Good Eats in Montreal, 5 Amazing Foods you MUST Try!

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I just returned from Montréal and I loved it.  There is nothing like visiting this great Canadian city to remind you of the beauty of having two cultures in one country.  Montréal is always bustling and brimming with activity, music, food and fun.  I just love it. Good eats in Montreal are easy to find if you know where to look – here’s your guide.

Goodeats in Montreal

If you follow my Instagram feed last week, you know it was all about the food.  I loved eating specific things when I am in Montreal and I very rarely miss them.  This year, I went back to some of these old haunts with my daughters and my mom and we had a great time.  I have to say, there is never a month that I don’t think about how good Montréal bagels are and how bad every other bagel is. 

The only ones that compare are New York bagels but even they are a hit and miss.  I’m looking forward to going to New York City in a few weeks to try some more typical NYC food.  I love trying out great food in the places I travel to.  I have a few favourites in Chicago yout might want yo try out.

5 Good Eats in Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Montréal is one of the most multicultural cities in Canada (Toronto and Vancouver would be the others) but the dominant culture in Quebec is French Canadian.  With a population of over 4 million people, Montréal is the economic engine of Quebec.  With lots of people comes lots of food and beverage choices.  If you are a foodie, you will find plenty of selection:  BBQ, African, Indian, Asian, Greek, Lebanese, South American … you name it, you can find an eatery that serves it in Montréal. 

But sometimes, you just want a quick bite to eat.  Something to tie you over or take away a craving.  Montréal has many places that have been around for years and that keep customers coming back for more.  To honour this food pilgrimage I offer you my five favourite must-try-foods when you are in Montréal.

Fairmount or St. Viateur bagels

If you’ve never eaten a Montréal bagel, you have never lived.  Baked in a wood fire oven, they are thin, round with a big hole in the middle and covered in sesame seeds.  If you have them for more than three days, they will be hard as rocks.  THAT’S a good bagel.  You never have to worry that this will happen as they never lasted that long.  You can buy many kinds of bagels but the two most popular are Fairmount bagels and St. Viateur Bagels

When I grew up, you had to drive to downtown Montréal for this delicacy. No easy task but it could be done.  Now you can find Fairmount bagels in local Costco stores in the Montréal area.

Montreal Bagels from Fairmount or St. Viateur Bagels @DownshiftingPRO scaled

We picked ours up at Yagel Bagel in Dollard-des-Ormeaux on the West Island.  They had dozens of paper bags full of fresh bagels.  We were also able to get St. Viateur bagels at the same location so it was nice to take home two dozen of each.   They are both similar but each bagel maker does something to make them a bit different.  Maybe they add a little bit more sugar or make them thinner.  It does not matter as long as they keep that distinctive dense flavour.  These are bagels for goodness sake not buns.  Yes, I’m talking to YOU grocery store bakers!

A Steamie & Fries from LaFleurs

French fries and a steamie hot dog from Lafleurs in DDO and Ville St. Pierre @DownshiftingPRO
a steamie, French fries and a Coke from LaFleur’s
in DDO or Ville St. Pierre

Yes, I will be telling tales out of school when I tell you that when you dance the night away or paty downtown or listen to some great music during the Jazz Festival and you need to get a some good eats in Montreal, you picked up a steamie (a steamed hot dog), fries or a poutine or better yet onion rings.  If you were around in the 1980s, you stopped off at the original LaFleur’s in Ville St. Pierre (which is still there).  It was the only fast food joint that was opened when the bars closed at 3 am. 

Poutine from LaFleurs in Ville St. Pierre and DDO @DownshiftingPRO
French Fries, Gravy and Cheese curds from LaFleur’s

It was not a regular occurrence to leave the bars at 3 am but it was highly likely that if you were headed home to the West Island you most certainly stop here.  A traditional hot dog has mustard and relish. If you also wanted, you could order raw onions but clearly, you were headed home alone Winking smile.  With 13 locations including Sources Avenue on the West Island as well as a small shop on St. Catherine’s Street (which is conveniently located across from the Main Stage of the Montréal Jazz Festival) you can find a location in and around the island of Montréal.  We popped into the St. Catherine’s Street location as we strolled around the Jazz Festival.

