How to eat and drink your way through Montreal

How to eat and drink your way through Montreal

This is the second of three stories about how to make the most of your visit to Montreal this May. Get a sense of how to experience Montreal to the fullest here, and stay tuned for our activity recommendations.

Coming to C2 Montréal? Congratulations: Not only are you in for a career-altering experience, you’re landing in the best food city north of the Rio Grande. Don’t take our word for it – rather, turn to Alan Richman, veteran restaurant critic and 16-time James Beard Award winner, who writes: “Asked to name the best restaurant city in America – meaning the United States – I offered the only reasonable answer: Montreal, a city with the culture, the cooks, the restaurants, the provisions, and the hospitality.” Sold? Let’s get to the main course.


Read and save these useful cues

Montreal restaurant critics publishing in English don’t get much better than Lesley Chesterman. Be sure to read her reviews if you need an opinion. Cult MTL also publishes restaurant reviews on its website. Eater Montreal offers a rich coverage of the local restaurant industry and useful maps pointing to the cream of the crop in various corners of the city.

Many Montreal restaurants fare well in the latest Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants ranking. On a provincial scale, Quebec’s restaurant industry hosted its first-ever awards ceremony last April. Nominees and winners are definitely worth checking out.

The influx of noteworthy new restaurants opening on Notre Dame St. West has bestowed the street with a new nickname: restaurant row. Steps from C2 Montréal’s venue, the strip is teeming with culinary creativity. Here’s a Travel + Leisure piece about it.


Montreal restaurant etiquette: A crash course

  • You will often be greeted in French. Don’t be intimidated: Montreal’s waiting staff is bilingual by and large
  • Restaurants usually have both French and English menus – feel free to ask your server to switch yours
  • Always mention your intolerances and allergies to your server
  • Most restaurants see no problem in separating bills if diners ask for it
  • Groups (5 or more) should make a reservation at least a day in advance
  • A growing number of Montreal restaurants don’t take reservations, however
  • Tipping 15% based on pre-tax subtotal is customary
  • Groups will often be charged a de facto gratuity, typically 18%


Visit these food festivals

Montréal is in the midst of a cocktail renaissance, and there’s no better event to test the waters than Invasion Cocktail. Over 20 bars offer special concoctions for the occasion, with noted cocktail hubs La Distillerie, Lab and Nacarat among the establishments taking part in the festival’s fifth edition. (May 14-20)

Love seafood? You’ll be served at Lobster Clam Jam, a food fest hosted near the Lachine Canal, 20 minutes west of Arsenal. (May 27)


Eat like a local at these Montreal restaurants

Montreal simply has too many great dining options for us to be able to list them all. Here are a couple of recommendations for each of the city’s central neighbourhoods. However, since Montreal is the city with the most restaurants per-capita in North America, doing some research is key – that or asking your Concierge Extraordinaire for some hot tips.


Downtown / Chinatown Plateau-Mont-Royal / Mile End
Griffintown / Little Burgundy St. Henri
Little Italy / Mile Ex The Village
Old Port / Old Montreal / Financial district Westmount


Downtown / Chinatown

Bouillon Bilk – “This is a place that can compete with the big boys,” said fine dining critic Lesley Chesterman after a meal at Bouillon Bilk. For those looking to indulge in incomparable wines and an elegant take on quintessential Québécois ingredients, this is the place to go.

Furco and Café Parvis – Two favourites of the downtown crowd, these sister restaurants offer distinct ambiances. Head to Café Parvis for coffee, pastries or a light lunch in a laid-back atmosphere. For a cocktail, a glass of wine and something more than a bite, chic Furco it is.

Biiru – Laid back and lively, this izakaya is a stone’s throw from the Quartier des Spectacles and offers creative cocktails, Japanese beers and spirits and delicious meals perfect for sharing.

Laurie Raphaël – Precision, balance and attention to detail reign over this fine dining establishment operated by Québec city-based celebrity chef Daniel Vézina.

Taverne Dominion – A hotel tavern in the 1920s, a gay bar in the ‘70s – Taverne Dominion survived the Great Depression and a major fire while retaining its old-world charm and knack for great cocktails.

Jatoba – In the heart of downtown, Asian cuisine-inspired Jatoba offers one of the most gorgeous patios in the city – perfect for an apéro or dining al fresco.

Orange Rouge – Not your typical Chinese restaurant, Orange Rouge is more like a Chinese-inspired brasserie. Don’t pass on the cocktails.

La Capital Tacos – Yes, it’s a taqueria in the middle of Chinatown and, yes, it feels right at home. The perfect spot to start any night off right!


Plateau-Mont-Royal / Mile End

Restaurant L’Express – You’ll find lots of restaurants offering authentic French cuisine in the city, but none do it as well as L’Express, a bona fide culinary institution in Montreal.

Au Pied de Cochon – Known for its foie gras poutine and duck-in-a-can, Au Pied de Cochon is one of Montreal’s biggest success stories, which comes as no surprise with the boisterous Martin Picard spearheading the whole operation.

Yokato Yokabai – It took a moment for Montrealers to hop on the ramen bandwagon. Thanks to quality izakayas like Yokato Yokabai, we’re catching up full speed on the craze.

Le Filet – With its reputation for five-star service and remarkable wines, Le Filet gives fish and seafood the starring role with finesse and precision as supporting acts.

