Visiting Montreal Mid-April - Must visits please
Les 400 Coups (Is it worth it for lunch or should it be my second dinner)
L'express (Is this a must visit, is it dated? I'd like a great bistro with some great charcuterie on par with Oyama in Vancouver)
Fairmont and St-Viateur Bagels
Are there must visits that I missed? Specialty dishes? Places you would take off the agenda?
Would like to go to one bakery/pâtisserie. Is there one that stand out amongst the rest?
Is a sugar shack meal a must?
Also, Yelp reviews in Canada are limited, what are better resources to see food pics/reviews of these places?
Thanks in advance for your help
Get rid of L'Express, it's completely blah and even for classic (read: dated) faux Parisian bistro thing, there's better choices. Joe Beef and APDC are interchangable imho, you're going for the same type of meal two nights in a row. What I'd do instead, is stick with Joe Beef (my preferance!) one night and then do 400 Coups the second night for dinner, as it's really more of an evening outing and I think would be wasted on lunch service. If you want to add another interesting and higher end lunch option in Old Montreal, you can add Le Club Chasse et Peche to fill that spot. They have a great lunch menu and lovely courtyard that's ideal for a lavish afternoon meal and wine/cocktails on a nice day. Banquise is an overrated frat hangout and you can get unnecesarily dressed-up oversized poutines that are done better at Maam Bolduc, if you really want it. For a bakery, Figaro has the best croissants in town. I'd also recommend Kouign-Amann. It depends what you're looking for though. If you're only in town for one weekend and this is your itinerary, I'd say you've done pretty well. Don't do Schwartz's and Joe Beef on the same day because you'll die of coronary artery disease. Sugar shack is not a must meal at all, in fact it's not really about the food. It's a traditional Quebecoise family thing and geared mostly towards larger and younger groups. In most cases, the food (think maple glazed hams, pea soup, etc) is actually quite awful and assembly line. If you have a car and are curious, you can always visit one and buy some syrup and then go have a better lunch elsewhere. Chowhound, Yelp, Urbanspoon and local blogs are your best bet for reviews/photos.
I love the strong opinions, that's what I need to help decide. You've addressed my concerns with L'express and Les Coups for lunch. I won't drop APDC, so Les Coups will be Saturday night. I'll look more at Le Club Chasse et Peche for lunch. Oh yeah, I looked at their website, says no lunch until June 4th
I'll take note of your poutine comments. Thanks for the bakery input.
I'm not sure where you're visiting from so difficult to assume where your culinary interests might lean, but if I were to add an additional meal to Joe Beef and 400 Coups to keep things varied, I'd probably go with Pintxo which has a French inspired tapas menu with elements of new Basque style cuisine. Brunch at Olive et Gourmando would be another good choice.
For bakery/pâtisseries I'd recommend Pâtisserie Rhubarbe (only pastries) and Boulangerie Guillaume (only bread and baked goods).
But if you only have time for one :
Near Rhubarbe, there's Le Fromentier for bread and cheese and Fous Desserts for amazing croissants.
Near Guillaume, there's Cerise sur le gâteau, Fairmount Bagels and Kem Coba.
Kouign-Amann is a good one to try too as is Mamie Clafoutis and Les co'pains d'abord.
I agree with Oliver about Les 400 Coups, you should go for dinner. It's one of the best restaurant in Montreal right now. Olive et Gourmando is also a must for lunch (but beware, super super super crowded).
It is the only pastry shop in Old Montreal so from that point of view is handy for tourists. I have eaten there, gone for dessert, and bought their fig bread; I fail to see what others see in it other than location, and kind of cute ambiance. Also it is not open on Sundays and on Saturdays in good weather there are lineups. I dont think the terrace at Le Club Chasse et Peche would be open that early and it is located elsewhere in back of a nearby museum.
Yes, same with the daily salads and soups, always high quality ingredients. Aaaand the palmiers are amazing (you know the puff pastry thing that is boring at every single place in the world except there). The brownies too... and the brioches... and the turtle bar... and...
(That said it's pretty easy to find a good sandwich in the Old Montreal though)
Their sharp, crispy mac & cheese with melted provolone, havarti, and more that I can't ID, and fused with several types of mushrooms, black truffle tapenade (black olives, truffles, capers, anchovies, olive oil) and carmelized onions in a skillet is my favourite! It's served on a wooden cutting board with a honey mustard salad with grated almonds and is worth the visit alone. In addition their salads and sandwiches are all excellent, as are the daily soups and pastries/brioches. It might not be world class, but sure makes for a damn good weekend brunch.
I like Pinxtos but would not suggest you go there if here for a few days as I think you can get this kind of food easily in other cities.. Depending on what your interests are you could for fun try the sugar shack theme resto that will be in Old Montreal pavilion at that time, it is not a sugar shack per se but has a bit of a flavour of it so you dont lose time going out of town for sugar shack meal and the sugar shack meals are fun en famille but really heavy with maple syrup. As in sugar shacks you do not sit at private tables but join others at long tables. The site is only in french at present for la cabane but food appears more sophisticated than in the shacks. http://www.lacabane.ca/menu.html
I know others might pan this idea but if I was coming to Quebec from outside my interest would be to learn more about Quebecois traditions and sugar shacks, maple syrup on ice are spring customs for many families but not really in your interests to go far out of city to find one and sometimes they are so busy it can take ages to get a table and service can be slow. The sap is already running and it is going to be a good year for maple syrup.
I went once to 400 coups at lunch and I would not return for lunch.
You can get a good poutine at PDC (would even share it) so not necessary to go further afield.
There are many montreal food blogs which can provide the photos and reviews you want but I dont know if we are suppose to post them here..
A big question is - where will you be staying? How far are you willing to travel?
My husband and I stayed by Montreal's "Little Italy" and found tons to enjoy there, or a short metro ride away. (We were also by a huge farmers market with killer cheese and baked goods. Happy sigh.)
Our fav mememto from the trip? We brought back a dozen bagels from St-Viateur, froze them and doled them out as a treat for months afterwards. Heaven!