An Interview with a Montreal Foodie
Jodi Ettenberg from LegalNomads.com is a native Montrealer currently eating her way around the world. Being from Montreal and a foodie, we knew she could point our readers to the best food, drinks and atmosphere in the City. Read on to find out where the best place to drink with the locals is, where to get the best poutine and what Jodi’s all time favorite restaurants in Montreal are.
Jazz Hostels: What are your top three choices for meals $10 or less?
Jodi: Rotisserie Romados. This Portuguese roast chicken spot is crammed into a corner store and will provide the best chicken you’ll have in a long time. Order the Portuguese chicken special.
Restaurant Pho Bac. Any number of Vietnamese noodle bowls or steaming, beef-topped soups. My favourite is the mini pho plus bun xao combo.
Patati Patata: Hamburger – delicious and reasonably priced!
I’m leaving out bagels, poutine and smoked meat since those are lovingly addressed below 😉
Jazz Hostels: We have to ask about three foods Montreal is famous for – bagels, poutine and smoked meat. Where can one find the best of each of these?
Jodi: It’s true that us Montrealers have some serious opinion on each of these three important foods. As I’ve traveled, I’ve gotten into my share of heated discussions about the density of bagels or layering techniques for poutine.
Bagels: The two longstanding bagel institutions, both open 24 hours a day, are Fairmount (74, av Fairmount O Montreal, QC H2T 2M2, +1 (514) 272-0667) or St-Viateur (263, rue Saint-Viateur O, Montreal, QC H2V 1Y1, +1 (514) 276-8044).
I’m partial to Fairmount, personally, but they are both excellent. Given their hours, it’s been a common practice to end a late night out with a bag full of piping hot bagels. One for now, one for the road and the rest for breakfast the next day. Poppy seed flavour is my favourite.
It merits saying that Montreal bagels are quite different from those in the States or elsewhere in Canada. They are much thinner (we joke that Ontario bagels are “rolls with holes in them” and crunch on the outside but more dense and fluffy inside. Also delicious as French toast.
Poutine: Plenty of delicious poutine throughout the city – almost every restaurant makes it, and the roadside stalls along Highway 10 or toward the Laurentians are also worth trying.
Inside Montreal, I’d recommend La Banquise (994 Rue Rachel Est Montreal,QC H2J 2J3, +1 (514) 525-2415). It’s open 24 hours and packed at 4 in the morning. If this is your first foray into poutine, I’d try the original before branching out into the more exotic flavours or combinations.
Alternatively, La Belle Province (many locations, affectionately called La Belle) makes a mean poutine, with several layers of fries and cheese packed tightly into a styrofoam bowl.
Smoke Meat: I lived in New York for several years, and had far too many people equate smoked meat to corned beef. These are very different things. And in my (wholly biased) opinion, smoked meat would kick corned beef’s butt in a sandwich-off.
For the most famous (and still delicious) smoked meat place in town, head to Schwartz (3895 Saint-Laurent boulevard, Montreal, QC H2W 1X9, +1 (514) 842-4813) . It’s not a smoked meat sandwich without a kosher dill pickle to accompany it – both available until late in the night and well worth the wait to get a table at the crowded restaurant.
Jazz Hostels: Montreal has such a diverse food scene, what are some of your favorite international restaurants?
Jodi: Khyber Pass – Afghani (address below) – terrific Afghani food in the heart of Montreal’s Plateau district – and it’s Bring Your own Wine. I tend to order a slew of appetizers and share, but their main courses with marinated lamb and pumpkin curries are delicious.
Bombay Mahal – Indian (1001, rue Jean-Talon O, Montreal, QC H3N 1T2, +1 (514) 273-3331) – authentic, incredible Indian food. Fiery curries, fluffy naan and great lassi. I’m a big fan of their chicken korma too.
Chez Doval – Portuguese (150, rue Marie-Anne E, Montreal, QC H2W 1A5, +1 (514) 843-3390) – located in the Plateau, this great restaurant serves up spicy grilled chicken, grilled octopus, great fries and other delights in a cramped, noisy atmosphere. But the noise is part of the charm!
Bottega – Italian (65 Rue Saint Zotique East, Montreal, QC H2S 1K6, +1 (514) 277-8104) – THIS is where you find great pizza. For serious. In Little Italy, Bottega makes pizzas you will dream about for weeks after eating them.
