Montreal, I will categorically say, is one of the best food cities in the world. Its fatal flaw is its disastrous lack of even halfway-decent by-the-slice pizza, but whatever else you may be craving, you can find it here and it’ll be gooood. Dumplings, pasta, steak, sandwiches from all over the world, seafood, Portuguese roast chicken, tacos, ceviche, arepas, empanadas, sushi, poutine- you can find exceptional restaurants that’ll give you any of the above for a reasonable price.
I have a few ground rules for eating well in Montreal that I want to share before I bestow upon you my prized restaurant list next week.
- When you visit, for the love of god stay away from the tourist-trap restaurants of Old Port. Walk around the area, enjoy the waterfront and pretty, European-style cobblestone streets, and then walk for 10 minutes and eat in the neighbouring Chinatown. Your bill will be half the size, and the food three times as delicious.
- When it comes to poutine, the simpler, the better. You really, really don’t need guacamole or tomato sauce on your poutine. Go get Mexican or Italian another day and enjoy the brown mess of fries, cheese curds, and gravy for what it is. A couple veggies are ok, and maybe some bacon, chicken or cut up hotdogs, but don’t get too fancy. Basically: there are better places for poutine than La Banquise and you won’t have to wait an hour in line.
- Be nice! This is more of a general life advice rule, but don’t be an asshole. If the food is taking a while, or you don’t love it, or your waiter forgot something, understand that everyone making the food and bringing it to you is human and also happens to be under a lot of pressure, especially during rushes. I know the argument of “well, I’m paying my hard-earned gosh-darn MONEYCASH for this service, so it must be exactly perfect and to my liking!!!!!!” but that’s bullshit. You’re relinquishing control by going to a restaurant and not cooking for yourself, so don’t throw a tantrum, you enormous baby. If there’s something wrong, like an allergen present or obviously undercooked chicken, tell your server WITHOUT BEING CONDESCENDING OR AN ASSHOLE, and I’m sure they’ll help you out. If you’re unhappy with your experience, pay, STILL LEAVE A TIP (because if you can afford to go out to eat, you can afford the 15% that will turn your server’s wage into the legal minimum wage), and go make some pasta at home. (Oof! Accidental rant. NOT SORRY)
- Never judge a book by its cover. Some of the restaurants on my list aren’t just drab, but seriously ugly and grungy. They’re also some of my favourites.
- Stay away from anything that says “Resto Lounge”. It’s code for a restaurant/club that has lights that change colour, music that goes untz untz untz untz, and mediocre food that isn’t particularly creative or authentic- plus a really big bill.
Those are the basics! Stay tuned for my list of the city’s best restaurants. Many are family businesses, some are tiny, but all of them clearly make their food with tons of love.