Cheap Eats in Montreal: A Budget Traveler’s Guide to Dining in the Canadian City
With a huge student population, Montreal by night is a fun place to be | Henryk Sadura / Getty Images
With a large university population and diverse immigrant communities, it’s not surprising Montreal offers a wealth of affordable food options to match any taste. Culture Trip has compiled some of the tried-and-tested dining highlights from around the city that won’t leave a hole in your bank balance.
Thali is a favorite haunt of Concordia University students, as it is located near the school at the busy downtown junction of Rue Saint-Marc and Rue Sainte-Catherine. The restaurant has built up a strong reputation over the years by delivering its namesake meal quickly, in healthy portions and with solid pricing. In addition to Indian culinary classics, the straightforward eatery offers a range of fruit lassis, as well as desserts such as rich kulfi ice cream. Diners can expect a full thali meal, which includes three vegetarian choices, plus a naan and basmati rice, for CA$12 (US$8.70), or tandoori chicken and a naan starting at CA$8 (US$5.80).
Located on Rue Saint-Viateur, in the center of Montreal’s Portuguese district, Romados is a much-loved location, built around takeouts and quick bites. Rich, seasoned rotisserie chicken is the specialty here, with a steady stream of patrons lining up for quick-fire orders throughout the day. True to its Portuguese heritage, a small pastry counter is also open, serving fresh pasteis de nata custard tarts. Combos (meal deals) typically include crispy, coarse salt fries and an entire chicken for CA$13 (US$9.45). If you’re looking to dine in, be patient – seating is available, but it’s somewhat limited.
Conveniently located on Avenue Duluth, just a short stroll from the Parc du Mont-Royal, Café Santropol is a staple for affordable, healthy meals near the heart of the city. This is one of the best options in town for a well-priced vegetarian or vegan lunch. Santropol favorites include hearty, creative sandwiches and salads available for CA$8 (US$5.80), as well as filling chillies, soups and vegan sweet treats. A range of drinks light up the summer menus, with zesty lemonades and iced teas being lifesavers after a long walk around the plateau at Mont-Royal. A busy spot, the cafe still manages to provide ample seating.
Vua is a well-known Vietnamese sandwich chain in Montreal, with several downtown locations. The outlet on Avenue-du-President-Kennedy has an airy, comfortable feel, from their corner location within the Axa Center office block. Here, you can custom-build a bánh mì with crispy pork, chicken or vegetarian fillings, plus spicy sauces. Extras such as sesame balls, meat skewers and bubble tea are also available, with plenty of seating options so you can take in the hustle and bustle in the city center. It offers discounts after 7pm, when a full-sized Vietnamese sandwich will set you back about CA$8 (US$5.80).
Quebec has always had a love affair with fried food, especially when it comes to juicy burgers, crunchy fries and proud servings of Canada’s famous poutine. Patati Patata adds an extra dose of comfort to this tradition, occupying an unassuming but highly regarded space on Saint-Laurent. Expect fresh takes on fried classics, served with salads, ideal for brisk brunch clients looking to satisfy morning cravings after a night on the town. It can be a tough place to find a seat at peak periods, but solid draft beer and a range of burger and poutine meals starting at CA$8 (US$5.80) make it a neighborhood favorite.
Blink and you’ll miss it. This tiny spot near Mile End’s core has become a dependable option thanks to its takeaway street window for hungry customers in warmer months. Drogheria Fine’s undisputed champ is its perfectly cooked gnocchi, the delicate, soft nature of which it credits to gentle cooking in a savory tomato sauce. Served in takeaway Chinese food containers, and topped with chilli flakes and Italian cheese, this wholly satisfying meal only costs CA$5 (US$3.60). They often sell out, though, so come early.
Part of the city’s famous duopoly of bagel royalty, and a separate location to the original premises on St-Viateur, St-Viateur Bagel, set right on Avenue Mont-Royal, is the ideal place to enjoy this Montreal staple in a relaxed setting. This café is s brunch and lunch favourite, serving straightforward but highly satisfying cream cheese and salmon on chewy all-dressed, sesame and poppyseed bagels. Rarely overcrowded, it offers a refuge from the busy streets of the Plateau neighborhood. A filling bagel meal with a satisfying coffee on the side comes in at about CA$10 (US$7.25).
Diner, Restaurant, American, Canadian, North American, Fast Food
For many, poutine is something that’s perfect in its simplicity, with wholesome fries, gravy and squeaky cheese curds, especially on a chilly day. La Banquise has built up a reputation as one of the finest poutineries in Canada, offering an impressive range of options, from turkey and stuffing to Mexican-style and Caribbean extras. Located close to the fountains and green spaces of Parc La Fontaine, the restaurant has ample interior seating, making it a convenient option when cravings strike. The portions are enormous and, for just under CA$12 (US$8.70), make a very hearty meal for most budgets.
Takeaway, Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, All Day
Fondue Chinoise Express
This tucked-away spot in the upper levels of the Faubourg Mall, right beside Concordia University, dishes out bowls of noodles of exceptional quality and in generous quantities. It’s part of a collection of hidden Asian gems in this often-ignored complex, so expect perfectly cooked noodles, rich, tasty broth and a good selection of meat and vegetable additions. Prices are another reason Fondue stands out: you’ll only be paying CA$10 (US$7.25) for a huge portion.
Montreal has occasionally been singled out by foodies for lacking good, affordable options when it comes to Mexican restaurants, but St-Henri’s Tacos Frida is a keen challenger. The staff serves up house tacos in abundance, with fresh ingredients. It’s also excellent value,with three tacos and a soup costing CA$10 (US$7.25). Refreshing agua de jamaica, hibiscus water, and a fun selection of Mexican sweets are welcome touches, in both the original St-Henri location and the newest branch in the Village.