaurants are not very vegetarian friendly, and this city is definitely not vegan friendly.

      If you want mid to high-end restos, I'd recommend La Salle a Manger in the Plateau for local Quebecois fare, Le Cinquieme Peche for the same also in the Plateau, Les Heritiers for Quebecois BYOW in the Plateau, Afghan Pass (Afghan BYOW) in the Plateau, Le Cartet for brunch in the Old Port. A bit more casual would be Le Petit Alep (Syrian BYOW, no reservations) across from Marche Jean Talon and Byblos Le Petit Cafe in the Plateau for Persian; depending on where you're from, you might not have many good Syrian and Persian restaurants, but fortunately in Montreal you can get some quality food in these cuisines. I would also point out that Chu Chai is the well-known higher-end veg place (and I recall they do vegan) but I have never been wowed by this place, and it's now been a few years since I've been there.

      I still think Aux Vivres is the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant that I've ever tried, but it's super casual and no reservations.

      I know that there are some decent Asian restaurants in the city that offer veg food, but I honestly don't think they are that great and I think you would find them subpar if you're from places like NYC, Toronto or Vancouver where Asian restaurants blow those in Montreal out of the water. But if you insist, one place I would recommend is Qing Hua Dumpling in the Concordia Ghetto (also called Chinatown 2), which is super casual, but they have veg dumpling options that even my food-critical Asian parents love when they travel to Montreal.

      Regarding BYOW, the three I mentioned above (Les Heritiers, Afghan Pass, and Le Petit Alep) are the two veg-friendly BYOW that I can think of. These BYOW friendly places always advertise their BYOW services so you would know if they are or aren't. You can buy wine from any corner depanneurs that dot the city and are often open late, and for better variety pop into the province-owned SAQ, but they do not open as late as the depanneurs. All the restos I listed are quite centrally located so you'll find either a dep or SAQ close by.

      Bonne chance!

      -----
      Aux Vivres
      4631 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2T1R2, CA

      Le Cartet
      106 Rue McGill, Montreal, QC H2Y, CA

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

      Byblos Le Petit Cafe
      1499 Av Laurier E, Montreal, QC H2J1H8, CA

      1. r
        Radha2009 Sep 11, 2011 01:15 PM

        I would definitely suggest Chu Chai. All the other restaurants mentioned are great but Chu Chai is more unique.

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

        3 Replies
        1. re: Radha2009
          Peaches to Poutine Sep 11, 2011 05:18 PM

          It's already been mentioned by three other posters; it still gets my vote for vegan/vegetarian plus booze.

          1. re: Radha2009
            k
            kellyhay Sep 12, 2011 08:43 AM

            Just a quick note: although I think Chu Chai is very tasty, it's menu is focused on realistic tasting and looking MOCK meat.

            Some vegetarians really don't like this. I have a friend who is totally weirded out by it. She doesn't want to eat meat or anything resembling meat.

            If this is not a problem for you then definitely go for it if you want something a little on the elegant side. : )

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

            1. re: kellyhay
              g
              Glaff Sep 12, 2011 11:04 AM

              I'm one of those vegetarians, but I still like Chu Chai... there's a lot of options without fake-meat.

          2. f
            finefoodie55 Sep 9, 2011 12:51 PM

            One of the tastiest Veg/Vegan restaurants is Bonny's on Notre Dame.Its a small restaurant with table seating for about 20 people.Not fancy but tasty,No BYO option.

            1. d
              Daiya Sep 8, 2011 09:18 AM

              Other Question about BYO restaurants: certain strips have many BYO restaurants and usually a nearby wine-heavy SAQ (Quebec government wine and liquor store). They aren't usually open very late, but our dépanneurs (neighborhood convenience stores) sell bottles of "lesser" wines until 11pm and can be found all over. The restaurant will be able to send you in the right direction.

              1. k
                kpaxonite Sep 7, 2011 02:50 PM

                Aux Vivres is one of the best if not the best vegan restaurant in town.

                http://www.auxvivres.com/en/home/

                -----
                Aux Vivres
                4631 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2T1R2, CA

                3 Replies
                1. re: kpaxonite
                  d
                  Daiya Sep 7, 2011 03:10 PM

                  Yes! with a funky but bright "diner" decor. They serve all meals and snacks and smoothies, it can get busy but it's not a tiny place.

                  -----
                  Aux Vivres
                  4631 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2T1R2, CA

                  1. re: Daiya
                    Peaches to Poutine Sep 7, 2011 03:22 PM

                    Oh, I love Aux Vivres! But they are dry (no booze). I say to go to Chuch or Chu Chai, because either way you can have wine with your meal. It was good enough for my 2nd wedding anniversary, by gum.

                    -----
                    Aux Vivres
                    4631 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2T1R2, CA

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

                    1. re: Daiya
                      r
                      Radha2009 Sep 12, 2011 04:19 AM

                      I think if a person is vegetarian, visiting Montreal aux vivres is definitely worth going to especially on the weekend for brunch.
                      I guess one can survive without alcohol once in a while!!!!!!!!
                      If you go there on the weekend better arrive as early as 11.30. One time I went there on a Saturday around maybe 1.00 p.m and the waiters would not even come to my table because it was too crazy busy.

                  2. p
                    Plateaumaman Sep 7, 2011 01:12 PM

                    Another one to try is Su Shian Yuang on Rachel which is Taiwanese vegetarian with tablecloths and a casual buffet at lunchtime. No liquor licence though. Miga, a Korean restaurant next door, will do a vegetarian version of everything on their menu and they are byow. Chuch or Chu Chai, vegetarian Thai) (related restaurants) are also nearby on St-Denis and byow and the SAQ is less than a block away.

                    http://www.montrealgazette.com/Casual...

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

                    1. d
                      Daiya Sep 6, 2011 08:55 PM

                      From that excellently in-depth thread found at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/775201. A lot of them are quick cafes with a relaxed vibe. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are uncomfortable or with poor service, though. More specifically:
                      1) Ba Le - quick bite
                      2) Bottega - sit down, tablecloth type
                      3) Lawrence - sit down, but relaxed
                      4) Chu Chai - sit down, with less formal option next door at Chuch
                      5) Crudessence - cafe atmosphere
                      6) Tasting menu places - fancier, longer meal. Note: Montee is now closed.

                      Other places that Looosia mentioned there are mostly casual, quicker joints (except the non-exclusively vegetarian restaurants P'tit Plateau, Gandhi, Atti, Le Nil Bleu, La Salle à Manger, Buvette Chez Simone, Casa Tapas, Philinos, and so forth). There are a lot of options listed there, any specific places that pique your interest?

                      Feel free to correct my oversights. I'll let someone else tackle the BYO/wine buying info.

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

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

                      Nil Bleu Restaurant
                      3706 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC H2X3L7, CA

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

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

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