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?
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. 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
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. 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)
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.
3. I always recommend La Banquise for foreigners. Its not a chain but its always open and they have a great classic product.
*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.
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).