3 Days in Montreal
My husband and I will be in town for only three days and will be attempting to get in much of the city as possible. Staying in Old Montreal. Would love recs on restaurants for both lunch and dinner. Equal opportunity eaters. I have a decent list compiled from articles, websites, etc, but most were written more than year ago or more. What's really good right now?
OK, on the list at the moment, and this obviously needs to be scaled down:
Au Pied de Cochon
Les 400 Coups
It's three days away from the kids, so we aren't really worrying about price. We want high quality, gourmet, fun, unusual. We live in Philly where we are lucky enough to have great restaurants, so we don't want anything too classic or standard -- we want something perhaps we will only find in Montreal or to experience a local chef who is doing some really creative things. Nothing too traditional or stuffy. Love a place with a good wine list. Would also love places with great cocktail options, or recs for bars to go to before/after dinner for those.
For some reason this wouldn't post before and now you've scooped a few of my original suggestions (in fact, most of them... it's actually uncanny). For what it's worth, here's what I wrote:
To be honest, there hasn't been a tremendous shift in the Montreal restaurant scene in the last year or so (more significantly closings than openings). Notable exceptions are Maison Publique, which I liked a lot but has had mixed reviews on chowhound, and Hotel Herman, which to me seems very representative of the typical Montreal style. Mais has also been getting a lot of press lately for its taco-related things, though I've not yet been... maybe this is all just hype.
Instead I'd push for some of the less recent (but still fresh) restaurants in the city, including 400 Coups, Lawrence, and maybe even Tuck Shop. Smoking Vallee is a new BYOW in the southwest, but I think I still prefer some of the older crew such as Quartier General, Les Heritiers, etc. If you've considered Joe Beef in the past, maybe look to Nora Gray for Italian with a similar mantra. Some also speak highly of Park, which is likely the best sushi in town, though I was not so impressed by the room or service staff.
If you'd rather stick around Old Montreal, the safest bets will be 400 Coups, Club Chasse et Peche, Graziella or Osteria Venti, and perhaps le Bremner. Most places I've mentioned are in the mid-to-high end price range.
Having now read your specific interests, its probably safe to emphasize some uniquely Montreal places for dinner.
True nouveau Quebecois: Pied de Cochon or Joe Beef
Innovative French: 400 Coups... it's really in a league of its own these days
Miscellaneous, but leaning towards the current British fad: Lawrence or Maison Publique
Really Montreal doesn't have a ton of restaurants that can't be found anywhere else (with the notable exception of Pied de Cochon and it's flock), but it does do some types of food better than most cities (namely french). There's virtually no stuffy restaurants to speak of in the city. I've included the British restaurants as they are unusual in implementing rather standard English cooking styles using many uniquely Canadian/Quebecois ingredients. Maison Publique impressed me with it's strictly Canadian wine list, which is probably the only place in the province putting an emphasis on our domestic production (which can be better than one would expect).
For the best cocktails at a good restaurant, think about Chien Fumant or Dominion Square Taverne. Both are open late, but only the latter has a full bar license (not requiring one to order a meal).
As someone who constantly cried you gotta eat here where Schwartz's is concered, my last experience was borderline awful. My med-fat was tough & chewy (although they replaced it with a much tenderer sandwich) & the guy standing at the counter next to me in the take-out side returned his twice! We both agreed that having eaten at Schwartz's since the 60s, it has changed drastically and not for the better. My sister sees Hy Diamond frequently & he just shrugs ... he knows what has happened to this Montreal institution since he sold to the Las Vegas diva and her cradle robber husband. Proceed with caution and even with low expectations, you may still be disapopinted. Caveat - even when facing daunting lines, never get a hot sandwich to go; it does not transport well and reheating it is is not great & barely edible. If you can't get seated, eat standing in the takeout side. Oh & never order anything but medium - lean is just wrong (when it comes to smoked meat) :-)