Smoked Meat Poutine from Schwartz’s

If you don’t know what poutine is this may sound a bit crazy.  Many don’t understand the appeal of this combination of ingredients but they are unique flavours that you cannot find anywhere else.  French Canadian Poutine consists of French Fries topped with cheese curds and then all topped with hot beef/chicken gravy (many will argue about the proportions of beef to chicken, chicken gravy alone or beef gravy alone but honestly its magical stuff no matter how you make it).  All of this just be eaten hot and immediately.  There is no such thing as leftover Poutine.

To be honest with you, there is no such thing as good authentic Poutine outside of Quebec…no where… no how.  Many try to duplicate the flavour combination but when you see people put shredded cheddar cheese or strictly beef or strictly chicken gravy… well, you know they don’t know what they are doing.

If you are smart, you can order a platter and share it with two people.  There is a lot of smoke meat on that platter and plenty of rye bread on the side.  You should also add some French’s mustard.  The fries come in small plates and are not great for sharing – just order your own.  When they ask if you want a pickle – beware – they will bring you a whole pickle and they are not small gherkins either.

On this trip, we opted for the Smoke Meat Poutine and loved every.single.bite.  It has a lot of gravy, enough cheese curds and smoke meat (I would have liked a bit more meat so you may want to ask that they be generous with the smoked meat).  This Poutine dish is enough to share.  Don’t forget to get a cherry Coke.

Smoked Meat Sandwiches from any number of great delis – Schwartz’s, Dunn’s, Ruben’s or Chenoy’s

No one person will agree on where to find the best smoke meat in Montréal.  My personal preference has always been Schwartz’s.  But when I was living in Montreal and going to school at McGill, you used to pop down to rue de Maisonneuve and have smoked meat at Dunn’s.  It has since relocated to Metcalfe.  This go around I decided to pop into Chenoy’s to have a smoked meat sandwich while we watched the FIFA Women’s quarter-final soccer game between China and the US.

medium Smoke Meat Sandwich from Chenoys in Dollard DDO on the West Island @DownshiftingPRO
Medium (not lean or fat but medium) Smoke Meat Sandwich from Chenoy’s on the West Island

WOW, WAS THE SMOKED MEAT EVER GOOD.  I like that the seasoning had a nice little kick to it.  It was juicy and very flavourful.  I will be back again on my next visit to the West Island (that is if they don’t close it).  Chenoy’s is on St. Jean Street in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec.

Last but not least if you are in Chenoy’s you are obliged to order the:

Strawberry Cheesecake from Chenoy’s

Don’t be fooled with this choice of great food in Montreal.  This too is not a one-man (or woman) portion.  You need to get one piece and four forks and go to town.  This is a very rich cheesecake.  If you are expecting a light fluffy calorie-wise dessert, this is not your dessert.  If you are expecting a small piece, this is not your dessert.  If you are expecting a classic New York-style cheesecake topped with great big strawberries, THIS IS the only choice.

Very shareable strawberry cheesecake from Chenoys in Dollard DDO on the West Island @DownshiftingPRO

I mentioned above that if you were taking in a show, a hockey game, partying or clubbing in bars in downtown Montréal, you use to go to LaFleur’s in Ville St. Pierre on the way home.  Maybe you would go to Dunn’s, right downtown. 

If you were on the West Island at John Abbott College’s pub (The Caileigh), St. Anne’s Que Sera or Shawn’s Pub in Kirkland (sadly, all three bars are closed now), you most likely finished off the evening at Chenoy’s.  Opened 24 hours a day, you could easily find yourself amongst friends at 3:30 or 4 am.  In hindsight, I cannot believe I was out so late.  My parents were amazing to let me go out with my friends until all hours. 

I laugh at it now but my youngest daughter could not believe that I did this.  Funnily enough, my mom was with us at Chenoy’s and she did confirm that this happened ‘on occasion’ way back when.  But she assured my daughter that this would not be a good idea now (bless my mom for being a great-grandparent).

Wherever you choose to have a toasted bagel with cream cheese, a hearty smoked meat sandwich with a pickle, a quick steamie & fries or a rich piece of cheesecake, you can never go wrong with these classic eateries.  It’s nice to see that some have expanded to numerous locations and some have stayed exactly the same as you would have found them 40 –50 – 60 years ago.  If you go, make sure and take the time to savour not just the food but the whole atmosphere.  It’s one of a kind in Canada… trust me… I miss it more and more each year that I am away. All I can say is without a doubt je me souviens.  (I remember).

If visiting the province of Quebec you may want to consider a trip to Quebec City

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.

32 thoughts on “Good Eats in Montreal, 5 Amazing Foods you MUST Try!”

