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Bizarre but true: Recommend MTL chain restaurants for visiting US relatives?

I've got visiting American relatives coming to Montreal soon. One of them is a really picky eater who absolutely hates trying anything new, and doesn't really like anything spicy (or as one person said, with any flavour at all).

Where they come from, all-you-can-eat buffets and chain restaurants like Red Lobster and Applebees are the norm. They prefer "American Italian" vs more authentic Italian... O_O Still, as the host, I want to give them at least one or two options while they're here that don't stray too far from their comfort zone.

I know this is a long shot, but what would you recommend in downtown, Old Montreal + the Plateau? Preferably sit-down dining.

I was thinking roughly: The Keg, St-Hubert, and those touristy places like Steak Frites...?

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  1. Maybe try Baton Rouge...it's one of the better chains

    The Keg is also a good option with the added benefit of having a nice atmosphere.

    1. BYOB Italian at Lombardi on Duluth
      Baton Rouge
      Burger de Ville
      Dunn's and/or Reubens do a ton of tourist trade downtown.

      1. I immediately thought of the Keg when I read this (before I saw you had mentioned it)... I suppose Biftheque as well. I don't really go to sit down chains but there is a Hooters in the South Shore.

        The more I think about it, I dont think I would bother trying to send them to a chain. There are plenty of mediocre restaurants you could send them to that are not chains... and lots of American style restaurants too. Why not just send them for a pizza at il foccolaio (it is really good) or something else that isn't exotic.

        1. maybe try: http://www.wiensteinandgavinos.com/en...
          it has the added benefit that it is on crescent street

          1 Reply
          1. re: catroast

            I would go with that too, many "safe" choices on the menu.

          2. I'm going to second The Keg. Whenever my own "picky relatives" are in town, it's among their first choices, and I must admit I'm usually not disappointed myself. Don't get your expectations too high, but you could do a lot worse when it comes to chains.

            As for Steak Frites, I only went once and I promised myself never to repeat the experience. You can read the account I wrote here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/877094

            I haven't been to Baton Rouge in a very long time, but I seem to recall it was also decent.

            3 Replies
            1. re: philippefs

              The Keg is really good. It's consistent and they're good at what they good (steak and potatoes).

              Also, the title of this thread cracked me up.

              1. re: Shattered

                not consistent and sometimes bad
                i had 2 bad experiences recently
                but it was really my fault for not complaining

                1. re: catroast

                  I don't like it either. How about gibby's? I haven't been in years but people love it, very basic cooking and a little bit more Montreal.

            2. I also think The Keg is a good option. Saint-Hubert as well since it has a very safe menu and still says a little something about Montreal.

              If downtown perhaps take them to Frites Alors on Sainte-Catherine. They make some good burgers, both inventive and classic. It should not be out of their comfort zone, but at least it's not a huge generic chain.

              1 Reply
              1. re: SourberryLily

                There is also a Frite Alors in Mile-End on avenue du Parc. They announce that they have changed management (it is a franchise) and are now managed by the Villeray location - this is supposedly a good thing in terms of quality, though I haven't been to the Villeray location (the closest to me) since they opened and the frites stand at Jean-Talon Market closed down.

              2. I've recently had a case of relatives who are picky eaters visiting me in town, so I (not such a picky eater) decided to stick to a plan similar to yours. Here's where we went and the verdicts (theirs and mine, as I had to endure a whole week of chain-ish eating):

                - Saint-Hubert: the picky eaters loved it. We even went back there, per their request. As I do not eat chicken, I only had a salad and some spring rolls, so not much to say other than "picky eaters approved".

                - Baton Rouge: picky eaters thought it was ok, but kind of expensive for what was being offered. I didn't like it at all, and thought my meal (a kind of niçoise salad, with seared tuna on top) was extremely expensive for the quality of the food.

                - Steak Frites: picky eaters love it (and the all-you-can-eat fries). I didn't care for it (my steak was dry), and, again, thought it was a terrible cost-benefit ratio.

                - The Keg: I've only tried it (with said picky eaters) in Vancouver. This was one of the cases where everyone involved was happy with their meals.

                - Frite Alors!: maybe not the kind of place you're looking for, but I really like their food, and my picky eaters also loved it (one of the places we had to go back to).

                - Piazzetta: picky eaters went there by themselves and liked it. I didn't go with them, so no personal verdict.

                - Les 3 Brasseurs: even if, at first, they don't serve anything that looks or sounds American, I'd say most of their stuff tastes like it. It pleased the picky eaters and, even though I didn't love it, at least I wasn't offended by the flavours. And it has some of the Montreal feel to it.

