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Feb 1, 2014 11:33 AM

New Yorker looking for quintessential Montreal cheap eats 2014

I'm going to be in Montreal for a couple of days - are there any signature or must-have cheap eats that I should have while I'm there (under 20 dollars a person) both including restaurants and other food stands or carts or anything? Any location within the city, or nearby outside (I will have access to a car) is fine.

Happy to be referred to any quintessential cheap eats threads Quebec hounds may know that I may have missed as well. Thanks.

I posted this thread ( four years ago, but four years can be a long time in food.

Additionally - I was considering trying to reserve Au Pied de Cochon and Joe Beef - any recommendations for what to get at either of those places and any other must places to those in a similar price range?

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  1. You'll get a bunch links posted shortly, I'm sure, so I'll just list a few favourites. The quintessential Montreal cheap eats haven't really evolved in 4 years, in my opinion, nor have the establishments offering them. So this list resembles one you received in 2009. That being said, there are some new gems. You may have heard that food trucks/carts are now legal here (after a decades-long ban), but they are almost all hibernating for the winter so not a realistic option for the upcoming trip.

    Bagels: The eternal rivalry of St. Viateur vs Fairmont continues unabated. I'd recommend that you do yourself a favour by skipping the full restaurants and visit one of the two St. Viateur outlets on the street of their namesake in Mile End. And whichever bakery you end up at, make sure that you don't blow it by ordering bagels that aren't sesame: a common rookie mistake. I know you can get these in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but I don't think they travel particularly well. $.65

    Poutine!: It's poutine week this week. If you're coming in the next few days, google it then run wild. Otherwise, the usual candidates include Banquise, Patati Patata, Chez Claudette, Poutineville, and many many others. Also, the Ontarian newcomer, Smoke's, has overcome huge odds to offer up a pretty good veg-friendly poutine (though I can't stop ordering the Cochonaille).

    Smoked Meat: Still Schwartz's, but some here still make a convincing argument for the Main.

    Unpasteurized raw-milk soft cheeses: You could visit Atwater market's Fromagerie Atwater or Hamel, Mile End's Yannick, and several stores at Jean Talon market to get cheese you won't easily (legally?) find at home. Some are pricey, but don't miss trying one or two.

    Baked things: Recent highlights include Hof Kelsten and Boulangerie Guillaume for breads, Patisserie Rhubarbe, Kouign Amann, and many others found on this board.

    Portuguese chicken: Still long lines at the revamped Romados, but Ma Poule Mouillée is debatably just as good (and requires less waiting with a much nicer experience of dining in-restaurant).

    Horse?: Okay, this isn't quintessentially Montreal, but this is one of the few places in North America where you can (intentionally) order horse meat:

    Re Joe Beef or Pied de Cochon: Of course they are both busy and often require that reservations be made well in advance, so get on it if you're coming soon. These are two of the most "quintessential" restaurants in Montreal (if I may use your terminology) so they're good bets. My favourite dish on earth has long be the Plogue a Champlain at PDC, which has been off the menu for some time, though recently I had a very similar rendition of this dish at Liverpool Hourse (Joe Beef's sister). But I'd say any dish that combines these beautiful flavours of foie, maple, and ham should be ordered. At PDC many of the starters & appetizers are amazing deals (i.e. cromesquis, cochonailles platter, various tongues), so don't skip em. I also tend to enjoy whatever large game meat Joe Beef has on the menu. If you can't decide which restaurant to visit, perhaps consider doing a dinner at JB and Sunday dim-sum style brunch at PDC, which is a cheap way to try the restaurant.

    Other great restaurants in the same price range: Lawrence, le Filet, le Serpent, 400 Coups, Hotel Herman. Also you could try lunch at Quartier General any day of the week for about $20+tip & tax, plus it's BYOW.

    Which restaurants did you end up visiting on your last trip??

    4 Replies
    1. re: Fintastic

      I got to Schwartz's, both St. Viateur and Fairmont, La Banquise, Patati Patata, and Romados. All were very good, and as I'm hoping to now be in Montreal for almost a week, I'll probably stop by some again while trying a whole bunch of new places as well.

