Montreal

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Eating out in Montreal can be an adventure or simply a pleasant surprise. The currency exchange and reasonable menu prices mean you can eat like royalty without going broke. Locals start sitting down to dinner around 7pm, lingering over crème caramel and bottles of Bordeaux in candlelit bistros. The biggest problem is how to choose from among the over 5,000 restaurants that serve everything from haute French cuisine to smoked meat on rye. In fact, Montreal boasts more restaurants per capita than anywhere in North America, with more than 80 types of cuisine available – but the best offerings include bistro fare, wild game, kosher favorites, nouveau Quebecois, and authentic Greek.

Top Restaurants in Montreal

Amelios

Right near McGill University, this quaint and cozy pizzeria is a popular BYOB spot, especially for students (remember, the drinking age in Montreal is 18), though it closes by 9pm. The pizza itself is no dainty pie intended for fans of thin crust; it’s thick and doughy, piled high with sauce, cheese, and chunky toppings. A selection of salads and classic Italian subs are also on the menu. Most tantalizing of all is the fact that many of Amelios’s heaping bowls of homemade pasta and satisfying personal pizza pies can be had for under $12.

201 Rue Milton, QC, 514-845-8396, www.ameliospizza.com
Tags: budget | italian | byob

Andiamo

With white-washed walls, blue checkered tablecloths, and a colorful mural of a seaside scene, Andiamo (opened November 2009) brings a taste of the Mediterranean to Montreal. The meal starts with a fanciful amuse-bouche (like a flaky crab puff) then eases into a seafood-heavy menu (try the mussels with chorizo, peppers, and tomatoes). Old world wines (mostly French, Spanish, and Italian) dominate the wine list, with ample selections by the glass and bottle. Save room for the mini desserts (like strawberry salad in season), a cheap and tasty end to your meal.

1083 Côte du Beaver Hall, Quebec, 514-861-2634, www.andiamo.ca
Tags: seafood | mediterranean

Bistro L’Aromate

After walking around Montreal’s happening downtown, pause to enjoy lunch at Bistro L’Aromate, a lovely French place on Rue Peel around the block from Le St-Martin Hotel. The menu incorporates international flavors like mango salsa and Asian spices, but you can’t go wrong with the traditional steak tartare.

1410 Rue Peel, Quebec, 514-847-9005, www.laromate.com
Tags: expensive | french | jim's pick

Chez L’Épicier

Not only does this stone-walled eatery serve up contemporary Quebecois dishes devised by chef-owner Laurent Godbout; it also doubles as a gourmet deli selling local “terroir” products such as jams, cooking oils, maple products (including maple vinegar) and local cheeses. Vegetarians can expect satisfying dishes like breaded salsify with pumpernickel bread and edamame. Serious meat lovers should go for the pan-seared filet mignon of Alberta beef. Leave room for dessert, which includes homemade sorbets and ice creams and a chocolate “club sandwich” served with pineapple “fries.”

311 Rue St. Paul E., QC, 514-878-2232, www.chezlepicier.com
Tags: expensive | culinary | dessert | deli

Cluny ArtBar

What is an ArtBar, you ask? In this case, it’s a cafeteria-style eatery set in a wide-open, light-flooded, converted industrial space. Located in an old foundry, it specializes in gourmet sandwiches and one daily hot meal (lamb shank, hearty beef stew), but also in exhibiting and promoting local and upcoming artists. The espresso is also famously well made. And just as the fare is fresh and fusion, so too is the cutting-edge atmosphere, especially in the late-week evening hours when the “bar” part of the equation is more obvious. The unofficial mascot of the place is a black pug named Cluny.

257 Rue Prince, QC, 514-866-1213, www.cluny.info
Tags: moderate | art | bar

Fairmount Bagel

A Montreal mainstay, bagels make an affordable snack. Head to this 60-year-old bakery to watch them get rolled by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven the same way they have been since founder, Isadore Shlafman, first introduced bagels to the city in 1919. Walk out with a dozen for just over $5. Poppy and sesame seed are the most popular but more adventurous types can try the Mueslix or pesto and black olive bagels. Almost all varieties are made with unbleached flour. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the bakery is now run by Shlafman’s grandchildren.

74 Rue Fairmount O, QC, 514-272-0667, www.fairmountbagel.com
Tags: budget | bakery

Garde Manger

Set in a small stone and wood building, this unpretentious eatery specializes in sumptuous seafood platters. The fish is hard to resist, especially when you see it piled high and devoured atop the brown-paper tablecloths that cover the rustic wooden tables. But don’t let it tempt you away from chef Chuck Hughes’ excellent steak frites. A blazing fireplace welcomes patrons in from the cold and attractive clientele make it difficult to leave. Luckily, you don’t have to. After dinner, Garde Manger transforms into something more bar-like, with thirtysomethings filing in to sip cocktails and sway to danceable music under the spectacular outsize chandelier.

