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First real foodie visit to Montreal - some specific requests

We'll be driving and will have a car, so transportation will not be an issue. We haven't decided where we are staying yet. Only going to be in town for 3 days, but want to do a few things. We'll most likely be grazing, trying this and that but will also want to have one nice sit down meal (without fois gras).
1. Good brasserie
2. Eat great montreal smoked meat or corned beef/pastrami - Schwartz's: good still or just for the experience
3. Great poutine (non-chain).
4. Bring home bagels or other Montreal goodies for foodie friends. Open to ideas; will have a cooler!
5. Visit a few markets. I've been learning about all the grocery stores but just heard about Vrac en Folie, what is it?
6. Looking for great Italian/Spanish imported grocers.

In addition, I am looking to buy 95% alcohol to make limoncello at home. You can't purchase it in most states, only 75%. I understand the SAQ (?) is the government run liquor store; would they have it.

In general for comparison points, would one say Montreal has more choice and is more reasonable in price than Toronto for specialty imported food items?

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  1. I'll let others counsel you on the brasseries and poutine and the Toronto vs Montreal comparison.

    Smoked meat: you can do a taste test and hit both Schwartz' and the Main as they're across the street from one another (personally I think that Céline has enough money). Also depending on the direction you're driving (Midwest?) you can stop at Smoke Meat Pete.

    Bagels: St-Viateur or Fairmont. Have one of each and pick what you like.

    Other treats: Quebec artisanal cheese for starters - it is LEGAL for you to transport our raw milk products back to the lower 49; Fromagerie Atwater is a good place to be. I also remember one fellow who took several whole sous-vide foie gras back to NYC (that's something you decide you want to do or not).

    Vrac en folie: bulk foods. Do you need to do it? Depends on you.

    Italian goods: Milano, other places in and around the the JTM and Atwater Markets. We're weak on Spanish stuff apart from olive oil.

    We do have 94% EtOH available from the SAQ; look for Global 94% on their website to identify outlets.

    1. 1. Good brasserie
      L'Express, Laloux, M sur Masson, Au Petit Extra, Le Valois

      2. Eat great montreal smoked meat
      The Main, Delibee's, Smoke Meat Pete's

      3. Great poutine
      Paul's Patates, Chez Ma Tante, Pataterie Chez Philippe, Pierrette Patates

      4. Bring home bagels or other Montreal goodies for foodie friends.
      Délires du terroir 6406 Saint Hubert
      Fous de la Gaspésie 1253 Beaubien E.
      Les Iles en Ville 5335 Wellington
      Marché des Saveurs du Québec 280 Place du Marche N

      6. Looking for great Italian/Spanish imported grocers.
      Berchicci 6205 Couture
      Mayrand 5650 Metropolitan

      95% alcohol
      http://www.saq.com/page/en/saqcom/alc...

      3 Replies
      1. re: EaterBob

        "Pataterie Chez Philippe, Pierrette Patates"

        Ohh... my 2 favorite places. You and I could be great friends

        1. re: Lowrent

          Glad to meet you here, and it looks like you should try Paul's Patates and Chez Ma Tante. They are as good as those at Pataterie Chez Philippe and Pierrette Patates.

          1. re: EaterBob

            Plus, you get homemade spruce beer at paul patates!

      2. Brasserie: (I assume you mean restaurant and not a brewpub) Lemeac or L'Express.

        Smoked meat: For experience, "Schwartz" or "The Main".

        Poutine: La Banquise or Patati Patata (but chains like Lafleur do it well also; it's fast food).

        Bagels: Either Fairmount or St-Viateur bagels; to bring home(skip the cooler) just keep them in the bag they came in and slice them and freeze them as soon as you get home.

        Markets: (I assume you mean "farmer's market") Jean-Talon Market is the bigger market in town; with some good local produce (like Biri, .. ). Vrac en Folie is a "cash'n'carry kind of place for bulk buying; maybe not worth it IMO.

        Italian stores: Milano on St-Laurent blvd; Capitol at Jean-Talon market; Nicola Travaglini near Jean Talon Market.

        Spanish stores: Librarie Espagnole (st-Laurent blvd)
        Portugese stores: Soares (duluth st.) or Aliments Picado (st-Laurent blvd)

        White Alcohol: there is something called "Global 94 %" at the SAQ; it seems to be available in most outlets.

        1. Hello!

          1. Depends on what you mean by "brasserie". I assume you mean the france french version in which case I would recommend L'express for the quintessential french brasserie feel. In Quebec a "brasserie" is more of a tavern ("brasser de la bière" is "brewing beer" so our "brasserie" is taken to mean a brewery, with food where a "Brasserie parisienne" is more of a bistro)
          http://www.yelp.ca/biz/l-express-mont...

