Travel Food Guide: 3 Days of Eating in MontrealAug 27 2013 · 5 comments · Deli, Sandwiches, Travel
Montreal is not only beautiful, it’s also one of the best food cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. The people are so nice, and they’re seriously dedicated to good food. My kind of population. Meat, bread and cheese seem to be the general appetite, and I swear, poutine is beyond ubiquitous. You see it advertised in every restaurant window—more than a mainstay, it’s an obsession, and one I was quite happy to take on for the 3 days I was in Montreal.
I didn’t have a bad meal, but there were some heartbreaks: Patisserie Au Kouign Amann, whose version of the buttery pastry is reportedly life changing, was closed for vacation; I was just too freaking full to fit any of La Pretzelleria’s twisted wares in; and I didn’t get to experience the chocolate babka bliss of Cheskie’s Bakery. However, I will go back to avenge my losses.
In the meantime, here’s what I did eat:
Beauty’s Luncheonette has been around since 1942, and the Beauty Special is a big reason why. The bagels with lox sandwich is a thing in Montreal, and this one is just about perfect, served on a sweet and sesame seeded St-Viateur’s bagel (more on those later). The restaurant itself is cute, cute, cute, with classic diner ambiance and friendly conversation with the original owner’s son, Larry, who points you to your seat from his perch at the counter. They serve a good cup of coffee, golden, buttery pancakes, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Beauty’s Luncheonette, 93 Mont-Royal West, Montreal, QC H2T 2S5
Au Pied de Cochon:
I fell in love at first sight with Au Pied de Cochon when Cathy Chaplin wrote about it on gas•tron•o•my, and then I saw the Quebec episode of No Reservations. What can I say? The over-the-topness sang my name. Chef Martin Picard’s restaurant is a foie gras fantasy and maybe the best heart attack you’ll ever have—a great big gob of gourmet. The Duck in a Can is a gimmick, of course, but it sure is tasty. They undo the can table side, plopping a pile of duck, foie gras, garlic and cabbage over toast and celery root puree. I guess we didn’t need to get the foie gras poutine, too.
536 Avenue Duluth Est Montreal, QC H2L
Chef Guru G:
Speaking of poutine…Chef Guru G is an Indian fast food joint that serves basic but good fare. Their most non-traditional dish, curry poutine, is the work of a comfort food savant. Seasoned, medium-cut, crispy french fries are smothered in a rich curry sauce. The thickness of the sauce, coupled with the melted cheese, gives this hardcore dish the texture of chili fries. Cilantro is dropped on top and left to melt into the cheese. So good. It is now my death row meal, and I’m thinking of opening a shop that just sells these.
Don’t steal my idea.
4120 boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2W
St-Viateur Bagel & Fairmont Bagel:
Aside from poutine, the thing to eat in this town is a bagel. They’re sweet, literally, because they’re boiled in honey-infused water before being baked in wood-fired ovens. The result is chewy and less doughy than your average USA bagel. The hole is a lot bigger, too. St-Viateur Bagel (two top photos) and Fairmont Bagel (directly above) both vie for bagel supremacy in Montreal. If I had to choose, I’d say Fairmount’s product is slightly more flavorful. However, if you want to sit and have a meal, St-Viateur is the place as they do big, beautiful sandwiches and breakfast bagel platters that don’t disappoint. I also loved their orange-juice-soaked fruit salad. Fairmount does a stellar take-out lox and cream cheese if you’re on the move.
Fairmount Bagel: 74 Avenue Fairmount Ouest Montreal, QC H2T
St-Viateur Bagel:263 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest Montreal, QC H2V
Dragon Beard Candy:
Since it’s a rare find, I made it a point to try dragon beard candy, which some say originates with China’s Han Dynasty, while I was in Montreal. Johnny Chin, who says he introduced these fascinating little candies to North America, makes them in a tiny storefront in Chinatown 7 days a week by stretching cornstarch and syrup into a sweet mess of strings that is then wrapped around mounds of peanuts, coconut, sesame seeds, sugar and chocolate. I was instructed to pop the whole thing in my mouth and let it melt. I did so, and then I ate two more quickly thereafter. Recommended!
52, Rue De La Gauchetiere Ouest, Montréal, QC H2Z 1C1
Food trucks are just as big a thing in Montreal as they are in LA. You see them everywhere, and most of them look to be offering some pretty gourmet grub. I was only able to try one: Camion Gaufrabec. Also a brick-and-mortar location, Gaufrabec serves up traditional Belgian Liège Waffles. As you can see, the one I had was quite a beauty with a dense texture and rich flavor. The outside was a ideally crispy while the inside was soft and hot. Getting it drenched in chocolate sauce was a good choice.
2005 St Denis St Montreal, QC H2X (brick and mortar location)
We saved the best for last and ate at Schwartz’s Delicatessen they day before we left. Around since 1928, this smoked meat mecca really is all it’s hyped up to be. There’s always a line, and it’s a small space, so you’ll most likely be waiting and rubbing elbows with your fellow patrons. But, it’s worth it. The meat is marinated for 10 days before it’s smoked, minus the use of chemicals and preservatives. We got it all: the smoked meat sandwich, fries, coleslaw and a Cott Black Cherry Soda. The meat was so tender and flavorful. Schwartz’s was the perfect way to say goodbye to this great city.
3895 St Laurent Blvd Montreal, QC H2