The city’s food scene is part of what draws visitors to Montreal, with many dishes spanning across several generations. Restaurants are always evolving, but many of the celebrated classics remain more or less the same. Here are some dishes that you must try while visiting Montreal.
Schwartz’s may well be the most famous feature of Montreal’s foodie scene. Line-ups for this iconic deli on Boulevard St Laurent can reach longer than a couple of blocks on any given day, but the wait usually isn’t too long given its no-frills dining experience. The main dish here is a classic smoked-meat sandwich with a side of fries, a pickle and a black cherry soda. Schwartz’s has a retro vibe, and the deli boasts an 80-year-old, celebrity-endorsed history of being a beloved city landmark.
Takeaway, Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Late Night
Gnocchi at Drogheria Fine
Snack Bar, Italian
With its tiny, unassuming location on Fairmont, it’s easy to overlook this authentic Italian shop. But it’s known for making some of the best pasta sauce in Montreal, which you can purchase by the jar – or even better, in a small, $5 carton of fresh gnocchi that bubbles in a vat by the only window. Add Parmesan and crushed pepper, and enjoy this piping-hot Italian comfort dish as you meander through the bustling heart of the surrounding Mile End neighborhood.
Located right next to Drogheria Fine, you’ll find Fairmont Bagels, one half of the most long-standing food-related rivalries in Montreal. Of course, Montreal-style bagels are a must-try while you’re in the city, best enjoyed when still warm. The space is snug and nothing fancy; the walls are lined with bagged bagels, and behind the counter you can watch as the bagels are baked fresh in a large wood stove.
You’ll also want to try the contender of the Montreal-style bagel rivalry by heading over to the bagel shop on nearby St Viateur, and decide for yourself whose fresh, hand-rolled bagels you prefer. It’s open 24 hours, and in addition to the original shop, has a few other café-style locations around the city.
Within a stone’s throw of both Fairmont Bagels and Drogheria Fine, Kem CoBa often has queues that stretch up the block and around the corner during its active spring and summer months. Most people come for a cup or cone of the artisanal ice cream or sorbet, but it also offers chocolate and pastries. The frozen desserts have no preservatives or artificial ingredients, and you can choose scooped or soft-serve in creative, homemade flavors.
Located on St Laurent Boulevard, also referred to as “The Main”, the ice cream shop Ripples has been around for over 15 years. Owner Richard Bernett started out by making ice cream at home and fell in love with the craft, and now his little shop offers ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt in more than 30 flavors – including guava-grapefruit, halavah, mocha-almond fudge and chai tea.
Diner, Restaurant, American, Canadian, North American, Fast Food
Despite its unusual combination of fries, gravy and cheese, poutine is recognized as being among the most iconic Québécois dishes. There are numerous chains that serve up this local fast food classic, but La Banquise in the Plateau is among the most popular spots in the city. Since 1968, this snack bar has been serving over 30 kinds of poutine 24 hours a day. Varieties include La Mexicaine, La Reggae, La Santorini, La Sud-Ouest and La Véganomane, with vegan cheese and vegan sauce.
Take your love for poutine to the next level and try a foie gras variation at one of the most famous restaurants in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood. Au Pied du Cochon is known for its heavy, decadent interpretations of traditional Québécois dishes, and its foie gras poutine is no exception. The cheese curds and fries are smothered in a generous helping of foie gras sauce, and garnished with an additional pinch of the delicious pâté. You won’t have room for dessert.
Since 1986, Boustan has been serving the most popular Lebanese-Canadian fast food in the city. The original location on Rue Crescent attracted Canadian celebrities such as Leonard Cohen, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his son, current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and players from the Montreal Canadiens hockey team – among many others. There are now multiple locations, but the potatoes served with a thick garlic sauce remain a favorite local comfort food.
Easily identifiable as the giant orange on Montreal’s skyline, Gibeau Orange Julep has a long history that covers several decades. It embodies the vibe of a 1960s diner and attracts classic cars from near and far for weekly gatherings in the surrounding parking lot. The venue’s classic drink is the creamy Gibeau Orange Julep, perfect for enjoying on a hot summer afternoon alongside a hot dog and fries.