Alternate titles: My Magnum Opus, How to Ingest Montreal’s Best
For six years, I’ve kept this list tucked away on my phone, expanding it all the time and consulting it regularly when anyone asked me for a restaurant recommendation. It’s a little different to most Best of Montreal lists because I won’t include restaurants that I haven’t been to, and I haven’t yet saved up to go to Juni or Joe Beef. Most of the restaurants on my list are extremely affordable- ranging from $5 to $15 for a very satisfying amount of food, so they’re marked with a $. The few that are on the pricier side or who give less food for the money are marked with a $$. There’s only three $$$, under the Fancy section, but they’re special experiences that are absolutely worth shelling out for. Feel free to read through this looonnng post (a cool 3000 words just about restaurants), but if you’re craving something in particular, Command+F it and search for whatever you’re looking for. Check back often, because I’ll be updating the list whenever I discover another place that brings me immense joy.
Updated Feb 21, 2017: I’ve added a bunch of places and changed the format so now you can browse by category! They are, in order: Diners, Mexican, South American, Chinese, Casse-Croute (Poutine), Burgers, Southern, Italian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish, Indian, Greek, Sandwiches/Lunch/Cafes, Dessert, Bars with Food, and Fancy.
Let me know which places you try!
Vieux St Laurent. I am almost too passionate about Vieux St-Laurent (VSL). It’s the perfect brunch place. I will say HARD PASS to expensive brunch at Universel or Bagels Etc or any other of the city’s billion mediocre brunch establishments. VSL is my truth. It’s a family-style diner with massive portions, great prices, and service that is the perfect balance between friendly and gruff. I have yet to enjoy a plate of Eggs Benedict as much as the one at VSL, and their Festin platters are so enormous that they can be comfortably shared between two people. Pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, buttered toast, fruit, beans, omelettes, waffles, and coffee forever- it’s everything you need to cure whatever ails you. $
Mont Royal Hot Dog. It’s slightly grimy, but it’s just a classic diner. Their bacon grilled cheese will fix ANY level of hangover that you can throw at it. Infinite coffee, brusque service, and a huge menu. It’s morning-after food, nothing more, nothing less. $
La Matraca. If you’re looking for authentic, affordable tacos, you will find them here. You can not go wrong- everything on the menu is amazing. Get some queso fundido, tortas, tacos al pastor, tacos alambre, quesadillas- it’s all great. They give three different amazing salsas to dress your tacos, and the place gets super lively and full for soccer games. $
Sabor Latino. I find myself in this grocery store/restaurant all the time. It has some of the best tacos in Montreal (try the al pastor or chorizo varieties) with amazing salsas- and four tacos will only set you back about $10. Wash it down with a Sidral or a Jarritos, and try one of their empanadas too! They have food, ingredients, and products from all over Latin America so you’ll find something for everyone there. $
El Rey Del Taco. This restaurant, located right next to the Jean Talon market, is my favourite place to treat myself to a sincronizada (ham and cheese quesadilla) after doing a market shop. Their guacamole is also 11/10 outstanding. $-$$
T and T. Tacos y Tortas is a Mexican restaurant whose small menu shows off what they do best: tacos and tortas. Tortas are Mexican sandwiches- a squishy telera roll filled with all the wonderful meats and condiments that you can find in tacos. I love tortas. Go try one. Their drinks are also great and it’s a really nicely decorated place. $-$$
Cachitos. For a super-cheap pastry-based meal, go to the Venezuelan pastry shop called Cachitos. The horn-shaped buns are packed with lots of different fillings, sweet or savoury. My favourite is the classic ham and white cheese, but the spinach-ricotta one is also great, as is the chorizo one. $
Mochica. I went here a few months ago and got the ceviche tasting deal as well as some 2-for 1 Pisco sours. Peruvian ceviche is one of my favourite kinds, featuring several kinds of fresh seafood and tart citrus, and I highly recommend this place for a date. The service was wonderful too! $$