408 Rue St. François-Xavier, QC, 514-678-5044
Tags: moderate | seafood | editor pick | trendy

Holder

This eatery caters to a boisterous, 20-something crowd in an expansive turn-of-the-century former bank in Old Montreal. A copper-plated bar, high ceilings, and tall windows are conducive to the boisterous atmosphere. While not the best choice for a romantic dinner, it's a sure bet for French brasserie standards like Niçoise salad and beef tartare. The chef recommends the fried calamari.

407 Rue McGill, QC, 514-849-0333, www.restaurantholder.com
Tags: moderate | french

Joe Beef

Named for Charles McKiernan, a.k.a. Joe Beef, who was known to open his pub doors to the poor in the 19th century, this intimate 25-seat eatery is high on taste and low on pretension. Its delectable, regionally inspired menu changes daily and frequently features freshly shucked oysters and lobster spaghetti, although the order of the day is usually meat. Succulent sirloin for two, foie gras, and boudin (blood sausage) are sure to be on offer. The rustic décor includes a stuffed bear head over the bar and wooden tables adorned with checkered napkins.

2491 Rue Notre-Dame O, QC, 514-935-6504
Tags: romance | expensive

L'Express

At L'Express you'll feel like you've stepped into an authentic '40s Parisian bistro. The place is always packed and the service can be perfunctory, but dishes like tender octopus with lentils, traditional steak frites, and duck confit make it worthwhile. The kitchen is open until 1am, so you can fill that craving for cassoulet well into the wee hours. A well-stocked wine cellar features a number of good-value bottles, and it's worth it to leave room for dessert - L'Express makes its own chocolate truffles. In strict bistro style, each table has its jar of cornichons and moutarde - what other condiments would you need?

3927 Rue St. Denis, QC, 514-845-5333
Tags: moderate | great value | french | bistro

La Belle Province

No trip to Montreal is complete without a steamy or a toasté (steamed or toasted hotdog) and poutine (french fries covered in gravy and fresh cheese curds). This chain of greasy spoons has mastered all three Canadian fast-food favorites, especially the poutine, whose cheese curds are so fresh they squeak when you chew them. La Belle's, as the locals refer to it, 125-plus locations can be found scattered throughout the city. Its locations, especially those in livelier neighborhoods, tend to be open late to cater to the after-bar crowd (fries, cheese, and gravy being the perfect alcohol sponges).

1216 Rue Peel, QC, 514-878-8020
Tags: budget

La Chronique

With just a few dozen seats, this hotspot eatery (though visually modest) has been packing in the crowds since its 1995 opening, thanks to a constantly evolving standout menu of contemporary French cuisine du marché (utilizing premium market-fresh products). Belgian-born chef and owner Marc de Canck draws upon his extensive travels and pastry-chef past to craft adventurous new takes on traditional French fare, like foie gras accompanied by vanilla-poached apricots, tomato chutney, and gingerbread. A sommelier is on staff to suggest the right wine (with over 250 to choose from) to complement the menu's mélange of flavors. Worth the pretty price, reservations are a must (also open for lunch); consider a splurge on the five-course prix-fix menu (priced from under $80). And be sure to save room for dessert!

99 rue Laurier Ouest, 514-271-3095, www.lachronique.qc.ca
Tags: expensive | french fusion | jim's pick

Le Club Chasse et Pêche

A sense of secrecy and exclusivity prevails at Le Club Chasse et Pêche (the hunting and fishing club), where the house emblem of leaping fish and antlers is ubiquitous. Diners tuck into roast bison, braised venison, and seared scallops in a dark setting worthy of a private men's club. The menu changes frequently, but braised suckling pig risotto with foie gras is a mainstay. Chef Claude Pelletier is the quintessential French-Canadian chef with his shaggy hair, casual five o’clock shadow, and irreverent take on Quebecois cuisine. His signature surf-and-turf dish comprises lobster and crispy sweetbreads on a bed of pureed celeriac.

423 Rue St. Claude, QC, 514-861-1112, www.leclubchasseetpeche.com
Tags: expensive | smart splurge | french

Leméac

For a bolder, more inventive approach to French fare, go where locals savor escargot portobello ragout and braised short rib in a friendly setting that's much less formal than its crisp white tablecloths suggest. Chef-owner Richard Bastien makes his own boudin (blood pudding), and insists on keeping a selection of fine Quebec cheeses in stock, including several raw varieties, which are legal in the province. The $22 prix-fixe menu that kicks in after 10pm is an exceptionally good value, and weekend brunch is a well-attended event. The name Leméac refers to the publishing company that once occupied the building.

