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Dec 31, 2011 04:19 PM

An Alternate Layover in Montreal

It occurred to me after watching the Anthony Bourdain episode on food in Montreal, that neither Au Pied de Cochon nor Toque were mentioned in the episode. At first I thought it might be due to the gracious nature of Martin Picard and Normand Laprise, but then thought a little harder and came to the conclusion that they probably were smart enough to realize that anyone who watched the show wasn't likely to be the type of customer that they wanted.

That aside, it then occurred to me, what other places in Montreal that would have fit in to the concept of the show were missed? Or in a more direct sentence; if I were the researcher for the Bourdain team, what places would I have sent them to?

Breakfast: Lawrence. While not as iconic as Beauty's, definitely more unique and better fare. Granted they only serve it on weekends, but I'm fairly certain that Tony would probably prefer to come to Montreal on a weekend, especially if he knew in advance that he was going to end up cruising along Saint Laurent, drunk and in the back of a pickup truck. If a lunch counter/greasy spoon was required I would have suggested Bienville sur Chabanel, Rex Pizza or the Snowden Deli

Although now with some further reflection, The Binerie Mont Royal. Beans, cretons, eggs, some more pork, some more beans. To actually understand where Au Pied de Cochon comes from.

Bagels: The no-brainer alternate universe bagel place is Fairmont Bagels. Although instead of bagels, he could have gone for croissants (Mamie Clafoutis or Duc de Lorraine).

Bookstore: If there is another bookstore in Montreal that only carries cookbooks, I'm not aware of it. However, I think he instead of Jonathan Chung, talking to Marie Claude Lortie or Sarah Musgrave might have been more enlightening.

Market: While the Jean Talon Market is the 800 lb gorilla, what actually makes Montreal rock and is completely at odds with the rest of North America is the number of independent, small, local grocery stores that are mostly walking distance from where people live. Places like Segals, Sakaris and Milanos on Saint Laurent. Akhavan, Atlantic, Hawaii, Kim Phat and many others elsewhere. I don't know how I would have filmed it, nor if it would have been as "punchy." But farmer's markets are farmer's markets and in the middle of the winter the Jean Talon Market is anything but.

Cheese Shop: While Tony went to La Fromagerie Atwater, there is Hamel, La Maison du cheddar and Baie des Fromages. He also did not visit a charcuterie, nor a butcher.

Big in Japan: I didn't get this pick at all. If he wanted someplace to eat and drink late into the night, L'Express, Le Chien Fumant, Icehouse, Imadake, Nouveau Palais and Reservoir are all infinitely better both in food and drink. He did visit L'Express and Nouveau Palais (and in fact ate and drank late in the night at Nouveau Palais) so my best guess would be that there were favors being called on this one. If I had to choose, I'd actually suggest Beijing or Mon Nan in Chinatown.

Le Club Chasse et Peche: Adam Gollner might be a nice guy, and I actually really like Le Club Chasse et Peche. But Tony could have spoken to Taras Grescoe who is a way better writer about sustainable fishing at La Porte and the food would have been better while the discussion would have been just as boring, but the Travel Channel could have given lip service to sustainability.

Marven's: Again, another head scratcher. If Tony was looking for some sort of hole-in-the-wall obscure neighborhood restaurant, he could have eaten better at Amelio's, Daou (and they could have had a way more significant "Celine Dion moment" there) or Roi du Plateau than at Marven's. Although none of those places have stuffed animal heads on the walls. But they didn't show the animal heads on TV...

Brasserie Capri: A brilliant choice, obscure, old school (even though it just got sold). I would keep it in my alternate version of The Layover. But I would also have included Wilensky's and/or Pataterie Chez Philippe and/or Chez Nouri and/or Momesso's and/or the Lasalle Drive-In and/or Dic Ann's and/or the previously mentioned Binerie Mont Royal.

Dominion Square Tavern: Personally, this wasn't even a head scratcher. I immediately realized that someone somewhere was paying to play. they made no mention of it's previous history as THE gay bar in Montreal for something like 40 years, and how the renovation ripped the heart and soul out of the place. In it's place I would have suggested going to real old-school taverns that haven't changed one iota for 40 years, like The Midway, Verres Bouteilles, Inspecteur Epingle, Verres Sterilises or one of the remaining Serveuses Sexy breakfast places.

Orange Julep: Again, like the Capri I would probably leave it in my version of The Layover as well. But Dic Ann's and/or the Lasalle Drive-In would do in a pinch if it had to be replaced.

Joe Beef: Without Joe Beef Tony would not have ended up in the back of the pickup truck, does Liverpool House still exist?

