The 29th post on Ici et here is by Evelyne Budkewitsch. If it is ethnic food you seek, Montreal is a good place to be. We are grateful this week that Evelyne, who has been writing about ethnic food in Montreal for years on her blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz, has addressed the subject here in a different way. There is no better guide for this topic in the city. We had the chance to chat with her this week about her food-related projects, and her love of Montreal. Take a listen.
A city filled with energy, culture, art, chaos, calm, youth, old stubbornness, openness, compassion and life. That is what Montreal is all about. Montreal is unlike any other city in the world, all 4 corners of the world are represented here.
From its early beginnings the French and the English had to learn to live together, to endure each other and to learn from one another. As a culture this turned into a gift: what seemed like a fight or a clash developed into a particularly open minded city. Immigrants found a certain comfort in this and they easily settled and shared their cultures with the locals. Today Montreal is known as one of the most exciting cities to live and/or visit in the world.
Tourists and residents alike have so many attractions to see in Montreal they will be busy for quite some time. You’ll get a great glimpse of the city…but how about truly experiencing the city? How? Well that is easy, by rubbing elbows at the dinner table with the locals. We are crazy about food. We love everything about it: buying it, cooking it, eating it or going out to have it served to us.
Certain districts are known for their ethnic groceries stores: Saint-Laurent and Jean-Talon has Italian stores; NDG has Korean, Russian and Jamaican store; Chinatown is obviously great for anything Asian; Le Plateau has the Portuguese stores; and Outremont the Kosher stores. A great place to explore the local produce is at the nearest farmer’s market. The two biggest ones are the Jean-Talon market and the Atwater Market. Both are lined with specialty shops filled with cheeses, meats, fish, herbs, spices, sauces, pastries and just about anything edible.
Montreal even has festivals that revolve around food. One such festival is the Mondial de la Bière, usually in early June, where you can taste beers, ciders, and other beverages from all over Quebec and the world. The Montreal Highlights Festival is a wintertime affair which covers food and wine, performing arts, and free activities both indoor and outdoor. Outside of Montreal you can find duck festivals, chocolate festivals and of course apple festivals. During February and March sugar shacks in Quebec are busy serving meals drenched in maple syrup.
But what we love most is going out to restaurants and enjoying a fabulous meal. And we particularly love a small, quaint, perhaps ethnic place that serves up delicious food for a budget price. There are so many restaurants in Montreal some say it has the most restaurants per capita in North America. Let me be your guide to hidden little gems you will probably not find in a tour guide.
- Le Plateau neighbourhood is the king of restaurants. A lot of the city’s best restaurants are here and it can cover all price ranges. Here are some of the good and reasonably priced ones. The best place to have Quebec’s quintessential poutine is at La Banquise (994 Rue Rachel East). Don’t know what poutine is? This unique dish is a plate of French fries drowned in gravy and topped with chewy curds of white cheddar. Bière ET Compagnie (4350 Rue St-Denis) serves caribou burgers, wapiti Sheppard’s pie, and a lot of game dishes and has over 100 beers. For generous Portuguese go to Chez Doval (150 rue Marie-Anne East) and head to Schwartz’s (3895 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) for the most authentic smoked meat sandwich. The real bagel comes from Montreal and the best places to get one hot from the oven are St-Viateur’s Bagels (263 Rue St-Vitter West) and Fairmount Bagels (74 Avenue Fairmount West). A Quebec food experience is Pied de Cochin (536 Avenue Duluth East). Now you can spend a fortune here or you can be reasonable. Either way it is a must and so worth it. This place became famous for its Foie Gras poutine and decadent pig’s feet stew. You will eat about 10,000 calories but who cares. A couple of places that are not restaurants but are worth the detour: La Maison du Macaron (4479 Rue De la Roche) makes the French Macarons (meringue and ganache), Meu Meu (4458 St-Denis) is the best ice cream parlor in town in my opinion and Lab Cocktail (1351 Rue Rachel East) bar prepares truly unique drinks and Absinthe.
- Rosemont – La Petite-Patrie is really an up and coming neighbourhood. Here you will find Montreal’s Little Italy and the Jean-Talon market. El Chalateco (520 Rue Beaubien East) offer great Salvadorian, Salon Mogador (310 Rue Beaubien East) prepares Moroccan dishes, and Le Petit Alep (191 rue Jean-Talon East) serves unusual Syrian food.
- Go to Chinatown for an unusual breakfast of Dim Sum at Kam Fung (1111 Saint-Urbain). Or if you want a simple 3 service duck feast for under $15 go to Mon Nam (43 de la Gauchetière).
- Downtown can be tough for a good and cheap meal. Try Atti (2077 Rue University) for some Korean fare, Kazu (1862 Sainte-Catherine West) for some Japanese and Mango Bay (1202 Rue Bishop) for some Caribbean.
- The Quartier Latin can be tricky to if you want something original. Go to Chez Gatsé (317 Rue Ontario East) for Tibetan food and Juliette ET Chocolat (1615 Rue St-Denis) for everything chocolate. They make the best hot chocolates but make sure to ask for the old fashion style.
- The Gay Village has a lot of restaurants. In this area I recommend Asian fare at Bato Thai (1310 Ste-Catherine East) or awesome sandwiches and to die for cakes at Kilo (1495 Rue Ste-Catherine East).
- NDG is more Anglophone and very multicultural. It’s where I live (although I am Francophone). Sherbrooke and Monkland Streets particularly are lined with eateries. The bests are the Mexican Amaranto (5974 Monkland), Jamaican Anancy (6587 Somerled), Trinidadian Jean’s (5914 Rue Sherbrooke West) and Russian Le Georgia (5112, boul. Décarie).
- A new area developing rapidly is the South West which includes Lachine canal, Atwater, St. Henri, and Petite-Bourgogne. This is home to the earlier mentioned Atwater Market. Burgundy Lion Pub (2496 Notre Dame West) offers old British favourites with a modern twist. Su (5145 Rue Wellington) was a fabulous find serving delicious Turkish dishes.
These are but a few suggestions of what is out there. I hope you try some of my recommendations and perhaps go and discover some of your own. I would love to hear about your experience so make sure to come visit my blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz and drop me a line!
Happy food discoveries!