          2. I recommend Le Main. Its downtown, pretty easy of access and the smoke meat is better than Schwartz IMHO (its also in front of Schwartz if you want to compare!). Don't get me wrong, Delibees and Smoke Meat Pete also look to have good products but they are located outside the core.
          http://www.yelp.ca/biz/main-deli-stea...

          3. I always recommend La Banquise for foreigners. Its not a chain but its always open and they have a great classic product.
          http://www.yelp.ca/biz/resto-la-banqu...

          4.
          *We do great cheeses (we have a really great site for it too! http://fromagesduquebec.qc.ca/en/

          )

          *We do great beers (Here is a list of our breweries http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...), you can cross reference with beer advocate for more info. You can find a wide selection at Dépanneur Peluso (http://www.yelp.ca/biz/depanneur-boni...) or at Fromagerie Atwater (beer AND cheese!! http://www.yelp.ca/biz/fromagerie-atw...

          )

          *We do great Cider (light/strong, sparkling/still... we even do ice cider! just look at that selection: http://bit.ly/UOxK4r) I like SAQ near marché atwater for their cider selection.

          *We have strong french influences (that means fois gras, great bakery and pastry products, regional specialities can be found

          )

          *We still have our traditional recipes (I did a post on Quebec recipes not long ago... you can find a lot of those at the marché des saveurs http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/983344 http://www.yelp.ca/biz/march%C3%A9-de...

          )

          5. Vrac en folie might be nice (I never went there) but the two markets you want to visit are Atwater market (http://www.marchespublics-mtl.com/en/...) and Jean-Talon market (http://www.marchespublics-mtl.com/en/...). Not only do they have fresh produce but they are surrounded by speciality shops that will probably gladden your foodie heart. They are at different corners of the city so you might want to spread the visit on two days.

          6. Our "Little Italy" is not far from Jean-Talon market but I don't go there often so I don't really know the shops well. You will find speciality foods at douceurs du marché at Marché Atwater (http://www.yelp.ca/biz/les-douceurs-d...). I found a lot of spanish food at "Librairie Espanola" on Saint-Laurent, not far from Le Main and Schwartz (its more than a librairy... http://www.yelp.ca/biz/librairie-espa...) I would also recommend taking a look at "La Vieille Europe" on Saint-Laurent not far from there either (http://www.yelp.ca/biz/la-vieille-eur...

          )

          We have 95% alcohol (as eaterbob mentioned)

          I think we have more choice than Toronto. I don't know about the price though.

          1. I know you said no chains for poutine, but my favourite poutine places are La Belle Province, Lafleur, Five Guys, and Burger de Ville. Others have mentioned Paul's Patates and Patati Patata which are also very good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: causeimhungry

              If you go to Paul Patates, try the house made spruce beer. Its a Quebec speciality not found everywhere. They do make good poutine! (I know, I'm almost their neighbour!)

              1. re: causeimhungry

                I don't find the frites good enough at fast food chains (though I've never been to Five Guys). I don't like poutine, but I do like the frites at Frite Alors!, and they do make poutine. (I don't like poutine as I prefer that frites be crisp).

                I do live in Little Italy, but wouldn't have much more to add about local shops than the other posters. Yes, Milano is good, but there is even more choice at Berchicci and Mayrand, and the latter has very good prices. At Jean-Talon Market, Le Marché des saveurs is good for local Québec products, including beers and ciders.

                Vrac en folie is a very ordinary bulk goods shop. Anatol nearby, while not as cute or modern, probably has a faster turnover on spices and dry staples.

                If you want more special (but more pricy) spices, Olives et épices at Jean-Talon Market carries the Épices du cru line: epicesducru.com (site in French and in English).

              2. Thanks everyone - that's more than enough for us to choose from. I think I have just been convinced to not to go Schwartz's.

                13 Replies
                1. re: itryalot

                  Schwartz's is amazing. I don't know what people have been telling you but I have not had anything that even remotely compares. Make sure you get a fatty cut.

                  I really enjoyed L'express when I was in Montreal. We still talk about how amazing their steak tartare was. Beware, it is huge.

                  Other things to not miss:
                  Au Pied de Cochon
                  Le Filet
                  Kem Coba (for their soft-serve)

                  1. re: quddous

                    When was the last time you ate at Schwartz? Have you tried other smoked meat in Montreal?

                    1. re: kpaxonite

                      She (or he) was here in October 2013.
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922036 Schwartz's didn't make it on to the trip report.