L'Express: This was Adam Gollner's choice and while I still like it, and adore M. Mason (there is no better waiter in Montreal) a) they should have given him some screen time, and b) it really is getting a little bit musty there. Lemeac or Laloux could have fit in easily without anyone even so much as noticing.

Romados: Let's just say I'm very thankful that Tony and his team continues to send people to them. Because my favorite Portuguese Grilled Chicken restaurant couldn't handle the crowds. But in case you are interested in trying other better places, might I suggest Na Brasa, Chez Doval, Jano, Casa Minhota, Le Triangle Portugais, Rotisserie Portugalia, Tasca and while I haven't had a chance to eat at Boca Iberica my guess would be that it too, is better than Romados.

Brasserie T: Easily replaced with Bar F. Or if you want to keep Normand Laprise/Charles Antoine Crete involved, Toque.

Grumman 78/Nouveau Palais: Icehouse makes way better tacos, is opened as late, has a better bourbon selection, better Jukebox/DJ/iTunes Playlist and is slightly cheaper to boot!

L’Emporte Piece: Another brilliant choice. If I were to replace it I think I would not do it with someplace identical, but with something else that Montreal does wonderfully, like manakish at Andalos or Arouch. Or perhaps the swinging micro-brasserie scene, or maybe just the fries at Paul Patates. I dunno. Tony didn't actually eat there, so it might be another one of those pay to play places, in which case maybe leave that segment up to the highest bidder...

And finally, Schwartz's: All I have is three words: Smoke Meat Pete. It's closer to the airport, better smoked meat, cheaper smoked meat, the lineup is indoors, it has better music and plenty of parking.

Serious thanks and props to kpzoo for listing off all the places Tony went to here: so that I did not have to watch it a second time, the least I owe you is a beer let me know where you'd like it. Thank you.

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  1. is it really worth the taxi from dorval to ile perot for smoked meat? no.

    2 Replies
    1. re: BarackHObama

      Actually Tony took the taxi FROM Schwartz's TO the airport. Taking the taxi FROM Île-Perrot TO Dorval and then passing out on the plane, as he suggested, is infinitely better.

      I agree entirely, that going to Île-Perrot first thing after arriving in Montreal would be stupid beyond belief.

      1. re: EaterBob

        i appreciate what you are saying but you're suggesting a visitor take an extra $30 taxi ride (each way) for a sandwich

    2. Wow! Great job! Thanks for taking the time to do this! Fantastic alternatives!
      BTW where is your favorite Portuguese chicken place?

      24 Replies
      1. re: hungryann

        Thank you very much. My favorite Portuguese Grilled Chicken place is listed above, but I am (unfortunately) going to have to play coy with you, because they are already stretched to what I presume are their limits, and I would prefer that they don't break.

        1. re: EaterBob

          Eaterbob, which Portuguese place are you referring to?

          1. re: ios94

            One of Na Brasa, Chez Doval, Jano, Casa Minhota, Le Triangle Portugais, Rotisserie Portugalia or Tasca - although I just realized I completely forgot about Roi du Plateau! So while it is now obvious that Michel and Monique's isn't my favorite it is very very good.

            1. re: EaterBob

              I've been to half of those that you mention but would really be interested to trying out something that is potentially better than Romados.

              I don't get the secrecy. lol

              1. re: ios94

                I'd say Portugalia is better than Romados.

                1. re: SnackHappy

                  Don't get me wrong, Portugalia's place is pretty cool, but does anyone miss the Portugalia of old?

                2. re: ios94

                  "I don't get the secrecy."

                  Me neither, especially if the top place is Doval, Jano or Portugalia, which may all be "stretched" but also have reputations that go back a long time and far exceed the bounds of Chowhound.

                  One of them, IMO, doesn't even come close to deserving its reputation as some kind of institution/landmark/world's best chicken joint, but I'm not saying which one I'm talking about. ;)

                  1. re: Mr F

                    All this chicken talk is giving me serious cravings for Peruvian chicken which, for my money, beats Portuguese chicken any day of the week.

                    I've got my favourite place in town for the stuff, but I'm not saying where it is. :P

                    1. re: SnackHappy

                      LOL, I'm going to try and rat you guys out then.

                      Mr. F, I'll take a guess you mean Portugalia, I was there recently for the first time in awhile and I wasn't impressed with the chicken either.

                      As for Peruvian, I'm guessing Serrano on St Viateur (although it's rotisserie, I think they are Peruvian) or the place on St Laurent (forget the name) that relocated a few doors across the street due to a fire a few years ago.

                      Spit it out Eaterbob. lol

                      1. re: ios94

                        I was actually thinking of Doval.