      Great advice on the raw-milk soft cheeses, I'll definitely make an effort there.

      Also - horse I am certainly interested as well - we were supposed to have some horse served at a French Canadian oriented restaurant M. Wells here a couple of years back, but horse is sadly still not particularly palatable in the US it seems, pardon the pun.

      I also stopped by Dieu du Ciel as I'm a craft beer enthusiast as well so certainly interested in advice in that vein.

      1. re: FoulShotz

        Good stuff. If you get back to Fairmount, you may wanna check out Wilensky's (hours are very limited though)

        1. re: Shattered

          Seconded. Especially if you know who Morecai Richler is, and/or ever read/watched the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

        2. re: FoulShotz

          There was an article on Eater Montreal about places that serve horse just the other day:

          They omitted Le Chien Fumant, which makes a delicious horse tartare, and would be top of my list. And if you want seal, it's back at Cinquieme Peche.

      2. Here are a few budget-friendly suggestions that won't disappoint (note, these are personal favorites):

        Al-Baghdadi in the downtown Concordia Ghetto area serves the city's best and freshest manakish (Middle Eastern pizza, first picture below). You can also grab a shisha here and discover the city's Middle Eastern community.

        Blackstrap BBQ in Verdun is a great Memphis-style BBQ joint. Be prepared to show up early because they run out of meat on a daily basis. The only thing is that Verdun is largely a residential area, so you probably wouldn't be in the area otherwise (2nd pic below, brisket sandwich).

        Icehouse right off the city's iconic The Main (Saint-Laurent boulevard) serves great southern food. Some items are pricier but you can easily eat well here for less than $20 a person (3rd pic below, southern brunch).

        Jano, also on The Main, serves Portuguese meats in a cozy, warm setting.

        Le Boucan, in the city's blossoming Little Burgundy area, serves BBQ fare in a relaxed environment (4th pic below, BBQ chicken breast, best in city).

        Satay Brothers, in another gentrifying neighborhood, Saint-Henri serves one of the city's best Asian soups (5th pic below) as well as other Southeast Asian specialties.

        Hope this helps.

        10 Replies
        1. re: 514eats

          Icehouse is definitely NOT cheap eats, especially for the area.

          1. re: Shattered

            Ruby Burma is very close to Icehouse - utterly different food (Burmese), and a BYOW. Certainly cheaper than Icehouse, though it is hard to compare such different places.

            You'll also want to enjoy good bread, croissants etc, but in that case it is useful to know what part of town you'll be staying in.

            1. re: Shattered

              I disagree. Like I said, some items are cheap, while others are a little pricier. The original person asked for $20 per person. You can easily get stuffed at Icehouse for $19: Grilled Steak Burrito $11 and Fried Chicken Tacos $8, just as an example.

              1. re: 514eats

                Maybe in your world BBQ is fine without a side of booze, but I'm glad I don't live in it. I don't know anyone who's spent less than $40-50 pp at Icehouse, and I live 5 mins away, so that's quite a few ppl.

                Also, Cheryl's post below points out something I skipped over: the OP is from the U.S. That makes Icehouse far from a must.

                1. re: Shattered

                  The OP did not mention anything about drinks. You can EAT at Icehouse for less than $20, period. Your argument would apply at all the other places suggested on this post.

                  1. re: 514eats

                    True, but some places are byob, reducing the "damage".

                  2. re: Shattered

                    Seems like I live in 514eats world too! I never, ever count booze or wine as part of the "standard price". If you want to go for value, you do without, simple as that.

                    Alcohol is just not a must for me when I eat!

                    1. re: CaptCrunch

                      Thanks. And even if it is a must, which it is pretty much for me, it is impossible to factor it in a meal value, because the price can vary so much, even at the same place, from $5 for a local beer to $200 or more for a bottle of wine... Really no point in making it part of any "price" discussion.

              2. re: 514eats

                Blackstrap has seriously dropped in quality, and there's way better BBQ to be had in New York. Satay Brothers, on the other hand, is always worth a visit!