Mai Xiang Yuan. Mai Xiang Yuan makes the best dumplings around, and a generous order of 15 will only set you back around $10. Dumpling order #19 on the menu, which is filled with pork, shrimp and coriander, is my favourite. As soon as you bite into one, the wrapper gives way to savoury, wonderful broth and the shrimpy, porky, savoury filling. Dip into chilli oil, black vinegar and soy sauce. I can’t stay away from this place. $
Nouilles de Lan Zhou. This place does one thing, and one thing perfectly: noodles pulled to order and plunged into beefy, rich broth. You get to choose the width and shape of the noodles, and everything just tastes so fresh, maybe because you can actually watch the guy masterfully pull the noodles for your soup. Also, the restaurant is on an overhang on top of a set of escalators that go down to the Chinese supermarket below. $8 will buy you a huge soup that you’ll have to bring home for leftovers. $
Bistro Sport Mondial Buffet/Jardin De Jade Poon Kai Restaurant/Restaurant Jade. I’ve never been inside the actual sit-down portion of this many-named buffet, but there’s a side door for take-out and pastries which is where you MUST go to get a $1 pork bun. Think of a pizza pop-style bun but filled with amazing Chinese barbecue pork. You can get two for $2, making it the cheapest meal you can find in the city. Balanced? No. Delicious? SO MUCH SO. $
Restaurant Keung Kee. Tasty and affordable Chinese food which, like the good jewess that I am, I ordered with friends last Christmas after a full day of movies, chocolate, and wine. $-$$, depending on how generously you’re ordering.
Patati Patata. This St Laurent classic is colourful, cramped, and lively, and it has a little park across the street where you can take your food in the summer. Have some amazing poutine, a grilled cheese, or a burger-salad-fries trio. Their burgers are tiny and customizable, and their poutine called The Patatine is one of my favourites- with thinly sliced mushroom, red onion, and green pepper. $
Chez Claudette. This classic casse-croute is best-known for their outstanding poutine and very late night service. The poutine and pogo combo is my personal favourite, especially after 1am. $
Dic Ann’s. I discovered this very out-of-the-way burger chain a few years ago for an interview and it was a revelation. Family-run for three generations, Dic Ann’s makes amazing burgers that are, for lack of a better word, weird. They’re composed of thin, crisp patties made on a flat-top served with cheese, a hefty ladle of meat sauce, and flattened buns. It’s so, so tasty and ready in less than 3 minutes. They also give you a popsicle stick as a fork, and their fries are amazing. They have several locations and it’s totally worth the trek. $
Dinette Triple Crown. Southern food and excellent drinks make this place amazing for a date or a parents visit. The hush puppies are unbelievable (I could eat a tub of them like popcorn), as is their fried chicken and their macaroni and cheese. Get the super-reasonable “meat and threes” deal and you’ll waddle home so happy and so full. $$
La Maison des Pates Fraiches. This Italian grocery store specializes in fresh pasta- duh- and pizza. You can go sit at their tables or get takeout- wherever you choose, get a big bowl of amazing handmade pasta and sauce and a pizza. This is the place where you should not even attempt to decide between the two. Get both and share with a dining partner! Your bill will be just under $20 and you will not be able to believe how stellar both dishes are. The pizza is thin and floppy in the middle and sturdy and doughy at the crust, and SO cheesy. The pasta is also simply the pinnacle of what pasta can be. Try their raviolis! $
Pizzeria Napoletana. This pizzeria has been in Little Italy since 1948, and it’s amazing. Crowded, a little loud, and inexplicably decorated with a massive indoor tree with red, white, and green string lights, it’s got a very specific charm that I just love. The pizza is amazing and comes out fast, so it makes the long wait and no-reservations policy well worth it. Get a bottle of wine (it’s BYOW!) and wait in the park across the street. The pizza is thin and moist in the middle, puddled with high-quality mozzarella, and charred and crispy on the outside. They do cheese under the sauce here, which means that it’s melty all the way through the meal. Awesome service, too. $$
