A version of this article was first written for Tourisme Montréal.
If you’re a foodie visiting Montreal for the first time, bienvenue! You’re about to embark on a deliciously memorable journey filled with luscious pastries, dreamy meals, exhilarating culinary adventures and heady libations.
1. GO TO MARKET
Montreal counts 5 farmers markets open year round and more than 50 seasonal ones. Touring any one of these food meccas is a dream come true for food lovers. Eat your way through many of them by visiting the various cheese mongers, spice stores, artisanal bakeries, seasonal fruit and vegetable stands, charcuterie stalls and restaurants that call these markets home.
2. DIG INTO A POUTINE
Poutine is one of Québec’s most famous culinary exports and Montreal is home to quite a few “best” poutine spots. Every Montrealer has a favourite, from the classic 24-hour spot La Banquise to some of my go-tos: Ma Poule Mouillée’s poutine topped with Portuguese chicken or Blackstrap BBQ’s burnt end poutine. Pick one and dig in; you’ll never forget your first time.
3. PICK A BAGEL TEAM
Montreal has the best bagels in the world, period; but who makes the best Montreal bagel? A true foodie will have to decide for themselves so head to the Mile End and grab a piping hot bagel from the St-Viateur and Fairmount shops (they’re only a block apart). You can then have an informed argument with any Montrealer when they ask you which team you’re on. Can you guess which one I’m on?
4. STAND IN LINE AT KEM COBA
And while you’re in the Mile End, go ahead and stand in line to grab a soft serve from Kem Coba. It has become a summer tradition in Montreal and one any foodie has to experience, not only because this is one of the best ice creams in town (the soft serve flavours change with the seasons) but also for the conversations with fellow ice cream lovers and hipster Mile End residents.
5. DON’T STAND IN LINE AT SCHWARTZ
Montreal is famous for its smoked meat and Schwartz is a veritable mecca that attracts throngs of visitors and locals alike. If you don’t want to wait in line, head to the take out counter and grab your order to go. Insider tip: always order your meat medium lean, always order extra bread and always, always order a side of pickle. You can then head back to your hotel room or one of the many parks around to enjoy your sandwich.
6. BRUNCH LIKE A MONTREALER
If there’s one foodie tradition all Montrealers love to partake in, it’s weekend brunch. So make like a Montrealer and pick one of the many brunch restaurants to while away a few weekend hours. We’re warning you though, choosing a restaurant will be tough considering that there are so many great options out there ranging from deux œufs bacon spots to more sophisticated establishments.
7. PICK A SWEET SPOT
If you have a penchant for gluten, you’re in luck since Montreal has the best bread and pastries this side of Paris. From buttery croissants to crispy baguettes, hearty breads, chewy cookies and dainty, elegant desserts, the choice is endless and it would take a lifetime of dedication (I only exaggerate slightly) to taste everything. Don’t fret though because I’ve put together a handy guide to help you out. And even if you and gluten are not BFFs, you can still indulge since most bread bakeries and some pastry shops offer gluten-free options.
8. GET CAFFEINATED
If you’re a coffee aficionado, you’ve come to the right place. In the past few years, Montreal has established itself as a world-class coffee town rivaling with cities such as Portland, Melbourne and New York. Use my handy map to spot the closest café or go on a tour to visit as many as you can while visiting. They all have such distinctive personalities
9. CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS IN NOVEMBER
Every November, Montreal holds MTLàTABLE, its restaurant week with over 175 participating restaurants offering 3-course fixed price menus for $21, $31 or $41. A plethora of foodie activities is planned around MTLàTABLE and includes food tours, wine events, dinner theater and more. If you’re a foodie visiting Montreal for the first time, planning your trip around MTLàTABLE will be much gentler on your wallet.
10. PARTAKE IN NOUVELLE CUISINE
Montreal has been named North America’s new foodie destination by Town & Country Magazine in 2016. It’s found its way on many other lists as a great gastronomic destination. Montreal cuisine has emerged as a very distinctive one with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients, many of them foraged and unique to our climate. Montreal chefs are passionate and creative and if you want to taste the local cuisine, you’ll have many restaurants to pick from.
11. GO NATURAL
Montreal has one of the most elaborate natural and bio-dynamic wine scenes in the world. If you enjoy your natural wines and you’re visiting for the first time, then get ready to drink! From avant garde wine bars to great restaurants with fine carte des vins, your liver may not be happy but your heart and your taste buds will.
12. TAKE A TOUR
There’s no better way to get to know a city than to partake in a guided tour with experts who can share anecdotes and inside jokes about their town. Luckily for visiting foodies, Montreal has quite a few tours centered on gastronomy. From touring a farmers market (with me!) to learning more about how the Jewish culture influenced Montreal’s culinary stage, pick your favourite and hop on! And of course, the best part about all of these tours is the tastings!
Click here for more Montreal food info.