                You could also consider La Cage Aux Sports (if that's their style), although I've never been there.

                Other places you may consider are breakfast/brunch-style chain-style restaurants like La Grand Mère Poule. I think now they're only on Beaubien (a bit far from your target area), but there is their Mont-Royal branch, which now seems to have changed name (and ownership), but I think the menu is quite similar to what it used to be: traditional eggs breakfast, with some Quebec touches. Eggspectations could also work for that.

                1. i would def do guido and angelina over weinstein for chainy italian food imo.. can't believe i just wrote that

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: j_do

                    I can't either. Weinstein & Gavino's is far better. Unless you rec'ed the other place because of someone's aversion to flavour, haha.

                    1. re: Shattered

                      Guido and Angelina is disugsting but not as bad a Tutti Giorni

                      1. re: catroast

                        All three are horrible. If you're going to do Italian, why not take them to Vinizza, or Bottega or something along those lines? They're not that much more "adventurous" than those three, and I'm sure even the pickiest eaters will find something they like there.

                        1. re: chefjeannine

                          yes, i am sure that a picky american eater used to heaping portions of glop are really going to love their skimpy pizza with 2 pieces of topping for $40 per person.

                        2. re: catroast

                          I've been to W&G a bunch of times as my dad likes it when he visits. I've had a miss there, but it's good most of time. Not great, not exciting, obviously way better Italian in town, but it's not horrible, imo. I think it gets a bit too hard a knock. You could certainly do worse, like say, St Hubert.

                          Never heard of Tutti Giorni, but the name sounds a bit Fruity, a-rooty, lol.

                          1. re: Shattered

                            let's not get it twisted. both weinstein and guido are objectively speaking, terrible. the only debate is which one is more.

                            1. re: j_do

                              Not surprising since they both are owned by the same company

                    2. If you wanna hit a uniquely Montreal spot on the Plateau, go to The Main. That's not a knock on it, it's just simple food. Even for the really picky guy who won't try smoked meat, liver, or latkes, there's ribs, steaks, and some really good burgers. Good portions, cheap prices. And pretty much everything comes with fries.

                      La Cabane next door fits the bill too. Pretty much same food, plus chicken, minus smoked meat.

                      1. thought of another one: L'Academie. I end up there every summer with my Ontario/American family.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: C70

                          This is actually a good option: prices can't be beat, I actually don't mind their gnocchi and on occasion their mussels, and at least you can bring a nice bottle of wine without having to pay extra.

                        2. How about Chalet BBQ - it's a bit west of downtown, but it's one of my standbys for visiting relatives. And there probably isn't anything like it where they are from.

                          20 Replies
                          1. re: cherylmtl

                            that might be a good idea chicken in all its forms. I find the difficulty for some of my visitors when visiting montreal is that beef and lamb just get too underdone for their tastes even when they ask for extra cooking!
                            Maybe they would like the Marthon greek restaurant near the big Orange. It has a chain look but the food I found was very tasty with big portions. I also liked the fact that service was competent and they can deal with simple requests such as sauce on the side. Also it is consistent and the prices are reasonable + there are some other dishes than souvlaki

                            1. re: cherylmtl

                              I always try to recommend Chalet BBQ. OK, not fine or celebratory dining (unless you're under 12 or over 69), perhaps not conceived as a destination restaurant (although it should be for visiting chowsers), but an excellent reflection of Montreal style rotisserie chicken.
                              However, in this case, "there probably isn't anything like it where they are from" might be a problem.

                              I'd like to suggest Scores. I only ate here once when they opened and really have no interest to return, but it seems like a hit for quite a segment of the population. All-u-can-stomach salad bar, unassuming chicken&ribs, sandwiches, kids menu...sounds like "Scores" is French for Applebys...
                              However, I'd be pressed for a Scores location downtown, Old Montreal, or the Plateau.

                                1. re: porker

                                  I couldn't possibly imagine enjoying being "celebrated" at a place like Chalet BBQ (or St-Hubert) once I've reached the age of 69!

                                  1. re: lagatta

                                    I personally love chalet. I was out the other day with a group of montrealers that did not grow up here and they unanimously stated that they hated chalet, they could tolerate take out but not to eat in. I was surprised....

                                    1. re: Gloriaa

                                      anytime i am disappointed at a yuppy restaurant i wonder why i didnt just go to chalet...happened the other night at lustucru bleh horrible.

                                      1. re: catroast

                                        I don't particularly like yuppie restaurants and certainly not pretentious ones, but I'd be more inclined to go to a Portuguese chicken place, for example.