                      1. re: EaterBob

                        I don't really understand the anti Schwartz thing. It's not that much better or worse than any other smoked meat place. It's just different. But then, I like whatever they serve at Jarry Smoke Meat in St Leonard, so maybe I have no taste.

                        1. re: mrm_ch

                          I dont think its an anti schwartz thing..its just that some people think its the holy grail of smoked meat and it really isnt...montreal has other options, as you pointed out.

                          1. re: mrm_ch

                            It used to be mostly about the rude service, the product being similar to Main's but I went recently (because I had to see for myself what the recent negative buzz was about) and there is really a wide gap between
                            Schwartz and other smoked meat places (Main's, Quebec Smoked Meat, Smoke Meat Pete...).

                            1. re: CaptCrunch

                              Schwartz is still the best smoked meat. The Main is very good, too, but Schwartz is the best. The others aren't even in the same league.

                              1. re: Shattered

                                Schwartz used to be the best until they sold a couple of years ago. They are cutting corners somewhere in their process.

                                1. re: JerkPork

                                  Last sandwich was in March and I didn't notice an appreciable decline in quality. I've had hundreds of sandwiches over the years and there's a variance in quality, but it's always pretty good.

                                  Recent posts do suggest a decline, but, even if it's true, that decline doesn't sound substantial.

                                  One thing to remember is, as a tourist, it's probably not worth it to take half a day to drive to Smoke Meat Pete for, maybe, a small uptick in quality. Even places like Snowdon Deli and Quebec Smoked Meat are pretty far afield in terms of the activities you're likely to be engaging in as a tourist. The Main and Schwartz's are both 1) right in the middle of one of the areas you want to be as a tourist (Plateau/Mile End) and 2) have a great, classic atmosphere.

                                  On a vacation, it's simply not worth it to spend a large amount of time traveling to a neighbourhood you likely wouldn't be visiting otherwise for a possibly but possibly not slightly better sandwich.

                                  Go to Schwartz's or The Main, it would be a shame to leave Montreal without trying smoked meat.

                                  1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                    I've got to agree with this. I've had plenty of Schwartz sandwichs in the last year, and while once in a while the quality won't be as high, I can say it's still better to me then the Main (which I've tried again two weeks ago). The Main isn't bad by any means, but I always find there is a deeper 'pastrami' like taste to it then Schwartz, which is why I prefer Schwartz.

                                    I always find the story about the decline since they sold to be people wanting to find something. I can't say I noticed a big decline, but I did notice a big increase in price (which seems to be followed by the Main, though).

                                    1. re: NickinMtl

                                      Ha!

                                      Nothing says Montreal like an argument on Smoked Meat.

                                      1. re: CaptCrunch

                                        St-Viateur is better than Fairmount <runs away>

                                        :D

                                      2. re: NickinMtl

                                        I've always been fond of Schwartz and would always defend them when people would tell me, "it's too dry".

                                        I'm sorry the last few times I've been there the meat has been off, it didn't have that broken down, shreddy, fall apart texture to it. Maybe it was just coincidence as my sample size is not big enough and I got them on two bad days, even though a place like this shouldn't be off. I will try them again in the coming weeks and hopefully it will be better.

                                        jfprieur, yes St-Viateur is better than Fairmount!! :)

                    2. 1. I like going to St.Ambroise and enjoying a few pints on their outdoor terrace. I'm a big fan or their stout and apricot beer. Everyone else has made excellent suggestions as well.
                      3. Poutine central, Poutineville, Banquise
                      4. St.Viator or Fairmount as everyone else has been suggesting.
                      5-6 I'd say hit Jean Talon market. It's in little italy so you'll be able to hit up Milano and Capitol for italian imports, and there's also a small spanish grocery stores hidden in there, beside the Mondou pet store and the olive oil shop, near the outdoor parking lot on the west side of the market.
                      You'll also find some good quebec local products (Marche des saveurs) around the market, two french bakeries (Pain Dore and Premiere Moisson), a great tea shop(camelia sinensis, really really good ice cream (havre au glace. Try the noix d'abricot or quebec strawberry, though you can sample flavors before deciding), good mexican (el rey del taco), really good sausage (boucherie du marche), pick up some localy brewed beers (dieux du ciel, 3 mousquetaires, ect) and ciders (mystique or mckeown) at a shop beside the sushi shop, forget the name :P

                      For the alcohol, you can try getting this stuff:
                      http://www.saq.com/page/en/saqcom/alc...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: pkzilla

                        Carniceria Mundial is not a spanish grocery store, it's a salvadorean butcher shop with products that come mostly from Central and South-America.