                1. re: cherylmtl

                  I have to agree here. Compared to basically every major US city, southern BBQ/Tex-Mex/mexican in Montreal is pretty bad and really expensive. I'd say the only place in town approaching the BBQ available in NYC is Dinette Triple Crown, but prices are much higher here. Mais, Icehouse, Blackstrap, and Boucan all have some items on their menus that are pretty good, but I don't think any of them are quintessential Montreal restaurants.

              3. I like how you did a simple cut-and-paste post!

                BTW, according to the Bank of Canada, your $20 in 2009 is only worth $18.71 today....

                I'll add to the thread as things come to mind (or not...), but I highly recommend Chalet BBQ on Sherbrooke near Decarie.

                Its quintessentially Montreal, its cheap (even more so at lunch), and its some of the best rotisserie chicken *anywhere* (fries and gravy are also pretty damned good).

                BTW, I agree with Shattered: Icehouse ain't cheap.
                I know they have their followers, I can understand their niche clientele, but I don't return because of the cost. But thats me...

                1. In alphabetical order:
                  Andalo's, 350 Lebeau
                  Binerie Mont Royal, 367 Mont Royal O
                  Chez Boris, 5151 Parc
                  Briskets, 1093 Beaver Hall
                  Brasserie Capri, 2172 St Patrick
                  Chez Ma Tante, 3180 Fleury E
                  Dic Ann’s, 10910 Pie IX
                  Elatos, 550 Jarry O
                  La Flammée, 3638 St Denis
                  Gibeau Orange Julep, 7700 Décarie
                  Plâts De Pates Hong Mère, 3795 Wellington
                  Marche Hung Phat, 7099 St Denis
                  Jah B, 9550 Jean Milot
                  Joe's Panini, 1404 Drummond
                  Kouign Amann, 322 Mont Royal E
                  Lasalle Drive–In, 8760 Lasalle
                  La Ligne Rouge, 414 Jean Talon E
                  Momesso's, 5562 Upper Lachine
                  Mr. Steer, 1198 Ste Catherine O
                  Pizza Nino, 6588 Monk
                  Chez Nouri, 10 de Pins O
                  Nouveau Palais, 281 Bernard O
                  Paul Patates, 0760 Charlevoix
                  Pataterie Chez Philippe, 1877 Amherst
                  Pierrette Patates, 3900 Verdun
                  Piesanna, 5300 Verdun
                  La Soupiere, 5th Floor The Bay
                  Boulangerie Spicee, 6889 Victoria
                  Titanic, 445 St Pierre
                  La Tornade, 7546 Centrale
                  Tous les jours, 1689 Mont Royal E
                  Le Valois, 3811 Ontario E
                  Wilensky's Light Lunch, 34 Fairmount O

                  All quintessential, signature and cheap. Do half of them, and you will not only understand the soul of Montreal, but quite possibly qualify for honorary citizenship.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: EaterBob

                    Great list now put an asterix beside each one that is a piece of shit restaurant that no tourist should bother with. 40% of your list.

                    1. re: frogsteak


                      How about we try to do something fun and actually explain what restaurants we think are not good enough, underline those we agree with and try to add to the list instead of complaining in a fashion that contributes in no way to the conversation ?

                      Is that too hard?

                      There is a ton here that I don't know but here are the ones that might be interesting and ones that might not be (I will not comment on locations I don't know):

                      Potentially interesting:
                      Binerie Mont-Royal: Vintage Quebec food. Inexpensive. Does not stand out in terms of decor and not the best cuisine montreal can offer but I don't know anything more authentic (i.e.: there were a lot of authentic dishes that got revisited by stronger chefs in more expensive restaurants)

                      Brasserie Capri: Inexpensive local tavern. Still a bit "rustic" even with recent renovations (ie: its definitely not a modern bistro pub). Strange mix of old veterans used to the place and young kids liking it cheap. You go there for the pig knuckles, the beef dip sandwich and the cheap beer.

                      Gibeau Orange Julep: Its definitely out of the way. Accesible by metro but its in an ugly suburb with not much to do. Good experience if you can go there when there are vintage cars though.Food's ok, the diner is very kitch, people go there for the orange drink.