                        1. re: Mr F

                          Doval is awful. If you want overcooked, dried up chicken, by all means go there.

                        2. re: ios94

                          My go-to Peruvian chicken place is Les Deux Fours a.k.a. Los Dos Hornos although I haven't really done a whole lot of Peruvian places in town.

                          1. re: ios94

                            As with many things local, sometimes there is a large difference between being known and being a stranger. They recently had a switch to the 2nd generation at Portugalia and the quality is not as consistent as it used to be.

                            One of the grillmasters there, who was not family, moved over to Piri-Piri on Mount Royal, just east of Saint Denis. I've been meaning to try their chicken, but have not been able to get over there at an appropriate time.

                            As for the "secrecy," there is none. I have given you a list of the places. There are seven. You tell me which one you prefer.

                            1. re: EaterBob

                              "My favorite Portuguese Grilled Chicken place is listed above, but I am (unfortunately) going to have to play coy with you, because they are already stretched to what I presume are their limits, and I would prefer that they don't break."

                              That's pretty secret to me.

                              I've been to 4 of those places that you listed above and other Portuguese not on your list but my fave is still Romados for grilled chicken.

                              I don't get why you don't mention the one stand out in your opinion.

                                1. re: BarackHObama

                                  Eater are you going to share your top Portuguese chicken pick?

                              1. re: EaterBob

                                @EaterBob: So far it has been hit and miss and a bit more expensive a Piri Piri.

                                I took a whole chicken home one night and it was so dry we only ate half of it. It was cooked for a while and yet they just gave it to us. I should have checked it.

                                I never took a take out since from them. And once my half chicken was dry at the restaurant but they were nice and changed for a juicy one. It a good chicken not great but good. We'll see with the transfer grill man from portugalia if they will improve.

                                Since it's so close to the "chicken nazi" aka portugalia and romados (need an evil name for the women replacing Maria) I will stick to those places except on Lunch time when I see the nice Maria serving at the counter at Piri Piri.

                                1. re: maj54us

                                  ios94, short answer: No.

                                  Thanks maj54us. I think that is one reason why Portugalia used to be so good. Their timing was so off, that I would sometimes have to wait 10 to 15 minutes for my chicken, which meant that it was fresh off the grill and juicy as get out. Now that they have the 2nd generation and the fancy restaurant part, some of the grillmasters (I won't mention names) anticipate and/or get overwhelmed and as a consequence it is possible for a chicken to be either pre-cooked or overcooked, both of which will lead to a dry chicken.

                                  If anyone is looking for a cheaper chicken, Na Brasa on Duluth has a take out special for $11.

                                  1. re: EaterBob

                                    I'll see you in the parking lot after school, Eaterbob. We're snowball fighting this out, and if you lose, you have to cough up the name! :D

                                    1. re: montrealeater

                                      You're on, but I'm not certain if I am happy or scared that there isn't any snow...

                                    2. re: EaterBob

                                      "......Portugalia used to be so good....."

                                      This was what I was hinting at upthread. By re-vamping the dining room, kitchen area, and techniques, they lost something....

                                      1. re: porker

                                        Yes,I definitely moderate what I order depending on who is at the grill (I don't order by phone) and it seems that 80% of the time I'm ordering bifanas these days. Unless they try really hard it's tough to screw one of those up.

                                      2. re: EaterBob

                                        "short answer: No"

                                        Are you serious? lol
                                        I don't get it, you think the place is going to be overtaken by us? I thought this forum was about sharing new found places. Wow!

                  2. Eaterbob, thank you for this post!

                    I just want to quote you and wholeheartedly agree with this:

                    "what actually makes Montreal rock and is completely at odds with the rest of North America is the number of independent, small, local grocery stores that are mostly walking distance from where people live."

                    In my experience, this is the truth. I used to live in Little Italy, about 3 mins walk from Milano and a few more from JTM. I shopped at Milano simply because it was close, but that place really ended up having an impact on how and what I ate. My standards in certain things (fresh meat - especially pork, steak and beef in general - cheese - cheap, good olive oil etc. ) are much higher for having lived close to Milano. And I dont mean higher in a now I can look down my nose way - simply that a)I know know how good this stuff can be, and also where to get it fairly inexpensively. I heart the lovely butcher at Milano - he alone is responsible for about 3 new permanent dishes in my repertoire. They also have an older man who is often stocking who is a part time poet/philosopher. My sister and I walked by him in the produce section once, laughing at something we'd said - I happened to catch his eye and he just looked right at me and said, quietly: "I was never young." It almost made me bawl right there beside the oranges. And I've seen him making his wistful comments to others as well. I always buy something from him to try and cheer him up, so marketing win, Milano. :)

                    And those little local, ethnic groceries are one of my very favourite things about Montreal. Hell, even deps in my neighbourhood had some good/unique stuff. There was a little tiny dep on Jean Talon run by Sri Lankans, and I got addicted to the snacks they sold there in bags - they also stocked Marmite, which I had been looking for everywhere.

