Food Courts of Underground Montreal
- N Tocus
I hope that nobody visits Montreal without going to the underground shopping district, which is bigger than can be imagined (one guidebook points out that if the underground city were laid out in a straight line it would be 20 miles long). Major downtown office buildings, half a dozen hotels, I think seven subway stations, department stores, the train station, multi-level shopping malls, and hundreds of small shops and services all inter-connect at the concourse level. And: there are so many food courts. The time to go is at about 11-11:30 AM when all is prepared to receive the thousands of office workers who will eat lunch there. Most courts are run by ethnic immigrants thus every ethnicity of food is offered, with rich possibilities for sampling and trying. At that hour everything will be fresh and gorgeous. Prices are rock-bottom. I can't think of a better place to graze. Don't miss this.
The food court under Simon's on rue Ste. Catherine is quite good. It's not just the usual Subway / PFK / Veggierama places.
It has a number of veggie-type places that you don't see elsewhere, plus a crepe place, good sushi, a Bankok Express, and an Italian place (I don't know the name) that is on par with a proper sit-down Italian restaurant. As well, there's a good Basha (very fresh Lebanese -- as opposed to most which are tired and stale) and a chicken place (next to the crappy Mexican) that serves chicken right off the grill.
On the conventional side, there's also a NY Soup (which I don't like) and a Burger King, and the standard big-bowl soup and teriyaki places. But overall, it's definitely a step above most food courts.
While we're on the topic, the food court at Place Ville Marie isn't bad either. Yes, they have the usual crap, but you can get a decent smoked meat sandwich too, and Cafe Tarantino has really good paninis and salads.
>Most courts are run by ethnic immigrants thus every
>ethnicity of food is offered, with rich
>possibilities for sampling and trying.
Care to offer some specifics? Most food court eateries I know are franchises or chains. In fact, the only food court I can think of that truly meets your description is the Faubourg Ste-Catherine (corner of Guy and Ste-Catherine), which isn't connected to the underground city. Despite its gradual loss of appeal over the years, it's still the one I end up going to. Most of the others strike me as too sanitized or plastic (to say nothing of windowless) and the "ethnic" food they serve is way Canadianized.
Since I don't live in Canada I can't be very specific as I am going from memory. But I remember eating fatoosh for the first time at a food court place obviously run by a Middle Eastern family---it was so delicious I went out and bought a Middle Eastern cookbook and have been making fatoosh ever since. I remember a Polish place that served bigos. And I remember a Spanish place that made a nice paella at Les Halles de la Gare. Near it was a bakery that sold maple pecan bread with gobs of caramelly goo that melted when you toasted the bread. There's lots in Canada's food courts besides Tim Horton.