                      Kouaign Amann:
                      I love this pastry shop. I love the Kouaign Amann (a breton delicacy) and the croissants.

                      Nouveau Palais:
                      Somewhat of a destination restaurant for the hipster in you, Looks like a run down chinese restaurant but actually serves good modern "pub food". A tad more expensive than usual diners but very good. Plus you get to express your "cynically oblivious about my surrounding but still trendy" counter cultural artist vibe.

                      Paul Patates:
                      Very clean 50's diner near where I live. Not downtown but not too far either. Its not a very touristy area tough. You'll probably go there for this restaurant and go elsewhere by metro. They brew their own spruce beer and have a very good poutine. Recommendation: poutine and spruce beer. Don't bother if you are not curious about the spruce beer. Its good but there are equal or better alternatives in most neighborhoods.

                      Wilensky's light lunch: In my mind, its Montreal's answer to new york's Eisenberg's sandwich. You will want to try the classic sandwich and a handmade soda. Vintage food in a vintage place. Service a bit soup nazi-esque but nothing to worry about if you have a sense of humour.

                      I'm not sure I agree on the choice:
                      Brisket: Not in my list of "go to places". Never tried though (ie: never saw it as interesting) so I could be wrong.

                      Dic Ann's: other might love Dic Ann's but I'm not sure I see the attraction. Its a flat hamburger with some sauce. Not terrible but I think nostalgia has a lot to do with the attraction of a lot of people. Its definitely unique but wasn't memorable to me.

                      Joe's Panini: Its a hole in the wall panini place. Not bad, good to know if you are around, not exceptional. Not a destination restaurant but an inexpensive useful food counter.

                      Mr. Steer: Another hamburger place a lot of people rave about but I never could understand why, Their thing is a smaller hamburger with a "round" meat patty. And julienne fries. Like Dic Ann's, its different alright, but not head turning.

                      Pierrette Patates: For the life of me I don't know what is outstanding with Pierette Patates.

                      Le Valois: New restaurant in what was a very humble neighborhood. It that sense it does contrast with it surroundings and is a reminder of the gentrification of the area. Wasn't impressed by my trip there. For the price range I'd prefer l'express or any other similar restaurants on the plateau. Its closer to downtown core, same price range and I ate better.

                      La Soupiere: Wasn't this a kitchen equipment store that closed? If you are thinking of the restaurant in La Bay I fail to see what is exceptional about. It is a borderline cafeteria that serves ok food...

                      Le Valois: Ok pub food. Good to know if you are in the area but I prefer the cartet, the holder and even the brit and chips before the Valois (my preference). The only standout of those three would be the cartet for their breakfast option.

                      Other options:
                      Other recommendations/might be nice:

                      Jardin Tiki: The food is bad (not as "you'll be sick bad", more as "omg, I'm in a 1980 chinese buffet" bad). Its not downtown but it is cheap, has weird inexpensive tiki cocktails and a kickass tiki decor. Might float your boat or not depending on your interest in tiki related subjects

                      Tourtières Australiennes: A varied sort of inexpensive australian pasties! In the plateau, neat the mountain, lots of choices.

                      Lola Rosa: Unassuming vegetarian restaurant near McGill university. Not super expensive, pretty good food, nice student vibe. Near downtown core.

                      Qing Hua: Soup dumplings. Located downtown. I prefer the Sainte-Catherine location near the Guy metro. Don't go at the Chinese Quarter location. 10 dumplings for around 10$. You get 15 in the lincoln location but I like then less.

                      Cuisine Szechuan: The best szechuan in the city that I know of. Not super expensive and very good portions.

                      Ganadara: Student oriented inexpensive korean food done with a "modern" flair. Bubblegum decor, they play korean muchmusic, 7$ dishes.

                      1. re: CaptCrunch

                        Well said and I agree with your assessment of these places, insofar as I've been to them (recommending The Bay's cafeteria?! or Chez Nouri, a counter in the lobby of a dirty loft building???)

                        Good call on Tourtières Australienne. Delicious, simple, cheap, and unique. Here's some photos:

                        1. re: CaptCrunch

                          Many people think the avenue du Parc Lola Rossa (very close to Tourtière australienne) is better than the Milton restaurant.