Marche Hung Phat. Close to Jean Talon market, Marche Hung Phat has the best banh mis I’ve ever tried. They put all others to shame. Vietnamese baguettes filled to the brim with picked daikon and carrot, mayo, hoisin sauce, chilies, and whatever meat you choose, and all for less than $5! Get the fermented or grilled pork ones. $
Pho Bac 97. This is a true bare-bones establishment: tables, chairs, quick service, linoleum, and incredible pho. This place will give you a huge bowl of pho that’s almost impossible to finish for under $10, and if you want to be a little adventurous, go with the one with beef strips, tripe, and other bits of offal. You won’t be sorry. $
Izu Sushi. Run by a very friendly, passionate sushi chef who is also the waiter, Izu Sushi has incredibly delicious, fresh sushi that is also affordable- a feat not often accomplished by sushi places in Montreal. $-$$
Ichi Sushi. My favourite sushi place in my delivery range. Reasonably-priced (for Montreal standards, anyway) and high-quality, they have lots of different rolls and combos that make for a wonderful night in. $$
Yokato Yokabai. If you’re looking for ramen in Montreal, there’s no shortage of places to try- but this is by far my favourite. The deeply flavourful tonkatsu broth is outstanding, and their fried chicken appetizer is unbelievable. Bring leftovers home and reheat them for breakfast tomorrow. $$
Chez Jose. Home of the best chicken sandwich of my life. This sandwich is so much more than the sum of its parts, and its parts are pretty amazing: marinated juicy chicken breast, avocado, mustard, cucumber, a little cheese, and some homemade hot sauce on the side, all on a fresh Portuguese bun. Great coffee and pastries too! The place is colourful and full of life and the waitstaff and owner are wonderful people. This place is pretty much my favourite. $
Romados. This Portuguese roast chicken restaurant is a true staple. For an amazing price, you can get a slightly-spicy, juicy chicken thigh, breast, or both, with a side of seasoned fries and a little salad. Just like Patati Patata, there’s a cute park nearby where you can dig in. $
La Poule Mouillée. Another incredible Portuguese roast chicken spot, this reasonably-new restaurant is ALWAYS full. Try their chicken or their chicken and chorizo poutine. It’s close to Park Lafontaine, so it’s yet another takeout + park restaurant that’s perfect for a long summer evening. $
La Belle Thailandaise. This is my favourite BYOW restaurant in Montreal. It’s a family-run place that has excellent Thai food that’s great for sharing and super-flavourful. The menu is pretty long, with tons of chicken, beef, seafood, fish, veggie, and pork options, as well as tons of different noodle dishes, soups, and salads. It’s just wonderful. $-$$, depending on how generously you order.
L’Española. This bookstore/grocery store also happens to sell incredible sandwiches. Freshly-sliced spanish chorizo, jamon serrano, or fuet sausage are your choices of filling, and you can add aged manchego cheese for $1. A warm baguette is drizzled liberally with olive oil, topped with the meat of your choice and some tomatoes. It’s so simple but the ingredients are of excellent quality and the sandwich is nothing short of perfect. $
La Sala Rosa Resto. This place is on the second floor of a building on St Laurent, and is run by the same people as the cool bars/venues Casa Del Popolo, Sala Rossa, and La Vitrola. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and at 8:45pm every Thursday, the restaurant becomes dinner and a show with a fantastic Flamenco performance. The patatas bravas are vinegary, the croquetas are crisp, and order a calimotxo (basque drink made of red wine and coca cola) to wash it all down. They also make paellas for two. $$
Barcelona Bar Espresso. This gorgeous cafe evokes the spirit and culture of Barcelona, and makes pan con tomate, cortados, and amazing espresso. It’s an amazing place to get some work done or catch up with a friend. I interviewed the owner a few months ago- he is as awesome as his cafe. $