Mozzarella di Bufala and cherry tomatoes is my favourite, while friends wax poetic over the choice of prosciutto, olives, artichoke hearts and mushrooms. If you’re going to get pizza somewhere in town, please make it Bottega.
Jazz Hostels: For those who like it hot, where is the best place to get spicy food?
Jodi: Bombay Mahal curry!
Jazz Hostels: What are your three all time favorite restaurants in Montreal?
Jodi: Khyber Pass – terrific Afghani food. You can’t go wrong from appetizers to mains to creamy desserts. (506, av Duluth E Montreal, QC H2L 1A7, +1 (514) 844-7131)
Lemeac (1045, av Laurier O, Outremont, QC H2V 2L1, +1 (514) 270-0999) – this isn’t the most budget-friendly restaurant but if French cuisine is what you enjoy, I would highly recommend it.
Cuisine Bangkok (1616 Sainte-Catherine Street West, Montreal, QC H3H 1L7, +1 (514) 935-2178) – This is a take-out place, and perfect for the traveler on a budget. It’s on the top floor of Le Faubourg shopping centre. I’ve taken many skeptics to try it but ultimately they agree: it just has great food.
Next door is not a restaurant but a long time favourite: the Taiwanese tea stop. I’ve been getting bubble tea there since I was 16 and it’s delicious. A great companion to your take-away Thai food!
Jazz Hostels: What hidden out-of-the way gems of restaurants can your recommend?
Jodi: Daou Lebanese/Middle Eastern (22373, boul. Marcel-Laurin, Ville St. Laurent, Montreal, QC H4R 1K4, +1 (514) 334-1199)
Cafe Milano – Bistro/Cafe (5196 Jarry Est, Saint-Leonard, QC H1R 1N4, +1 (514) 852-9452)
Griffintown Cafe (1378 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal, QC H3C 1K8, +1 (514) 931-5299)
Jazz Hostels: Where is the best Chinese food?
Jodi: Maison VIP (1077, rue Clark Montreal, QC H2Z 1K3, +1 (514) 861-1943), and it’s open till the wee hours of the night. Alternatively, Sunday morning dim sum at Kam Fung is a great way to go! (1111, Rue Saint-Urbain, Montreal, QC H2Z 1Y6, +1 (514) 878-2888)
Jazz Hostels: Where is the best place to get vegetarian/vegan food?
Jodi: Aux Vivres (4631 boul. St-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2T 1R2, +1 (514) 842-3479)
Jazz Hostels: Is there much of a street food scene in Montreal?
Sadly, no. Not just because the winter months are absurdly cold (we have kilometers of tunnels linking buildings to metros for a reason!), but at present the licensing laws don’t allow for street carts. It would be a great addition to the city, and I hope they reconsider in the coming years.
Jazz Hostels: Where are the best desserts in Montreal?
Jazz Hostels: Best bars to sit and chat with locals?
Jodi: McKibbin’s Pub (1300-1498 Rue Bishop Montreal, QC H3G 2E6, +1 (514) 288-1580)
Casa Del Popolo (4873, boul Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC H2T 1R6, +1 (514) 284-3804)
St-Sulpice (1680 rue St-Denis, Montreal, QC H2X 3K6,+1 (514) 844-9458)
St-Elizabeth (1412 Sainte-Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, H2X 3C6, +1 (514) 286-4302)
Chez Baptiste (1045, av du Mont-Royal E, Montreal, QC H2J 1X7, +1 (514) 522-1384)
Jazz Hostels: Best cafes?
Jodi: Griffintown Cafe and Toi Et Moi Café (info above)
Jazz Hostels: For guests who want to cook at the hostel, where is the best place to buy groceries?
Jodi: The two markets I really enjoy visiting are Atwater Market and Jean Talon Market. Both have a huge selection of fresh produce, artisanal cheeses and creative breads and are a pleasure to wander around in for at least an hour or two. There are groceries closer to the hostel, but it’s well worth some time in the markets if you’re going to buy something fun.
About Jodi EttenbergJodi Ettenberg is a former lawyer who left legal practice to pursue her dream of seeing the world, one country at a time. Traveling since April 1, 2008, she writes about transportation misadventures, her obsessive love of street food & the politics of the places she visits. You can follow Jodi via her Legal Nomads blog or on Twitter.
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