                          1. re: lagatta

                            @lagatta: I never when to their other location. I'll have to try!

                          2. re: CaptCrunch

                            Good post. One thing, if we're avoiding things a New Yorker has aplenty might as well skip the Chinese. NYC may no longer be a top-tier city for Chinese food, but it does have decent Sichuan and soup dumplings from various regions.

                            Jardin Tiki is a must for anyone with evan a passing interest in tiki culture, but a must-miss for everyone else. Either way, eat before going.

                            Nouveau Palais is an interesting choice. The menu tends to dabble in a few different areas, from classic diner fare to bistro to soul food and probably others. Never been disappointed in the food or value in a half-dozen visits.

                            If Nouveau Palais appeals, might as well add Dinette Triple Crown to the list. Though the menu rarely strays far from the southern/soul food theme, it's in a similar spirit to NP, with similar prices, and IMO generally higher quality. It's an especially good pick if the OP is ever visiting in summer when the picnic basket-in-the-park has rapidly become a unique Montreal thing. Under $20 is easily doable, but it's easy to spend quite a bit more if you go in for specials, desserts, drinks. Of course, this too may be redundant for a New Yorker.

                            1. re: Mr F

                              I'd rather give the good asian options and let him decide if its interesting. They have a pretty big Korean presence too and Ganadara is still a good cheap option! :D

                              Great idea for the Dinette Triple Crown! Its very small but oh so good! If he has to wait they have the option of taking your cell phone and calling you when a space is available. It would give them time to try Vices & Versa and their exceptional beer menu!

                              For the tiki eating, I have a soft spot for MSG food, red gloopy sauces, fried chicken balls, egg rolls, sausages in VH sauce, "Soo Guy" chicken... they even have frog legs! Its still on the map of a lot of people of the working class from hochelaga who seem to still consider "chinese" food as a single entity (ok... they probably don't visit chowhound).

                              Then again, I am a tiki enthousiast and started eating "chinese" at another famous 80's chinese place (the hyper kitch Kenny Wong) so I am a little biased.

                              1. re: CaptCrunch

                                I guess "eat first" is a little harsh. My one and only meal at Jardin Tiki put me on a Proustian teleporter to an Ottawa strip mall circa 1979, last time/place on earth I want to be transported.

                                Vices et Versa is another good addition. IMO, for the most part you'll get better beers sampling the many microbreweries they carry than you will drinking at places that brew on the premises. (Though Dieu du Ciel might be the exception that proves the rule.)

                                1. re: Mr F

                                  Actually, "eat first" is a common recommendation. I just enjoy pointing out that its not "actually" disgusting and usually just cardboard msg retro 80's chinese food :D

                      2. Although I'm also a NYer, a priority on my last visit to Montreal was food from the Maghreb. I found a decent Arab supermarket right across from the Côte-Vertu station, if you're willing to venture further afield.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: BuildingMyBento

                          In Ville-St-Laurent, Arabs could be from the Maghreb or the Middle East (and people from those regions could be Muslims, Mizrahi/Sephardic Jews, Orthodox Christians or more specific groups). There are no big Arab-world supermarkets near Jean-Talon market, but there are certainly good food sources. And just a bit farther east, there are many shops from "Le Petit Maghreb" - the boundaries are uncertain, but mostly from Papineau on east, on Jean-Talon and Bélanger. Foods from these regions are definitely part of our daily fare here now.

                          frogsteak, the problem is, this is so subjective. I'd definitely mention several Portuguese grilled chicken places before Chalet BBQ, but Porker's choices are every bit as valid - I've almost never been that far west, at least in terms of food. People have different memories and psychogeograpical maps.

                          1. re: lagatta

                            i wouldn't exclude chalet for a Portuguese chicken place. they can coexist. But Joe's Panini? Dic Anne's? Briskets? Pizza nino? La Soupiere? Really?

                            1. re: frogsteak

                              No matter what type of list is asked for or whatever is suggested, someone'll think some options are, for a lack of eloquence, a "piece of shit".

