Montreal Food Staples: Food that Montreal is known for!

I’ve been in Montreal for about 2 years now, and for quite a few of my friends and family, it seems I’m the only person who lives here. Many times, I’ve been approached for recommendations on what and where to eat in Montreal. I’d love to share some of my personal favourites with you!

Disclaimer: there won’t be any Asian food joints on this list. While Montreal does have good places for Asian food here and there, a lot of other cities do it way better. I’ll likely do another blog post to outline some good Montreal Asian foods for those who may come from places with fewer Asian options. I’m always on the hunt for good, authentic places in Montreal!

Iconic Montreal Foods

Poutine

Poutine is one of Montreal’s most loved and recognized foods. Essentially, it’s fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. What I’ve found that sets Montreal poutine aside from poutine I’ve had anywhere else is that their potatoes are slightly sweet. And of course, the cheese curds are properly squeaky!

If you’re looking for a place to try poutine, check out:

  • La Banquise
    This poutine place is opened 24/7. Expect line-ups! They’ve got a wide variety of different types of poutine. Whether you’d like corndogs on top of your poutine or if you’d like guac and sour cream, they’ve got some interesting options for you! The base poutine is still very much true to an authentic Montreal poutine.
  • Chez Claudette
    Usually there are no crazy lineups, and they have very solid poutine. Also they’ve got huge portions! It was once known to be more of a “hidden gem” for locals, but has been rising in popularity. It’s not much to look at, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to be full and satisfied after a visit there.
  • Poutineville
    You can completely customize your own poutine here with a sheet of paper listing many different types of toppings! If you’re feeling up for it (or have like 10 people in your party), you may want to try ordering The Heart Attack. It’s over 15 pounds of poutine with loads of toppings.

Montreal Smoked Meat

Thick stacks of smoked meat that two pieces of bread struggles to enclose. That’s exactly what Montreal smoked meat sandwiches are. The meat is smoked beef brisket flavoured with spices, and it goes super well between rye bread with mustard, and a side of pickles. Here are my recommendations for Montreal smoked meat if you’re visiting:

  • Schwartz
    Probably the most famous smoked meat place in Montreal and partially owned by Céline Dion. I do think it’s overrated though. For the price, you don’t get much with your sandwich. But if it’s your first time in Montreal and you don’t mind waiting, you do have to try out this place. You will have to pay extra to add on pickles—which I highly suggest. Keep in mind they’re cash only! And if you don’t want to wait for a seat, I’d suggest getting your smoked meat sandwich to go and finding a nice place around the neighbourhood to enjoy your meal!
  • Reuben’s
    There are two locations for Reuben’s downtown, both fairly close to one another. When you order a smoke meat sandwich here, you’ll also get half a pickle, coleslaw, and fries. Plus, they usually always have seats so you can settle down and relax for a bit. It’s also super conveniently located if you’re doing some shopping downtown!

Bagels

Montreal bagels are pretty amazing when they’re fresh out of the oven. Pretty frequently, you’ll be able to snag some freshly made ones if you’re in the plateau. Straight from the wood-fired ovens, you’re bound to remember this slightly sweet (from the honey water used), doughy goodness. If you’re buying them from the supermarkets or if they’re not fresh though, they’re pretty regular-tasting in my opinion.

  • Fairmont Bagels
    Fairmont and its main competitor St-Viateur are both located in the plateau. I’d suggest grabbing a bagel from one place, then walking over to the other and comparing the two! Both places are fairly iconic for their sesame bagels. Fairmont boasts that their bagels were eaten in space! Which I think is a fun little fact. 🙂
  • St-Viateur
    With most of the city’s bagels being provided by St-Viateur, there are many locations all over the island. There are two located quite close to Fairmont, but St-Viateur also has sit-down locations across the city. There, you’ll be able to order bagels with sides or toppings—all while enjoying a nice cup of coffee or tea!

Brunch

The Montreal brunch scene is bustling. There are so many great options for where to go when it comes to a good weekend brunch, and you can basically expect a line-up of some sort for all of them. But here are some of my Montreal-faves:

  • Foiegwa
    Located near Atwater market, Foiegwa offers premium brunch/lunch options such as their amazing spaghetti with butter and black truffle. You can also add foie gras to anything for $9.95 and I certainly do that when I go for their eggs benedicts! Feels Frenchy overall!
  • Arthurs Nosh Bar
    A Jewish deli that makes the best chicken schnitzel sandwiches! They also offer a good ol’ smoked salmon, cream cheese bagel. If you’re two people, they have a gravlax tower that looks fancy and you can assemble your own bagel! I’d suggest putting down your name, then head over to a nearby cafe to wait for them to text you.