Larrys Best enjoyed after 9 pm and in small groups (four or less is ideal), this tiny 30 seater serves small plates that pack a punch and a wine list with lots of natural wines and private imports.

Leméac – Another authentic French brasserie faithful to traditions, Leméac has been a hit every since it opened back in 2001. For night owls, the post-10 pm menu (and ambiance) is a must.

La buvette chez Simone – Patronized by creative types since its inception, La buvette chez Simone set an aesthetic standard many establishments have tried to replicate over the past decade. Come for the delicious shareable dishes, stay for the exceptional wine list.

Barbounya – There aren’t troves of Turkish restaurants in this city, but quality definitely beats quantity with Barbounya around. Eurasian influences and a superb wine offering (starting to see a trend here?) take centre stage in this Laurier Avenue kitchen.


Griffintown / Little Burgundy

Le Fantôme – One of EnRoute’s Best New Restaurants of 2016, you’ll find Le Fantôme comfortably nestled in an unassuming space on Griffintown’s William Street. Don’t let that deter you: the market cuisine-oriented delivers wow after wow.

Candide – C2 Montréal panelist John Winter Russell’s restaurant, Candide pays homage to seasonal ingredients sourced in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes with a four-course, fixed-price menu.

Nora Gray – Looking for the kind of place a chef would eat at? That’s Nora Gray. Dimly lit and intimate, this Italian-influenced resto relies on robust savoir-faire and an exemplary cocktail and wine list to continually rank among the best tables in the country.

The Joe Beef Triumverate: Joe Beef, Liverpool House, Vin Papillon – Do these guys even need an introduction anymore? In the words of Anthony Bourdain, “[Joe Beef’s Dave McMillan and Fred Morin] are literally the greatest ambassadors for Canadian gastronomy.”

L’Gros Luxe – Cheap eats and stiff Bloody Caesars have made this lively homegrown chain an instant hit.


St. Henri

Elena – A recent addition to St. Henri from the Nora Gray team, Elena is all about Italian favourites: antipasti, pizza, pasta, not to mention the dolci, gelatti and sorbetti.

Foiegwa – Infuse a French bistro with that good ol’ American flair and you’ll end up with Foiegwa: an upscale diner cooking up French staples with an American twist. Frog legs with ranch dressing, anyone?

Satay Brothers – The coolest kid on the block, Satay Brothers has been a hit ever since it opened as a counter in the Atwater Market’s outdoor food court. Now a full-fledged restaurant, it churns out Singaporean goodness year-round.

Grumman’78 – Started as a food truck now we here. Located in a former garage, Grumman’78 offers a unique take on Mexican staples, an extensive wine list and one of the best ambiances in the neighbourhood.


Little Italy / Mile Ex

Mon lapin – A first foray outside Little Burgundy for the team behind Joe Beef, Mon Lapin opened in March and is already garnering rave reviews with its “flawless” output and impeccable wine list.

Marconi – Au Pied de Cochon alum chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly’s star is shining bright. Named one of 2017’s Best New Restaurant in Canada by Air Canada enRoute, his restaurant Marconi has been praised by pretty much every one of Montreal’s restaurant critics.

Impasto – Inviting and elegant, this Little Italy mainstay from celebrity chef and cookbook author Stefano Faita never disappoints with its rich, rustic Italian creations.


The Village

Agrikol – The brainchild of Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Régine Chassagne,  Agrikol’s Haitian fare is a hit on all accounts. Full house? Wait over drinks at next door’s Ti-Agrikol, the restaurant’s sister bar.

Le Red Tiger – You know you’re in for a special twist on Vietnamese food when there’s a “Phở-jito” on the cocktail list. Find everything you can douse with Nuoc Mam sauce and more at De Maisonneuve Street’s Le Red Tiger.

Le Mousso – Le Mousso chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard is Montreal’s latest culinary star. Self-taught and a bit crazy (by his own admission), Rivard wows at every turn with his imaginative small plates and flavourful assortments.


Old Montreal / Old Port / Financial district

Club Chasse et Pêche – It’s not uncommon to spot a visiting celebrity enjoying a meal at “Le Club.” The Old Montreal classic has garnered a reputation as one of the city’s best and most soignés restaurants by offering a highbrow Québécois gastronomic experience.

LOV – Vegans, this one’s for you. LOV – that’s for Local, Organic and Vegetables – isn’t only gorgeous, it cooks up meals that are healthy for you, your community and your planet.

Toqué! – There are many ways to describe C2 Montréal panelist Normand Laprise’s celebrated restaurant Toqué!, but we’ll go for this one: It consistently ranks in the Top 2 in Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants. Need we say more?

Portus 360 – Yes, rotating restaurants still exist and, no, they’re not tacky – not when beloved Portuguese chef Helena Loureiro is at the wheel. Located atop a financial district tower, no other restaurant in the city offers a comparable view.



Park – Antonio Park has become somewhat of a legend in Montreal. P.K. Subban’s buddy, Drake’s business partner and host to troves of celebrities who eat at Park when in town, the Korean-Argentinian chef has made his mark with his signature Japanese-fusion fare.

Lavanderia – If Park is a nod to Antonio Park’s Asian roots, Lavanderia pays homage to his South American upbringing. Sink your teeth in perfectly grilled meats and tender ceviches!

Tavern on the Square – Chic plates and refined service are the key words in this French-inspired tavern that’s been a hit with locals since its 2001 opening.