                              Big part of the problem is "tourist" and everyone's definition of what a tourist wants.

                              Most everyone will suggest Joe Beef or APDC as a Montreal tourist experience, but FoulShotz is specifically looking for CHEAP EATS.
                              Based on this criteria, EaterBob's list isn't bad (I notice he will not give up on Lasalle Drive-In, Hehe). Of course not every place will be pleasing to the OP, hell not every place is pleasing to most folks.

                              I oftentimes suggest Wilensky's to visitors, and most times people will post "Really?" or "a tourist will never want to go to Wilensky's".
                              This may be true some of the times (pain-in-the-ass, unhappy-unless-paying-mucho-money, high maintanance, solely interested in name-recognition places, tourists).
                              However, the intrepid traveller wanting a slice of life sometimes has to sample the bottom end. Doing so allows him to marvel at a gem like Wilensky's, but also puts him at high risk of hitting a dud.

                              Thats the nature of the cheap eats game or the "quintessential" search.
                              Hell, I'd almost add Harveys if not so hard to find these days... or even better, the upside down Dillalo burger.

                              There you go, FoulShotz: park in front of Joe Beef mid-afternoon, put a few loonies in the meter, walk to Joe Beef, look inside (they ain't open yet, but you can see their casual, hip layout, maybe gander last night's specials), then saunter west to the end of the block and have yourself a Buck Burger at Dilallos
                              Picture here
                              bit of a blog report here (note I did not even read the blog...

                              1. re: porker

                                I deliberately don't give details in order to avoid comments like "piece of shit restaurant." It kind of misses the point of Chowhound. And the fact that two other people recommended the response just makes me sad.

                                I also presume that anyone who follows my suggestions will not follow them blindly and seek out other sources of information.

                                That being said, I'll stick my neck out, slightly. And offer up reasons for some of the places that people aren't quite as familiar with.

                                For smoked meat Brisket's and The Main are the two best places in what could be called the core of Montreal. Add to that, Brisket's Pig's Knuckles, and 14 different types of meat for a hamburger, and you have something.

                                Chez Ma Tante. Hand's down the best steamés in town. In a part of the city which most tourists don't usually get to. Started as a food cart in the 30s, and as time progressed built a building around it.

                                Elatos: Old school Greek casse croute, now being run by the third generation of the same family. Awesome souvlakis. As Porker surely knows, I am extremely fond of "old-school."

                                Joe's Panini. Unique in the world (as far as I know), And again on the list as it shows a part of Montreal (late nite partiers and students) that normally are not on the usual tourist maps.

                                Pizza Nino. The best pizza I've had in town, combined with some extremely good subs and a very good sense of their own history.

                                Chez Nouri. Best vegetarian/vegan sandwiches in town combined with amazing homemade soups, all in a building that highlights Montreal's artistic side.

                                Pierrette Patates. The Michigo (with onions).

                                La Soupiere. An old school (apologies for repeating myself) lunch counter in a department store. Exactly like it was in 1965. I would venture a guess that there are maybe three left in the world.

                                Le Valois. It is not "pub food." It is classic French Bistro at half the price of L'Express. If you don't drink wine, you can get out of there completely sated for $20/person. Again in a part of the city that tourists don't get to all that often.

                                1. re: EaterBob

                                  I wonder what do find "unique in the world" in Joe's Panini (no irony here, just curiosity). I had a few lunch there and find ok, but nothing more.

                                  1. re: vabou

                                    I've never seen a sandwich shop that a) only uses Panini b) when using panini for sandwiches doesn't use "Italian" ingredients and c) uses panini for a hamburger bun.

                                    1. re: EaterBob

                                      wow there are tons of sandwich places that only have panini sandwiches - in fact they're a scourge in Montreal!

                                  2. re: EaterBob

                                    Hey EaterBob,

                                    I just want to mention that I, for one, appreciated your effort. Its always easier for a small minority to shoot things down.

                                    I also appreciate we have diverging opinions (but that's what Chowhound is for I think!)

                                    1. re: CaptCrunch

                                      Thank you. I'm all for differences of opinion. But mindlessly badmouthing other people's opinion is not useful to me in any way.