Chand Palace. This place is in the Indian food hub of Park-Ex, and it’s ideal for a birthday dinner. It’s affordable and group-friendly, and the food is just outstanding. Order tons of naan and then one dish per person at the table and have everyone share everything. I especially love the bright-red spicy mushroom dish, as well as the bhuna lamb. It’s also BYOW, so as a whole, it’s just a recipe for a great night. $
Mythos. Mythos has been around for 21 years and it’s garnered a very loyal following over the years. Its friendly, familiar service is unparalleled- after only having visited once, I returned after six months with the same group and we were immediately recognized and welcomed back. The food is standard, high-quality greek fare. Try the saganaki, horiatiki, taramosalata, lamb, or seafood dishes. $$
Sandwiches, Lunch & Cafes
Boucherie Hongroise. This is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place. It’s a small Hungarian grocery store and butcher shop, but they also sell incredible sandwiches. Your best bet is the spicy salami sandwich that comes piled 2 inches high with freshly-sliced Hungarian salami. It’s also under $5! Top it with dijon and mayo and take it to go. $
Melk. This little coffee shop is on the pricier side, but the quality of their coffee and baked goods explain why. Get the roasted red pepper and feta scone with a cold brew. $$
Ta Pies. This little Australian/New Zealander pie shop is highly praised by Wolverine himself (Hugh Jackman), so you know it’s good (?). It really is a great little spot, selling classic savoury meat pies in tons of different flavours. $
Cafe Italia. Cafe Italia serves perfect espressos and absolutely gorgeous, frothy cappuccinos. I got a cheese toast last time I was there because I was feeling snacky- it was a simple Italian merenda of toast with melted provolone on top. The place is full of people at all times and it’s just really welcoming and fun. $
Diperie. Diperie, my heart sings for thee. I went so many times last summer that I was on a first-name basis with one of the lovely women who work there. Diperie sells truly excellent vanilla soft serve that gets dipped in one of 25+ chocolate dip options and rolled in another topping. Some of my favourite combinations are maple dip + pretzels, mint chocolate dip + oreo, baileys + oreo, and sucre a la creme dip + sprinkles. Other notable dips include salted caramel, dulce de leche, orange, key lime, lavender, and Turtles. It’s always 100% worth the wait in line. $
McDonalds. McFlurries are the most perfect dessert in the world. That’s it, that’s all.
Bars with Food
Else’s. This unique bar/reluctant restaurant has a great backstory and fun, quirky decor. I’m a big fan of their chorizo quesadilla which is greasy and delicious, and their lighter fare is also great. You MUST try their bloody caesar- if you have the right bartender on shift, you’ll get an amazing drink that’s flavoured with lots of horseradish, a little red wine, and other secrets. $$
Le Mal Necessaire. This modern tiki bar has a truly incredible cocktail list, and the drinks are all balanced, creative, fruity and tart- never too sweet. The service is amazing and accommodating for large groups. They also serve snacks from the Chinese restaurant next door, so it’s a great place to go after work. $$
Bruno Sport Bar. This casual neighbourhood bar on Beaubien has beer, soccer games, and the best Italian panini I’ve ever had in my life. It’s called the Italian Mix: four kinds of cured meats sliced paper-thin to order, plus provolone, marinated eggplant, pickled hot peppers, and mayo and dijon plus little pickles on the side. It’s perfect. $
Au Pied de Cochon. I finally made it. And honestly and truly, it was even better than everyone says. My full review is here. $$$
Le Bremner. I was lucky enough to get to experience a tasting menu here and it was one of the best fine dining experiences I’ve ever had (full review here). Outstanding service, and amazing, creative food that doesn’t veer into snobbery. So fun, so delicious. $$$
Lucille’s Oyster Dive. This is where I discovered my appetizers and oysters rule that allows diners on a budget to enjoy some amazing seafood. Get a dozen oysters and an order of fried calamari, salmon tartare, and/or ceviche and share it all with a dining companion. This may be more of a personal taste thing, but I’m way more into the idea of eating all of the above than oysters + a piece of grilled trout for the same price. Seafood!!!! $$$
Eat away, my friends, and ENJOY! And let me know which places you try.