Baked goods of all kinds are no laughing matter in Montreal, a town where French pâtisserie traditions run deep, so you’ll have plenty of crisp daily baguettes, bountiful country-style loaves and flaky croissants to keep you going. However, there are also other culinary influences in the mix, including ones from the city’s long-established Jewish and Italian populations, as well as a healthy dose of local inventions that pack uniquely Quebecois flavors into every bite.
In the fall of 2019, the Villeray area saw the opening of a top-notch bakery that doubles as a popular neighborhood hangout. Bread is such serious business here that they actually mill their own flour on-site, which you can buy by the bag if you have some home baking to do. The owner, French expat Dominique Gauvrit, helped get the ubiquitous bakery chain Première Moisson off the ground back in the ’90s and is now going it alone to establish this more intimate project. Locals gather at Boulangerie Jarry in its converted industrial space with high ceilings for veggie pâté sandwiches, buttery baked goods or vegan-friendly croissants ordered with an espresso on the side.
Arhoma has several outposts, and you’ll spot its bread at grocery stores and fine food shops across town, but the original Hochelaga-Maisonneuve location is well worth a trip. Here, you’ll find unforgettable croissants stuffed with Quebec blue cheese, as well as French sweet baking staples including chocolatines, fruit turnovers and all sorts of funky bread. There are also olive fougasse loaves with whole kalamatas, and unique creations like the beet ciabatta or the bright yellow kamut bread with turmeric, almonds and pumpkin seeds.
For sweet-tooth satisfaction, head to Pâtisserie Rhubarbe tucked away in the East Plateau on Laurier Avenue. Pastry chef and owner Stéphanie Labelle pours her heart and sugar-laced soul into beautiful and creative cakes, cookies, jelly candies and traditional flaky galettes made with seasonal ingredients. Come August, blackberry tarts line the display cases, while apple treats take over with the first sign of fall and maple goods take center stage in the spring. If you want to bring a tasty souvenir home, browse the jars of preserves like homemade strawberry jam, rhubarb compote and maple caramel spread.
Along with perfect sourdough loaves you’ll wish to devour daily, Boulangerie Guillaume churns out more mouthwatering handheld treats than you can possibly snack on in one visit. Yes, there’s often a line, but these bakers are pros, so guests shuffle along quickly and you’ll have your chocolate-banana scone, individual bread pudding or nostalgia-infused date square in no time. To double down on Quebec-ness, be sure to order a little ball-shaped bread packed with oregano and the province’s famous cheese curds. If you want to take a sweet stroll through the Mile End, add an orange-blossom water coconut ball dipped in chocolate to your haul and get walking.
Local sweet-treat master Patrice Demers lends his name and baking talents to his high-end Griffintown shop Patrice Pâtissier. His bakery only uses top-shelf ingredients, like produce from Quebec’s La Ferme des Quatres Temps in Hemmingford, and cheese from Îles aux Grues farther up the St Lawrence River. If you’re looking to up your own pastry game, sign up for a cooking class focusing on chocolate, citrus and cream-filled desserts. Or, for more instant gratification, grab a table in the sleek café to enjoy sumptuous desserts like chocolate and pistachio mousse tartlets, almond-amaretto éclairs or the chef’s coffee-hazelnut twist on a classic butter-heavy Breton dessert, Kouign-Amann.
The Plateau might already be awash with bakeries, but few of them make a traditional French baguette with a perfectly crispy exterior and chewy interior like Le Toledo. Situated towards the middle of Mont-Royal Avenue, the newcomer’s expansive, bright space with huge windows draws people in and doubles as a café. Here, locals come armed with laptops to work with croque monsieurs on house-made bread or creamy flan. This spot also serves a masterful tartine topped with gravlax and red cabbage slaw. It’s the type of trendy toast that is all over Instagram but it is actually a French standard nearly as old as bread itself.
Grains are treated with the utmost respect at Automne on Beaubien Street East, where carb-heavy baked goods change seasonally. Co-owners Julien Roy and Seth Gabrielse both have cooking backgrounds, and often get experimental with natural bread starters and longer fermentation times – their methods yield products that pack a flavorful punch. Their flour is also intentionally selected from Quebec to deliver bread that’s exemplary of the province’s terroir. Many locals come into the corner shop for their everyday stoneground flour loaves, but you’ll also find tasty quiches, fruit-filled brioche buns and croissants stuffed with ham and cheese.
Though there are a bunch of classic go-to Italian bakeries to check out in the area, this Little Italy spot is our favorite, as it doubles as a cute café with retro red vinyl seats. Visitors here can sit with a cappuccino and a creamy ricotta cannoli, rich tiramisu or perfectly chewy amaretti cookies that would make a nonna proud. La Cornetteria also jumped on the food trend craze a few years back by baking up the cronetto: the cozy establishment’s Italian twist on the cronut.