48 Hours in Montreal: A Guide to Eating
48 hours is hardly enough time to eat your way through any city, especially one as rich, and deliciously diverse as Montreal. But that doesn't mean my wife and I didn't try on a recent weekend trip. I'm sure there are amazing things we missed, but I can promise you this: follow this itinerary, and you won't leave Montreal disappointed (or hungry).
Dinner at L'Express; Friday 8 p.m.
Montreal is known for its French food, and dinner at L'Express is the perfect way to start your weekend. This no-frills, stand-out bistro is just as much of a favorite for locals as it is for out-of-towners. Go for the big mound of steak tartare, the pot au feu, or one of the rotating specials. 3927 Rue Saint-Denis (map); 514-845-5333
Breakfast at Marche Atwater; Saturday 9 a.m.
In recent years Marche Jean Talon has become the go-to market for food lovers in Montreal, but Marche Atwater is the OG farmer's market and a perfect place to spend a Saturday morning. It's much smaller than its uptown rival, but that will just give you more time to relax in Premiere Moisson with a bowl of cafe au lait. Don't let the fact that it's a chain scare you off—they still make a damn good bowl of coffee. When you're done with breakfast, Old Town is just a short subway ride away. 154 Avenue Atwater (map); 514-937-2863
Lunch at Olive and Gourmando; Saturday at Noon
This six year old cafe/bakery in Old Montreal is hopping at lunch time, and with good reason. The owners both spent time working at Toqué!, making this reasonably priced lunch the closest you may get to what many consider the best restaurant in Montreal. Inventive salads and delicious sandwiches, served on house-baked bread, make up a menu that changes daily on a giant chalk board. The perfect beginning, or end, to a walk around Old Montreal. 351 Rue Saint-Paul Ouest (map); 514-350-1083
A Stroll through Chinatown; Saturday 3 p.m.
After walking through Old Montreal, head directly north into Montreal's Chinatown. Rue de la Gauchetiere is the pedestrianized main strip, where you can find restaurants, dim sum, bakeries, a Chinese buffet, and more. For a perfect afternoon snack, go for the dragon beard candy. The peanut-filled treat is made right on the street by pulling strands of sugar that could easily be mistaken for a white beard. Looking for a more substantial snack? Turn left up bd. St-Laurent, where you'll be surrounded by Vietnamese shops offering various versions of banh mi. 52B De La Gauchetiere Ouest (map); 514-916-6252
Dinner at Au Pied du Cochon; Saturday 8 p.m.
If you worship pork, there is no finer altar than Au Pied de Cochon. A love-it or hate-it kind of place, the unconditional lovers will claim it's a great restaurant, but "over the top" is probably more accurate. Nothing sums up the place more than poutine, an already rich Montreal dish of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds, but they go to the next level—topped with foie gras. You know, for fun. Also for fun is the "Duck in a Can" (don't ask, just order it), PDC Salad (which may have more pork than greens), and a "melting pot" of pork goodness (which included some of the best blood sausage I've ever had.) Not recommended for vegetarians, or anybody who doesn't belong to the church of the almighty pig. And yes, I did buy a t-shirt. 536 Rue Duluth (map); 514-392-2708
Fairmont Bagels; Sunday 9 a.m.
Montreal is home to a large Jewish population, and their different-than-New-York bagels are incredibly popular. The Fairmount vs. St. Viateur argument has gone on forever, and many will declare it a draw. I had a less than fresh-tasting bagel at St. Viateur's Plateau Mont Royal location, so I consider Fairmont the safer bet. Its one and only location has no tables, no chairs, no menus; just hot bagels fresh out of the oven, ready to be purchased and eaten on the sidewalk or in your car. 75 Avenue Fairmont Ouest (map); 514-272-0667
Culinary Walk; Sunday 11 a.m.
Plateau Mont-Royal is a great walking neighborhood full of culinary delights, and Lesley Chesterman—the fine dining critic for the Montreal Gazette—is the perfect guide. Use the "Foodie Circuit" post on her blog as your own personal walking tour of the neighborhood. You'll be guided from one great snack to another, allowing yourself to graze as you go. Two thirds of the way through the "foodie circuit," you'll find yourself smack dab in front of one of Montreal's treasures: Schwartz's. Smoked meat is the specialty of the house, and a sandwich from Schwartz's is a must before leaving Montreal. 3895 Boulevard St-Laurent (map); 514-842-4813
Marche Jean Talon; Sunday 4 p.m.
Marche Atwater may be a cute place to spend breakfast, but Jean Talon is clearly the best market in the city. Much bigger than Atwater, you'll be treated to aisle after aisle of fresh meats, cheeses, and delicious-looking fruits and vegetables, much of it proudly grown in the Montreal area. Well worth the subway trip to the north, the market also has food court-type stalls set up on the perimeter, perfect for lunch,or a pre-dinner snack. 7075 Avenue Casgrain (map); 514-277-1379
Dinner at Kitchen Galerie; Sunday 6 p.m.
Finish off your weekend with a truly unique and exceptional dining experience at Kitchen Galerie. The chef/owners act as maitre d', waiter, bartender, and cook, preparing your meal from a bar-like open kitchen in the dining room. A $35 prix fixe menu, the meal is made up entirely of ingredients from the nearby Marche Jean Talon, which they refer to as the "largest restaurant refrigerator in the city." Much of the menu changes week to week, but a few of the dishes are reliable specialties, like the foie gras parfait—which may have been the best dish we ate all weekend long. 60 Jean-Talon Est (map), corner St-Dominique (map); 514-315-8994