                                        But I've only been to Le Chalet once; it is on the other side of town and I can get decent bbq or roast chicken much closer by. I thought the place had a dismal ambience (the chicken was fine). But I know people's memories colour their feelings about restaurants and other food-related businesses.

                                        Online, lots of people like it. Here is an interesting article from the National Post of all places: http://life.nationalpost.com/2012/08/...

                                        But I'll still go with Quebec Freak and prefer the Portuguese chicken bistro/bars. We went to Doval a lot when I was a young adult...

                                        I really don't see how the US rellies could object to le Chalet...

                                    2. re: lagatta

                                      My parents actually had their wedding reception at Chalet BBQ back in the 70s, so in my family, it has always been a fun place to celebrate, regardless of age.

                                    3. re: porker

                                      "However, in this case, "there probably isn't anything like it where they are from" might be a problem."

                                      Really? It's just fast food of an above-average standard. It's recognizable as chicken, and it's got all the grease and salt they presumably crave. I can't imagine a fast-food junkie not being in fast-food heaven, unless it's somehow important to them that the identical food is being served in a thousand other locations, or a lifetime of chain food has left them unaware that chicken has bones.

                                      Also, a mini-rant directed not at Porker but at the whole concept of the thread: I'm surprised that almost everyone, given the site, is set on pandering to these so-called "picky eaters" with utter crap rather than at least trying to give them chow-worthy options with broad appeal.

                                      Schwartz's. Chez Doval. Amelio's. You know, local, independent, (mostly) well-regarded places that are not really challenging at all if your taste runs to big portions of salty food.

                                      Can the unfriendly but delicious confines of Chez Doval really be too exotic? The mind boggles. I say take 'em there, order chicken. $5 says they rave that it's the best chicken they've ever had.

                                      1. re: Mr F

                                        Probably because the op requested : "MTL chain restaurants for visiting US relatives"?

                                        1. re: SourberryLily

                                          Granted, the OP knows his/her relatives better than anyone else, so I won't go so far as to accuse the OP of having a faulty premise.

                                          Just the same, I don't think that excuses recommendations for places that people know and say are terrible, on the sole grounds that they meet the "chain" criterion. It's absurd.

                                          If that's the only criterion that matters, why not just pack 'em off to the nearest Boston Pizza and be done with it?

                                          1. re: Mr F

                                            there's no boston pizza downtown

                                        2. re: Mr F

                                          surprisingly, so many people only like the atmosphere and food selection of chains...and it is probably that in their own towns they do not dine at mom and pops or independent restaurants.

                                          1. re: Mr F

                                            I take it you never had to "entertain" visiting US relatives or their ilk?
                                            The label "US relatives" is tongue-in-cheek of course, as it could be from any country, relative or not...

                                            I used to think along your lines until I actually met people like this. They aren't just "picky", but averse to anything out of their very-limited experiences. Generally their wildest dining was done at American chain restaurants.
                                            Independants or mom&pop places, as catroast suggests,
                                            might be out of their comfort zone for whatever reason.

                                            I TRIED to get similar people to eat at Schwartz or La Cabane or The Main. They'd have a few beers while others ate, claiming "not hungry" then wanting a big-mac on the way home.....

                                            1. re: porker

                                              You're right, I haven't had the pleasure of dealing with that. I guess you should all carry on building the crap-list, then.

                                              1. re: porker

                                                A friend of mine used to call this "It has to be available in Wichita" sydrome. (no slag on Wichita, more about having everything being the same as "back home"). I often wonder why people travel if they aren't interested in new experiences. If not for their family here, would they even contemplate coming to Montreal?

                                                  1. re: williej

                                                    Well, different strokes...
                                                    Many people don't understand a preoccupation with travel or food...
                                                    I'm not dissing the relatives, but lotsa young American males come to Montreal not for the food, but the lax liquor laws and abundance of strip clubs - an intoxicating mix, no?

                                                  2. re: porker

                                                    My father-in-law is among the pickiest eaters I have ever met. Drives me crazy. So when my in-laws come to visit, it's always a challenge finding places where my FIL will eat something. Chalet is one of the places we automatically take them, and it has never disappointed. Biftheque was another, back before it closed (and reopened).
                                                    Jardin de Panos is another one of those places that might be fun for visitors (can't take FIL there, he's scared of oregano...)

                                                1. re: porker

                                                  I prefer Cote St-Luc BBQ to either Scores or Chalet, though St-Hubert comes close.

                                              2. Hey, AJ, what about Le Bifthèque? (not in your requested area, but might please some picky eaters)


                                                6705 Chemin de la Côte de Liesse, Saint-Laurent, QC H4T 1E5

                                                EDIT: Annnnd after reading the CH post about that place, I retract my suggestion. It sounds awful.