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  4. I been back living in Montreal again for the past five years (I moved away when I was a teen, any who) and you know what is REALLY sad. My hubby works a few actually, not even one block away from St. Viateur Bagels and I have YET tried there famous bagel. So thank you for inspiring me to pick up the phone and get his vanilla buttocks to start bringing some home on a BI-WEEKLY basis in my grocery list from now on. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed yourself dans la belle province.

  5. I dream about those bagels! Whenever friends/families go to Montreal I always make a request for a bag. I freeze them to make them last so that I can have a little treat! I’d request a smoke meat sandwich too but I doubt it would survive on the plane ride back to me! Resistance is futile!

  6. My best friend just went to Montreal last month on a whirlwind foodie tour, and I’ll have to ask her if she stopped at any of those places! Poutine is AMAZING, and I hope to one day have an authentic bowl of it IN Canada. To be honest, everything up there looks good – that sandwich, oh my goodness! “Would you like some bread with your meat?” LOL Delsih!!!

  7. Unfair! As Homer says: “Me so hungyyyy”. I want that poutine, first ‘plain’, then with the smoked meat on top. Yes, followed by that strawberry cheesecake. So, very, hungry …

    • Henry… you’ll need to pace yourself. I did this over 6 days . It’s all delicious.

  8. What a great review and wanted to try everything you highlighted! While I don’t think I will ever get to Quebec! I do enjoy experiencing places and foods through other people’s unique eyes!

  9. Trying the new cuisines and local favorites is one of my favorite things about traveling. My husband John would love that sandwich, that thing looks huge! I think my favorite would be the cheesecake that looks amazing and so delicious!

  10. oh wow that is one huge sandwich (chenoys) I need me one of those like yesterday. I have always been fascinated with canada and always wanted to visit. Maybe I will one day.

  11. This is so yummy looking!!! That sandwich, the Extra big Chenoys smoked meat would have me licking my fingers for days! Thank you so much for letting know about these awesome food items, I will have to make sure to add them to my To Do list when I go to Canada.

  12. This is awesome I lived about an hour a way from Montreal (in Ontario) a year ago but we have yet to actually venture over to Quebec! This is great motivation for us to make the trip this summer! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Chantal: If you live so close, you should drop by Montreal for a weekend. Let me suggest the New Residence of McGill University. It was right downtown and about 6 blocks from Schwartz’s and in the thick of it all. Hope you go!

  13. Oh my God, I don’t think I can eat all those ham. That poutine looks super delicious. I haven’t been to Montreal, but this is in my list of places to visit. I will keep these tips in mind.

    • It was actually not ham but beef brisket. To be honest with you I shared some of it with my mom. It is amazing and you also only have them once in a while not every week. Hope you can make it to Montreal its a great city!

  14. Wow, these descriptions of food make me want to visit Montreal so badly. Now, if I do, I have a handy list of must-go places to eat! The pictures you provided are mouth watering.

    • Thanks for your kind words Miriam. I have to admit, I am a fan of my Samsung Galaxy phone and tablet. They both take great pictures. The food was just as good too!

    • Too funny. I did not have any crepes and to be sure, we also missed out in Paris (big foodie regret for me). Alas, I will have to return for some crepes I guess. Oh, DD and I did have some awesome gelato though. Sooooo good.

  15. You have me craving the taste of home! St Viateur all the way then across the street the Arahova for a souvlaki. Drooling here…

    • Shannon, even thought I went to Casa Greque on Prince Arthur, I opted for the Shrimp salad (that was delicious). I would have loved to have had some souvlaki for sure. Next time!

  16. Oh my goodness that cheesecake looks amazing. I might have to walk home to justify the calories, but it looks like it would be the worth the extra workout! I never would have guessed that a dessert like that would be a favourite in Montreal but I like it! Thank you for sharing these food finds. Next time we are up that way we will give the cheesecake a try for certain!

    • Thanks for dropping by. Yes, cheesecake was rather larger but it is best shared. No question about it. If you are downtown, you can also get cheese cake at Dunn’s and Reuben’s I’m pretty sure.

      • Just came across your blog and love it! We moved from Montreal in 1980 and count ourselves as lucky for having grown up in such a vibrant city. We re-visit at least twice a year. May I politely ask you to do one thing, though… please-please stop calling it St. Catherine’s Street. It’s St. Catherine Street. And I don’t know why that makes me crazy, but it does!! Cheers!

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