Banh mi in Montreal? (+ random Cote-des-Neiges question)
So, I first thank the readers who offered up the reason why there si no street food in Montreal. (I am torn about this regulation because here in NYC the paper boxes overun many of our street corners. BUt then we'd miss out on the tamales, arepas, ceviche, dosas, grilled octopus, and oh so much more...)
Anyways - a follow-up question would be where, if it is available, could I find a truly fantastic banh mi sandwich in Montreal. I know Montreal, like NYC, doesn't have that sizable of a Vietnamese population as compared with cities in CA, but I've noticed quite a few pho spots around town. On my last visit I remember a banh mi sandwich shop up near the Jean-Talon Market, but it seemed to have been out of business.
And on a side note, can anyone tell me about the Cote-des-Neiges neighborhood. Nowhere seems to make any mention about this neighborhood (websites, guidebooks) though it seems that a lot of good restaurants are located in this area. Is it primarily a shopping area? And is it primarily found along Blvd. Cote-des-Neiges? (Man, I love Montreal - me thinks this time I might spend a couple of hours in the immobiliers ...)
Can't help you with the Vietnamese restaurants but the Cote des Neiges area is primarily apts and homes, a hospital, a girls school(Ecole Sacre Couer) Can anyone else shed light on the Cote des Neiges area? I enjoy walking around there when I visit Montreal...there are some apts/condos right on the Blvd that remind me of Malibu. The gararge is on the front and they are very 70's looking. I agree Montreal is an awesome city.
re: John Whitney
Cote-des-Neiges is first of all a bustling commercial street, most specifically the stretch between Queen Mary and Jean-Talon, which includes many, many cafés and restaurants of all kinds. Two major hospitals (the Jewish General and Saint Mary's) are on or near the street, and the huge University of Montreal/HEC (business school) campus is nearby, which adds a strong student presence. Also, beyond the street on both sides are many residential streets. It's a very lively part of town and the restaurants represent a whole range of cuisines, Middle Eastern and Vietnamese probably most prominent but with many others as well.
A secondary main street in the neighbourhood is Victoria Avenue, which has a more islands flavour - the Jamaican Curry House is a longtime institution - but also retains more of an old-time Jewish ambiance as well, with some kosher eateries and delis. This is where Cote-des-Neiges starts shading off into the Snowdon district, traditionally Jewish, and now with a growing Russian/Polish presence as well.
I know I see "banh mi" on signs around, although it is true that Montreal Vietnamese restos seem to rely on a standard choice of brochettes and Tonkinese soups as reliable draws. Sorry not to be more specific.
re: Kate M.
Côte-des-Neiges really is one of the most interesting neighbourhoods in town. It's very diverse and well-integrated, culturally. A friend of mine uses the neighbourhood's diversity to show how cool Montreal can be. He's from Iran (has lived in different places such as Turkey and Spain) and his wife is from the Philippines. Some Filipino neighbours visit all the time and there's an amazing sense of community.
My friend (whose cooking is amazing though he prefers to work as a cook on the South Shore than open a nice restaurant) talks about how he can find anything he needs within the neighbourhood. Simply put, this is the ideal place for a chowhound, IMHO. Got to a "hole in the wall" eatery and you're likely to find food that's exactly the kind of underrated deliciousness this site is all about. My advice: go there to hound, not to find "the best place for" something specific.
Now, banh mi. First heard about this site through a podcast and almost immediately thought about banh mi as one of the nicest things in Montreal. Sure, they're probably available elsewhere. So...?
Learned about banh mi through a fellow Québécois, a former member of my West African ensemble. He was eating those seemingly simple submarines from a grocery store on Victoria (Kim Po). These things were simply amazing. For a while, my thing was to arrange my routes so that Kim Po was on the way, just to get a couple grilled chicken banh mi sandwiches. Those marinated carrots and celery, the "Thai basil," the crusty bread...
Unfortunately, Kim Po stopped making banh mi a few years ago. And no other place is exactly as good.
Well, actually, there are several places for banh mi in my neighborhood now (Petite-Patrie). Some of them are quite good (though not as extreme as Kim Po on Victoria was, a few years ago). Been going to one on Rosemont near Christophe-Colomb and one on Jean-Talon near the market. Both are rather nice. Grilled chicken is usually my favourite though grilled pork can work too. The "ham" banh mi sandwiches are really not my thing, though. Did the mistake of having my wife try one out and she has this bad memory of banh mi. They use some kind of mortadella or bologna and put a lot of mayo. Some people surely like it but it's really not my thing.
Just last night, while doing my laundry, "discovered" a new place in my neighbourhood. It's on Saint-Zotique corner Saint-Hubert. Their grilled chicken banh mi was so-so (too much mayo, IMHO). But they also had a beef one (hadn't noticed beef banh mi anywhere else). The meat looks like a kafta "sausage" and it's marinated in a nice sauce. That thing was delicious! Went back there after a few minutes to get another one. Still thinking about it!
While a few years ago several banh mi places (for instance, Kim Po) sold them for 2$ each, three for 5$, the usual price these days is 2.50$ each, which is still a very good price for what it is. At the place on Saint-Zotique, the sandwich itself is a bit small but it's the same amount of meat, if not more, than other places.