                        1. re: Glaff

                          You beat me to that one, Glaff. Sabor Latino nearby on Bélanger (just southeast of the Market) is also Latin American, but I think they have more products from Spain than Mundial does. http://www.saborlatino.ca/

                          Olive et Olives has quite a few Spanish olive oils and olives, and La Bomba paella rice. I've also see this paella rice at Boucherie Saint-Viateur (located on Beaubien due south of JTM), which once again is not a Spanish market but a South American one, specialized mostly in the foods of the Southern Cone countries (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay). They do carry some products from Spain.

                          L'Espagne à vos pieds is a tiny shop on St-Denis that mostly sells espadrilles and tapas dishes, but they also carry some grocery products from Spain. http://www.espadrillestore.com/fr/les... (language choice FR-EN-SP

                          )

                          All of this goes to show that the pickings for Spanish foods here are unfortunately rather slim, unlike Italian, Greek or other Mediterranean foods. There is far more Portuguese than Spanish immigration here, in terms of Iberians.

                          1. re: Glaff

                            Oh sorry about that, thanks for specifying! I've only stepped in once!

                        2. About he gifts for the foodies friend, i you/they like macarons, the ones Pâtisserie à la Folie makes are really really good an not that expensive. They have a store on Mont-Royal street and have a little shop in the middle of Centre Eaton metro level mall.

                          1. Trip has changed to shopping weekend with girls. We are leaving our foodie hubbies at home, and as a result, have promised a Montreal inspired dinner when we return. We'll need to bring back bagels, smoked meat and anything else which is quintessential and we can get to go....

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: itryalot

                              Oh dear. I only like shopping for food, art supplies and books.

                              We do need to wear clothing for several reasons, but that would never be recreational for me, no more than buying home office supplies. Have fun, and as you do have to eat (and drink something)don't hesitate to ask us.

                              1. re: itryalot

                                I forgot to mention, we're all foodies. We'd love to try APDC but it just looks too doggone heavy. Joe Beef looks great but with no menus posted, it's difficult to tell if we'd like it. We want ONE great meal and the rest will be poutines, crepes, food trucks (need recs) and food (for hubby meal when we return) and kitchenware shopping.

                                I'm also looking for citron (not sure of name). I've had it in Capri - like the preserved lemon skin (they are huge).

                                1. re: itryalot

                                  I don't know a lot about food trucks but I believe there is a thread somewhere.

                                  Do you mean citron confit? You might find it in one of the two big markets.

                                  1. re: itryalot

                                    APDC is heavy if you are eating full servings per person but it is great if you are sharing. The food is much more refined than it seems from the outside. Their carpaccio is the most elegent and best I have ever had. I really think this is the quintessential restaurant of not just Montreal but Quebec and possibly Canada. I have cooked many dishes from his cookbook and all have been amazing (I cooked the accompaniments from duck in a can just last night actually. buttered cabbage, balsamic reduction, celeriac puree and substituted the duck for wagyu)

                                    We found Joe Beef to be the unrefined one out of the two and very disappointing.

                                    Do not miss out on the soft serve from Kem Coba.

                                  2. re: itryalot

                                    You might find interesting that there is a series of four shopping centers linked by tunnels around metro McGill (maybe it'll rain!). There is nothing *special* about the shopping centers but there are four of them and they are shopping centers so I guess you can get some... shopping done. (?)

                                    If you are walkers doing Sainte-Catherine street from Atwater metro to rue Saint-Denis street is a fun walk that lets you go through downtown.

                                    Once at Saint-Denis street you can go up Saint-Denis to Avenue Mont-Royal to get to the plateau Mont-Royal or continue up Sainte-Catherine street to our fabulous gai village.

                                    Avenue Mont-Royal is a fun place to walk, so is Saint-Laurent boulevard. If you walk up Saint-Laurent from Sherbrooke street you can stop on Laurier street at the end of your journey to drink a fine pint at the Dieu du Ciel microbrewery. You can go right at the corner of Fairmounth and Saint-Urbain for a bagel at Fairmouth Bagel. Try also an ice cream at Kem Coba while your at it!

                                    For food, you will want to go at Marché Jean-Talon or Marché Atwater to see where foodies usually find specific knickknacks they are looking for.

                                    Specific Montreal stuff can include:

                                    *Smoked Meat
                                    *Bagels
                                    *Microbrewery beer (please, none of that Molson/Labatt stuff. you are better than that!)
                                    *Cider
                                    *Cheese
                                    *Pastries

                                    1. re: CaptCrunch

                                      Can you buy the microbrewery beer at the province's liquor stores? We need to make a stop at one or two. Are any better than others in selection? I need to buy 94% alcohol to make limoncello and them some good Italian wines and now, the beer.

