The 25 best places to eat and drink in Montreal
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If your travels revolve around where you should be eating, it doesn’t get much better than Montreal. In fact, it’s long been said the city has more restaurants per capita than any other in North America, except for New York. The city is European in many ways and yet, unmistakably Canadian; you can sample everything from classic French fare to traditional First Nations and Québécois cuisine — not to mention poutine, and of course, the very controversial bagels.
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With all these options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to narrow down your choices … especially if it’s your first time here. Though it’s by no way inclusive of every amazing restaurant or bar in the City of a Hundred Steeples, this list is a good place to start.
Before you go
First thing’s first: If you want to get the most out of your time eating in Montreal, make sure you’re carrying a credit card that will earn you bonus points on dining at restaurants. Before you leave home, do a wallet check: Do you have the American Express® Gold Card (4x at restaurants), the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (3x) in your wallet? You do? Good. Bonus points for poutine never felt so good.
If you’re the type of person who likes to plan ahead, consider making your reservation through the restaurant booking service Resy or OpenTable — the latter of which now lets you redeem OpenTable Dining Points for hotel stays through Kayak. You should also download DINR, an app designed to help spontaneous diners score last-minute reservations at some of the hottest tables in Canada. In Montreal, that could mean a seat at Nora Gray or Joe Beef, two of the hottest tables in town.
If that fails, Amex Concierge is going to be your best bet. If you’re a cardholder of The Platinum Card® from American Express, you have access to a special service that will help you with tours, events and, yes, even hard-to-get restaurant reservations.
Where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner
Olive et Gourmando
For lunch or brunch, Olive et Gourmando is one of the most popular spots in the city. You’ll find it on an attractive street in Old Montreal, one of the most historic parts of the city. The pressed sandwiches are a highlight, and the salads are surprisingly robust. Don’t let the long line by the crowded entryway deter you; all you have to do is elbow your way to the host stand, leave your name and then kill time wandering in and out of the boutiques on Saint-Paul. The restaurant will add your name to a Yelp wait list, so you can track your position in line and be back just in time to eat.
One of chef Marc Cohen’s three restaurants (owned in partnership with Sefi Amir, Ethan Wills and Annika Krausz), Larry’s is more casual than Lawrence but has a more robust menu that Boucherie Lawrence, two of the other restaurants in their portfolio. Though there’s plenty in the way of meat, including a full charcuterie section and toasts with liver, rarebit and anchovies, vegetarians will have fun playing mix-and-match with plates featuring bulgur and beets; broccoli escabeche; turnips with pesto; and eggplant with pine nuts and za’atar.
You won’t leave hungry from a restaurant known for glorifying overeating quite like Joe Beef. The menu is scrawled on a slate chalkboard (if it’s on there, you need to order the lobster pasta — trust us) and you can grab a seat on the terrasse in the summer. Whether you’re eating steak or oysters, you’ll want to order a glass or two from the acclaimed list of natural wines.
Two words: pizza and wine. But if you want more words, know this: Elena takes the humble pizza and elevates the entire experience with a marble bar, velvet seating and natural wood. Need we say more?
We have a feeling you might be itching for a break from all this heavy cuisine. At Ferreira, you’re in luck. It’s an upscale Portuguese restaurant with a seafood-driven menu and a deft hand with oils. Here, you’ll dine beneath a flight of birds and order the grilled squid with navy beans, mint and lemon. Whatever you do, though, save room (and Canadian dollars) for giant Mozambique shrimp, a seafood bouillabaisse or wild carabineiros from the Algarve region.
You don’t need to get on a flight to Paris to have the traditional Parisian bistro experience. Instead, just head to L’Express on Rue Saint-Denis, which has been turning out chicken liver pâté, quiches and duck confit for nearly 40 years. It’s a bit of a stuck-in-time jewel, with white tablecloths and waiters who manage the dining room with masterful precision.
Even after a quarter of a century, Chef Normand Laprise continues to command one of the most impressive (and expensive!) tasting menus in Montreal. Toqué! is refined yet contemporary, and definitely a dining destination to consider if you’re in town for a special occasion.
Au Pied de Cochon
With a name that translates to pig’s foot, vegetarians may want to skip this Plateau institution. After all, there’s an entire section of the menu dedicated to foie gras. But if this proverbial temple to meat is at the top of your dining list, order the duck in a can: garlic, thyme, balsamic, duck breast and, of course, more foie gras.
Photo courtesy of Agrikol.Fun fact: This restaurant is owned by the rock stars in the band Arcade Fire. It’s a Haitian escape in the middle of Montreal with plenty of French and Creole dishes to boot. There’s also a solid rum-driven cocktail menu with plenty of punches.
Where to buy bagels
In case you haven’t heard, bagels in Montreal are a pretty big deal. They’re distinctly sweeter than what you’ll find south of the border (read: New York), because they’re boiled in honey-infused water and finished in a wood-burning oven. Do yourself a favor and grab one from either Fairmount Bagel or the 24-hour St-Viateur Bagel Shop, two of the most famous places in town. You can also get contemporary bagel sandwiches at one of four Hinnawi Bros locations around the city.
Where to eat poutine
You can’t leave Montreal without trying poutine; the city is famous for this dish smothered in French fries smothered in cheese curds and brown gravy. Even if it’s not immediately appealing to you, it’s the kind of thing you have to try once. It’s available in virtually every corner of the city, including the hot dog stand Chez Ma Tante, and other old school spots like the retro diner Greenspot; La Banquise, which is open 24/7; Gibeau Orange Julep, a snack bar contained in a giant orange sphere; and Nouveau Systeme.
Where to drink
Riding on the coat tails of the speakeasy movement, the intimate 25-seat bar is hidden in a 19th-century mansion along with a barbershop and a menswear boutique. And there’s no cocktail menu, here. Just tell the bartender what you like and wait for a custom cocktail to arrive that’s perfectly, ah, tailored to your imbibing preferences.
Cocktails on the rooftop? Sign us up. The rooftop at Hotel Nelligan is open from May until September — weather permitting, of course — and you can enjoy a long list of cocktails with views of the Notre-Dame Basilica and St. Paul Street. We’d recommend the Botanist with Islay gin, maple syrup, raspberry puree and lemon juice.
Nacarat’s cocktail menu organizes its drinks by taste: spicy, sour, bitter, sweet and even umami. The beautiful cocktails from this hotel bar might even come garnished with edible flowers or dusted with gold. Here, you’ll find everything from (mostly) classic Collins and Negronis to mezcal cocktails blackened with squid ink to frothy yogurt gin drinks with lemongrass and agave.
Big in Japan
This bar is so unassuming, you might think you’re in the wrong place when you see the barely-marked black door. Once inside, you’ll be engulfed by illuminated tea lights and drained bottles that double for light fixtures. This is the place to go for sake, Champagne cocktails and Japanese whisky.
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Where to eat dessert
This local ice cream institution is best known for crafting dipped cones with fun colors, unexpected flavors and plenty of toppings; we’d recommend trying the ginger lemonade, lavender or pistachio flavor. There are a handful of locations around the city, but you’ll want to visit the original location in the Plateau.
Juliette & Chocolat
With locations all over the province of Quebec, Juliette & Chocolat is the place to go for decadent beverages from the chocolate bar, including extravagant milkshakes and “vintage” hot chocolate with dark chocolate.
Feature photo by Joanne Levesque / Contributor / Getty Images.
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