There are so many wonderful brunch places in Montreal. Personally, I honestly didn’t think L’avenue was worth the wait (the interior decor was super nice though), nor was Le Passé Composée (food was delicious—their French toast was so good—but service was incredibly slow after a super long line up to even get in). The two recommended are just among a whole bunch of other amazing brunch places here!

Portuguese Chicken

Honestly, I don’t know why Montreal is obsessed with Portuguese chicken, but I’ve never had it properly till I came here. Also known as Piri Piri chicken, Portuguese chicken is known for using a sauce made of piri piri peppers. I don’t find the sauce to be overly spicy, but I love its fragrance. The chicken itself is also usually freshly roasted over a charcoal grill. While Portuguese chicken can be found in almost all neighborhoods in Montreal, here are my personal favourites:

  • Mile End Grilladerie Portugaise
    I may be biased because this place is very close to my office, so I always find myself wandering here when I’m unsure of what to have for lunch. I love their leg-and-thigh two-piece combo. It comes with a salad, the 2 leg-and-thighs, and a side of your choice (rice, fries, or potatoes). If you’re sitting down for a meal here, you’ll find a mason jar of piri piri sauce with a brush for you to slather your chicken with. I usually also drizzle it all over my potatoes as well!
  • Ma Poule Mouillée
    Expect crazy lineups. Touted as the most popular Portuguese chicken place in Montreal, they have perfectly cooked chicken and a healthy amount of sides to go with your meal (salad + fries). They also have poutine here!

Restaurants To Try

Below are some restaurants that you should try while you’re here! They’re either iconic to Montreal or have some interesting options on their menu. Keep in mind that some of these may require reservations ahead of time—sometimes months in advanced!

  • Dic Ann’s
    Their burgers are WEIRD! It’s super flat and turns the concept of a thick, fluffy hamburger upside down. This burger chain was founded in Montreal more than 60 years ago, making it an interesting piece of food history!
  • Gibeau Orange Julep
    If you’ve ever had an Orange Julius drink, you might find that it tastes pretty similar to the Orange Julep drink here. Made with egg whites, oranges, milk, and sugar, it almost tastes like an orange creamsicle. This place is also iconic in its looks since you can’t miss the giant orange ball as you drive by on the highway. They also have pretty good poutine, as well as a wide variety of other fast food options here.
  • Joe Beef
    Usually ranked as one of the top 10 restaurants in Canada, you’re going to want to make a reservation if you’re hoping to eat here. Personally, every time I want to go, I have to look out for dates 4 months in advance. They have a wide variety of meat and seafood options, and you’ll have to physically go there to see what’s on the menu on their walls. Don’t worry about the French—their waiters are more than happy to translate it for you and offer you suggestions!
  • Au Pied de Cochon
    If you’re looking for Québécois cuisine, this place is amazing. They’ve got plenty of foie gras (a foie gras poutine!! Foie gras nigiri as well!), a duck in a can (they open the can in front of you at your table), and other interesting dishes. I found the chomeur pudding to be a bit too sweet for me, but everything else I had here was excellent. You will need a reservation in advance—usually at least 2 weeks ahead of time.
  • Kem Coba
    Every week, Kem Coba switches up its house special flavour! It’s always two flavours and you’ll get a nice swirl of it on a cone when you order it. Only opened during summers though! If you’re going after dinner or lunch, expect long lineups that can wind down and around the block. Near it is a $5 gnocchi place. I always see people in line holding a carton of gnocchi as they wait for their imminent ice cream.
  • Rockaberry
    Giant pies baked fresh every day in Montreal! They also serve food here, but I’ve never had anything but their pies. The picture from my Instagram is deceiving because they’re really big!
  • Chez Tousignant
    A diner-esque joint serving all sorts of delicious, sinful fast foods. Perfect if you’re nearby checking out Jean Talon market and you’re looking for a quick but yummy place to eat. You can get their poutine, burgers, their pickles and cheese topped hot dogs, and more. All freshly made!

Chains Worth Checking Out!

While there are lots of unique restaurants in Montreal, sometimes it’s tiresome to have to wait an hour or two before you can sit down and eat. Which is why I really don’t mind chains either when I’m travelling! Having several locations (usually with at least one downtown), they’re easier to get to and often have less of a lineup. Here are a few Quebec/Montreal-based ones you can look into:

  • Juliette & Chocolat
    Crepes, sandwiches, but mostly desserts.
  • Allô! Mon Coco
    Giant portions of delicious breakfasts and brunches!
  • Uniburger
    Honestly, my favourite burger in town. Think Shake Shack or In-n-Out.
  • Chocolat Favoris
    Dipped cones for everyone!! Also great souvenir chocolates for your family and friends, made locally.

I’m by no means an expert—these are just suggestions based on my personal preferences! I’ve eaten at most of these places more than once because I love them so much. I hope this helps you out during your stay in Montreal and that you enjoy your visit!

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