                                      1. re: itryalot

                                        The liquor monopoly carries a few but it depends on the SAQ outlet. It is best to find one of the better depanneurs or specialty stores that carry a range of beer.
                                        My go-to, out of proximity, is actually Frommagerie Atwater at the Atwater market. It's a phenomenal cheese and charcuterie store, but in front of the cash there is a basement section with a pretty nice assortment of Quebec beers. Marche des Saveurs at Jean-Talon market also has some interesting local booze options.

                                        1. re: itryalot

                                          Hello Itryalot,

                                          Strong alcohol, cider and wines are usually sold at SAQ but beer are available in depanneurs (I'd guess you can all it cornerstone).

                                          Fromagerie Atwater and Dépanneur Peluso are well known to have a good selection. I seem to remember a place called "délires du terroir" on Saint-Hubert if you go in that corner of the woods.

                                          http://www.yelp.ca/biz/fromagerie-atw...
                                          http://www.yelp.ca/biz/depanneur-boni...
                                          http://www.yelp.ca/biz/d%C3%A9lires-d...

                                          1. re: CaptCrunch

                                            Thanks...interesting about who sells what. Very much like Ontario too, but they sell beer in Govt run liquor stores. I will do some google searching and mapping once we figure out where to stay!

                                            1. re: itryalot

                                              Moreover, not all SAQ offer the same range of products. There are "SAQ Express" which offer the basic range, "SAQ" which have a bit more selection and "SAQ Selection" with a wider range of alcohol and wines.

                                              There is an SAQ selection downtown near McGill metro and near Marché Atwater.

                                              1. re: CaptCrunch

                                                The downtown SAQ Sélections are - near métro Atwater:

                                                2313, rue Ste-Catherine Ouest - Centre Forum Pepsi
                                                Montréal, Québec
                                                H3H1N2
                                                Phone number : 514 935-9414
                                                Fax : 514 935-7488
                                                (West End of downtown)

                                                440, boul. De Maisonneuve Ouest
                                                Montréal, Québec
                                                H3A3K5
                                                Phone number : 514 873-2274
                                                Fax : 514 873-4948
                                                Add to my favourite outlets : Montréal 23134
                                                (Easternish downtown)

                                                And dead centre, an SAQ Signature (mostly high-end stuff, but a few plebian bottles for people working nearby).

                                                677, rue Ste-Catherine Ouest - locaux R-01et M-31 - Complexe Les Ailes
                                                Montréal, Québec
                                                H3B5K4
                                                Phone number : 514 282-9445
                                                Fax : 514 282-7552

                                                Just across the street from Atwater Market (Le Sud-Ouest)
                                                155, avenue Atwater - Face au marché
                                                Montréal, Québec
                                                H3J2J4
                                                Phone number: 514 932-2574
                                                Fax: 514 932-1914

                                                The closest SAQ Sélection to Jean-Talon Market:
                                                900, rue Beaubien Est
                                                Montréal, Québec
                                                H2S1T1
                                                Phone number : 514 270-1776
                                                Fax : 514 270-4303

                                                Very close to Délires du Terroir (beer place).

                                                There are two smaller SAQ outlets closer to the market: Petite-Italie on St-Laurent corner Mozart, and one right in the market on Jean-Talon. It is set to expand soon, and will probably become a Sélection. Time will tell.

                                                This should take you to "find an outlet" in English:
                                                http://www.saq.com/webapp/wcs/stores/...

                                                Problem is, you have to know the Montreal borough (arrondissement) system, and that there are independent cities enclaved within Montreal or elsewhere on Montreal Island.

                                                Ontario is much more restrictive. We can buy beer (even good beer) and rather crappy to generic wine, as well as local cider, at supermarkets and dépanneurs (corner stores). But here, people call a dépanneur a "dep" when speaking English. Ontario does have little wine shops within large supermarkets, and some freestanding ones, but they usually sell only Ontario wines.

                                                They also have a higher drinking age - 19. Here, it is 18, a godsend for young tourists from the US and Ontario.

                                              2. re: itryalot

                                                Since you're already going to Jean Talon Market, your best bets for local beer are Marché des Saveurs, as already mentioned, and La Grange du Marché, a couple of doors west. There's a lot of overlap in their selections, but they're not quite the same. Between the two you should be able to put together a very good sampler.

                                                The SAQ store on the north side of the market is small but has a very good selection of wine. However that store doesn't have the 94% alcohol, at least not at the moment.