We’ve been fortunate to host some our favourite bloggers on Ici et here. This week is no exception and we’re thrilled to welcome Amanda Strong. If you care about sustainable food and live in Montreal, her blog is a go-to resource.
About the author
Amanda Strong is a freelance writer specialising in food, health, travel and the environment. She runs The Mindful Table, a blog that explores local and sustainable food across Canada with a focus on Montreal and south-western Quebec. She is passionate about Montreal and loves exploring everything her city has to offer, especially if it involves food!
Montreal has long had a reputation as a city in love with food. Whether you are a connoisseur of fine food, an intrepid explorer of cultural cuisine, or simply love to cook or eat, Montreal has something for everyone, including those of us paying more attention to where our food comes from and how it is raised or produced.
Interest in where our food comes from and making our food systems more sustainable is growing. Farmers’ markets are popping up everywhere, books about what we eat make it onto bestseller lists, newspapers and magazines regularly run stories about local foods, food banks are venturing into urban agriculture, hotels are growing gardens and keeping bees and chickens on their roofs, shops have growing selections of local and organic products, food packaging is becoming more responsible, and some restaurants proudly display the names of local farm suppliers on their menus. Montreal is no exception.
Some of the most common questions I receive through The Mindful Table relate to shopping for sustainable food in Montreal or from folks looking for restaurant recommendations. Recently, I’ve been keeping a growing list of these places, which I’m always happy to share.
Here are some of my favourite haunts for sustainable food in the city. The list tends to be biased toward downtown, NDG and the southwest since those are close to home for me. It is by no means exhaustive.
- Coop La Maison Verte was one of the first environmental- and social-justice focused shops in Montreal. They carry basic organic and fair trade food including a strong selection of local products and frozen organic meat. They are also a drop-off point for a few CSAs and have a produce market with Ferme Zephyr on Thursdays. As well, they sell natural cleaning products (such as dish soap) in bulk—bring your own bottle—as well as other household staples.
- Boucherie de Tours at Atwater market and Le Maitre Boucher in NDG carry meats from small farms with sustainable practices, as well as organic chicken. Talk to the butcher. Boucherie de Tours is one of the few places I know that sells fresh pasture-raised veal.
- Ferme Nordest at Marché Jean Talon sells meats from animals raised without antibiotics and hormones. Most are pasture-raised as well. Another option at both Atawater and Jean Talon markets is Boucherie Saint Vincent, which only sells local organic meats.
- L’Autre Choix Mini Marché is a little gem on Victoria street in Westmount. They focus on local and sustainable grocery products. Nearby, the health store Aliments Natural A Votre Santé on Vendome at Sherbrooke has a good selection of local produce and meats, as well as organic goods.
- Supermarché PA on Fort Street is great for general groceries. Their stock fluctuates wildly but they usually have decent organic options (including chicken and Ferme Valens products) and tend to have some local produce when in season. I also like their international products.
- Boulangerie Guillaume is an artisanal organic bakery in Mile End. If you’re craving real Montreal bagels, Fairmount Bagel has some organic ones as well as organic Matzo bread. All their bagels use unbleached flour, well, except the whole wheat ones. With the exception of the standard sesame, poppy seed or plain, not all their bagels are available all the time.
- Fromagerie Atwater in Atwater market and Copette & Cie in Verdun are my favourite cheese shops. Fromagerie Atwater is huge and also has a great general dairy selection with many organic options, and a fantastic microbrew selection. Copette & Cie is a neighbourhood cheese shop so it’s much smaller. Most of their cheeses are local though and you can’t beat the service! They are also a CSA drop-off point.
- Branche D’Olivier in Verdun is another neighbourhood gem. It started out as an Indian food store but has since diversified strongly into organic and fair trade products.
- Olive et Epices in Marché Jean Talon is Montreal’s spice Mecca. The spices are fresh and sourced from small estates.
- Finally, Marché des Saveurs near Jean Talon Market specialises in Quebec artisanal foods and beverages. It’s huge. There’s really no other place like it except maybe on the boozy side since the SAQ in Atwater Market also carries a very strong selection of Quebec ciders, mead, wine and liqueurs .
For dining out, most of the exclusively (or mostly) vegan places in the city, like Crudessence, Aux Vivres and La Panthère Verte, use mostly local and organic ingredients and tend to be very environmentally conscious. Vegetarian restaurants Burritoville and Bonny’s also fit these criteria and are great choices. Bonny’s is the only one that is licensed and is probably your best bet for a sit-down meal. Their food is never a disappointment. Burritoville has live music, poetry nights, art shows and other interesting stuff going on.
If vegetarian isn’t your thing, Brasserie Artisanale L’Amère à Boire on St-Denis serves up their own brew and sources their ingredients mainly form la Petite Nation region near the Quebec-Ontario border. All their meat is naturally raised. Robin des Bois in the Plateau is a non-profit restaurant that donates to local social and anti-poverty causes. They try to use local and sustainable ingredients when possible. Fait Ici in Little Burgundy has some great fast lunch options. I love their organic chicken sandwich. There is also Tributerre on Jarry: Check their opening hours before going though, because they can be odd.
At the higher end, both Restaurant DNA in old Montreal and Le St-Urbain in Ahuntsic source sustainable ingredients and use many local suppliers. They both have reputations for excellent wine lists with good Canadian, organic and biodynamic selections. Le St-Urbain is also ocean-wise certified. I’ve never eaten at Toqué but it has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement since they opened. It’s little brother Brasserie t! reportedly also shares a similar ingredient philosophy. Other choices in the city include Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins and L’Un des Sens.
Are you interested in sustainable food or where your food comes from? Why? What are your favourite spots in the city?