                    Other random comments:

                    - although I have and continue to try, I am simply not anywhere near as taken with Romados as most people (or so it seems)
                    - I had NO IDEA about Dominion Square Tavern (the history/re-do) - I saw it and thought "that place looks like somewhere to get dressed up and drink an overpriced cocktail" - is it that?
                    - ITA re: Brasserie Capri. The problem is, it's people like me jumping on places like that after seeing it on shows like The Layover, that eventually turn them into something they weren't at the outset. :) I almost feel like I'd be sullying the place.
                    - I LOVE Schwartz' smoked meat. Why is Smoked Meat Pete better? (I am trying to figure out whether or not to go and try it)

                    Finally, your post is one of those posts I'm going to keep refering back to for weeks/months, so thank you again.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: montrealeater

                      "ITA re: Brasserie Capri. The problem is, it's people like me jumping on places like that after seeing it on shows like The Layover, that eventually turn them into something they weren't at the outset. :) I almost feel like I'd be sullying the place."

                      I understand what you mean as I sometimes feel like this. However, Capri is so old-school, so entrenched in its ways, I don't think it'll change for the worse (I hope ;-)

                      1. re: montrealeater

                        Thank you very much.

                        As for the Dominion Square Tavern, to me it is exactly that. A place with overpriced cocktails.

                        Brasserie Capri is likely to stay exactly like it is, until someone else buys it. They just were sold, but it doesn't look like any changes are in store.

                        Smoke Meat Pete's smoked meat is juicier, spicier and they serve more generous portions. Combined with the blues bands that play there every night and that it appears to have successfully imported the concept of a "Roadhouse" to Quebec are more than enough reasons to make me love it.

                      2. Is The Layover a TV show? On what channel? And when was this broadcast? Will it be on again? Thanks. (ps. who is "Tony"?)

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: williej

                          > Is The Layover a TV show? On what channel?

                          Yes - The Travel Channel.


                          > And when was this broadcast?

                          Last week.

                          > Will it be on again?

                          Tonight at 8 pm is the soonest rebroadcast:

                          You can also find clips on the Travel Channel website (URL above) and the whole episode if you search on YouTube.

                          > (ps. who is "Tony"?)

                          Tony (Anthony) Bourdain.


                          Thread on Food & Media about this episode:


                          1. re: kpzoo

                            I have to say considering the No Reservation episode of Montreal, that the producers got together to truly epitomize Montreal food. I remember seeing him sitting at and eating with an Inuit family and their traditional foods which should have been a show unto itself and not labelled Montreal. I was incensed

                            1. re: blondee_47

                              I think that ep was technically labeled 'Quebec' not 'Montreal' - and that scene was, I agree, one of the best I've ever seen on No Reservations. It was fascinating and I wasn't grossed out at all - it was, as Tony himself said - oddly heartwarming. He also went to hang out with some weird maple syrup evangelist in the woods. :)

                            2. re: kpzoo

                              I don't think Travel Channel is available in Canada. Everyone I know who's seen the episode watched it on Youtube.


                              1. re: SnackHappy

                                it is available on illico and expressvu

                                1. re: BarackHObama

                                  I just looked it up and it's not there. All I see is Travel + Escape which does not broadcast The Layover. They do however show old seasons of No Reservations.

                                  1. re: SnackHappy

                                    oh my bad - i guess what i am thinking of is not the official travel channel

                                    1. re: SnackHappy

                                      I saw that show on my television (Videotron), so yes it is available.

                                      1. re: johnnyboy

                                        What channel was it on? I'm not seeing any Canadian broadcast of this show on tv listings sites.

                                        1. re: johnnyboy

                                          You saw, The Layover on Videotron? Highly doubtful, you are probably talking about Bourdain's original show, "No Reservations" which airs here in Canada on Travel & Escape and Discovery and who have not aired a new episode since God knows when. The problem with those channels is that they have been recycling old episodes of No Reservations for more than a few years.

                                          1. re: ios94

                                            Yes sorry I was mistaken, I watched it on the interwebs. Damn booze...

                              2. "Bookstore: If there is another bookstore in Montreal that only carries cookbooks, I'm not aware of it."

                                Smaller, but better for francophones : La librairie gourmande

                                1 Reply