1045 Rue Laurier O, QC, 514-270-0999, www.restaurantlemeac.com
Tags: moderate | great value | french

Les Cavistes

Trendy Rue Saint-Denis is one long strip of hip restaurants and shops. One of the latest dining spots, Les Cavistes (opened December 2009) specializes in French bistro fare with a New World twist – think spicy beef and bison tartare with traditional frites. With abundant overhead lighting and open design, the vibe here is more modern than traditional bistro. Caviste means “wine merchant,” and the wine list does not disappoint; you can even order a bottle to go from the restaurant’s boutique with your takeout meal.

4115 Rue Saint-Denis, 514-903-5089, www.restaurantlescavistes.com
Tags: notable wine list | french | bistro

Pied de Cochon

If you've ever seen the episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations in which he travels to Montreal, the scene of him eating just about every foie gras-slathered dish on the menu at Pied de Cochon while chef Martin Picard watches in amusement is burned into your memory. Musts include the foie gras-topped poutine (a dressed-up version of traditional diner fare comprising fries, cheese curds, and gravy), foie gras-topped hamburger, and the "Happy Pig Chop," which weighs in at an impressive pound-plus. All meats are slow-roasted in a wood-fired brick pizza oven. Bourdain called Picard's food "irreverently regressive," an apt description.

536 Rue Duluth E., QC, 514-281-1114, www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca
Tags: expensive | french

Primadonna

Primadonna is a large and lively venue in the Latin Quarter where one can enjoy superb Italian food amid a boisterous crowd. This popular spot features a stripped-down take and the freshest ingredients in dishes like filet mignon with vanilla peppercorn sauce and shrimp and asparagus risotto.

3479 Blvd. Saint Laurent, Quebec, 514-282-6644, www.ristoranteprimadonna.com
Tags: expensive | italian | jim's pick

Queue de Cheval

For an amazing steak house (with seafood options), head to the more formal Queue de Cheval, which has an impressive interior and draws a celebrity crowd. Healthy-sized portions carry a price tag to match. The extensive wine list includes vintages from five continents, and there’s also a popular after-dinner cigar bar.

1221 Blvd. René-Lévesque West, Quebec, 514-390-0090, www.queuedecheval.com
Tags: expensive | steakhouse | jim's pick

Schwartz's

Schwartz’s has been serving up excellent, inexpensive, preservative-free smoked meat since 1928, making it the oldest deli in Canada. The atmosphere is no-frills – all the better so that you can focus on the mouthwatering brisket. The order of the day here is delicious smoked meat on white rye with a side of fries, coleslaw, and a half-sour or dill pickle – all for about $10. Seating is communal so you might find yourself next to a stranger. While the place boasts a list of celebrity fans that includes Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie, you’ll likely just be in the company of neighborhood locals and diehard regulars.

3895 St. Laurent Blvd., QC, 514-842-4813, www.schwartzsdeli.com
Tags: budget | great value

Toqué!

A minimalist décor of clean lines and muted tones provides the backdrop for chef Normand Laprise's artfully created dishes made of market-fresh regional and seasonal products. Try the perfectly executed Ontario beef, served with daisy leaves, pan-seared mushrooms, and fiddleheads or the Stairsholme Farm veal, with apple puree with hazelnut oil, cipolini onion confit, and wilted cabbage. In true farm-to-table fashion the farmers and local suppliers of produce and other ingredients are often mentioned in the menu and can be viewed on the restaurant’s website. Give in to the seven-course tasting menu and be sure to reserve at least two weeks in an advance.

900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, QC, 514-499-2084, www.restaurant-toque.com
Tags: expensive | notable chef | editor pick | smart splurge | french fusion

Upstairs

Jazz still is served at this mellow locale where top-notch emerging acts can be enjoyed while supping on haute cuisine like Cajun Mahi Mahi or, if you're seeking something lighter, tapas like chorizo y papas.

1254 Rue MacKay, 514-931-6808, www.upstairsjazz.com
Tags: nightlife | jazz

Wilensky's

This authentic, off-the-path eatery hasn't changed much since it opened in 1932. Located in Mordecai Richler's old neighborhood of Mile End, the place was made famous by the author's 1959 novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Its celebrated special - a double grill-pressed salami and bologna sandwich on a mustard-smeared onion roll paired with an authentic fountain cherry coke - still costs under $5. And don't even think about tipping - it's forbidden. But if you do end up leaving an extra buck or so, it will be - perhaps ironically - donated to the Montreal Heart and Stroke Association. Cash only.

34 Rue Fairmount O, QC, 514-271-0247
Tags: budget

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