Shhh! Discover Montréal’s best kept hidden gems
Throughout this site we tell you all about Montréal’s greatest hits and amazing bits. But what about the city’s hidden gems? The ones even WE keep to ourselves? Here’s a growing list of our favourite small, neighbourhood, off-the-beaten-track spots, where we love to go hang, grab a meal, soak up the vibe and generally live like a local. Welcome to our best-kept secrets.
Suggestions by Isa Tousignant, Mark Hamilton, Robyn Fadden, Mayssam Samaha, Laure Juilliard and Richard Burnett
Hidden treasure restaurants
Le Sain Bol is a small restaurant tucked away on Fabre on the Plateau that has three to six things on the menu only, a great atmosphere and free almond milk chai latte when you walk in. It feels like home!
At L’Entre-Pots, on Masson Street, they bake their own bread, everyone’s handsome, and they’re home to the amazing Bene-Olé: a spin on eggs benedict that involves back bacon, cheese curds, pickles, spicy sauce and Hollandaise.
Sammi & Soupe Dumpling, on Sainte-Catherine Street West near Concordia University downtown, has a great cucumber chili salad and lamb and coriander dumplings that will make you want to cry! Watch the sweet ladies making the dumplings as you order them.
Le Diplomate is a wacky, creative, tiny jewel of a fine cuisine du marché spot in the most unusual place, nestled in a residential strip across from the Home Depot on Beaubien Street in Mile-Ex.
Get delicious dumplings and hand-pulled homestyle noodles at La Maison De Mademoiselle Dumpling on Plaza St-Hubert – it started as a tiiiiiny joint and was so beloved it stretched to next door.
Denise is a nouveau-Asian hole-in-the-wall in Parc-Ex on Beaumont that is as stylish as the dishes are delish. There are new Szechuan style inventions going on every day.
Comptoir Sainte-Cécile is part neighbourhood store, part lunch counter, part best-kept secret for hungry Villeray residents. It’s a great spot for brunch, too. (Try the fresh herb pancake with salmon gravlax.)
Fabulous Korean food and minimalist style décor await at Jiep Jiep on Jean-Talon Street West, where the daily specials are always comforting and the Korean poutine is worth a try.
Head to Chez Apo Lahmadjoune Beyrouth for scrumptious, paper-thin Armenian lahmadjoun, baked in a woodfire oven in this barebones Rosemont spot.
Crazy Falafel in Saint-Laurent is THE spot for the best French fry pita bread sandwich in town – with all the toppings, of course.
People cross the city for the halloumi sandwich at Mile-Ex spot Dépanneur Le Pick-Up, a mix of rye bread, fried cheese and zingy, creamy purple cabbage coleslaw.
Find delectable cakes and cookies, including the best carrot cake in town, at Mlles Gâteaux in Villeray.
Seekers of cozy vibes, the perfect Caesar salad and great grilled meats will want to check out Gus at the southern cusp of Little Italy.
One of the best Italian restaurants is a little spot called LUCIANO TRATTORIA, where the handmade pasta – like the fresh ricotta gnocchi – will fill you with love.
Everything at Larrys is delish, from morning to night – start the day with a coffee and a great scone, end it with wine and lamb meatballs.
Get your Indian food fix at Restaurant Malhi, tucked away on Jarry Street deep in Parc-Ex. Don’t leave without trying the Chana samosa.
The best cannoli in town are at Pasticceria Alati-Caserta – the old-school Italian bakery on Dante Street has all sorts of other classic treats too, from biscotti to meringues.
Vernissages at the Never Apart art gallery are legendary: they’re free, the art is far-out, the crowds are electric and the private garden has a pool, season permitting!
Nothing beats an aperitif on the terrasse at Cicchetti, in Mile-Ex – and enjoy some of the excellent Venetian style tapas while you’re at it.
Saddle up to the small bar at Notre Dame Des Quilles: it’s queer, trans, charming, and there’s pizza and bowling. Awesome.
For great live music or a chill drink with friends, Ritz P.D.B. comes complete with pool table and pinball. And the drinks are yummy.
The tiny, cozy speakeasy in the basement of McKibbin’s Irish Pub on Bishop Street is home to legendary gravel-voiced Montréal barkeep Kevin – even other bartenders come here post-shift.
A simple espresso shot or a creamy caffe latte served in a glass all’Italiana is just the thing at the tiny corner Café Vito in Villeray.
The Saint-Henri café headquarters in the industrial/condo sector just off Parc Jarry are vast, handsomely designed with concrete and artfully painted walls and quietly relaxing.
You’ll find Italian style coffee and great sandwiches at Baristello & co. on Jarry Street. Try the meatball sub – you’ll fall in love!
Go to Café Dei Campi for the great coffee, the quiet and bright space and the great pastries that are vegetarian to boot.
The quietest of the three locations in the Café Larue & Fils franchise is the one on Saint-Zotique Street. It has the same good coffee, but you’re more likely to find a table to get some work done.
Head to the Saint-Denis Street location of the small chain Myriade for its big breathy space, its stylish white-painted brick and its cute terrasse. And the cookies. Oooooh boy the cookies.
Café Prague Montreal in Outremont is like a community beloved by Czechs. You could easily miss it, but don’t – it’s worth noticing for its delicious coffee and croissant-and-ham sandwiches.
Café Méchants Pinsons shares a back door with Le Sain Bol. It has scrumptious yummies, no wi-fi, and it’s perfect for people-watching Laurier Avenue passersby.
The Phi Centre VR cinema is where the latest advances in virtual reality fuse with artistry and the unexpected, all inside a VR headset.
See a film in the dome of the Satosphere, the Society for Arts and Technology’s semi-circular projection room, and your mind will be thoroughly blown.
Head to MainLine Theatre for always-entertaining English-language plays, dance performances, parties and quirky-queer events like the Montreal Slowdance Night and the Strip Spelling Bee.
The Musée des pompiers de Montréal is a firefighters’ museum located in Mile End where you can see the city history through photos and vintage equipment and vehicles.
At Le TAZ indoor skatepark both kids and adults can skateboard, scooter, BMX and rollerblade on the ramps and rails.
Quiet spaces and great bike routes
Join the old Italian men discussing life and eat a cannoli from Alati-Caserta as you take up a bench at Parc Dante, across the street.
The pond at Parc Jarry in a wonderful place on a weekday. Inhale, watch the ducks dance across the water (the babies are the cutest!), and exhale.
Got kids? Head to Parc de Lestre in Parc-Ex – it’s small but it’s got a lovely waterpark.
Parc De Lorimier is a stunning place to sit in the grass in the summer. There’s a playground for kids, and a giant skating rink in the winter.
Place Kate-McGarrigle near Querbes Avenue on Laurier Avenue is just tucked away off the street far enough that it’s a sweet and quiet spot to rest.
Take a half day to explore the bike path through Parc-nature de l'Île-de-la-Visitation and onto Gouin Boulevard, in Montréal-Nord – take a look at the old farm houses dotted among the newer housing.
Take the train to Deux-Montagnes and ride your bike back – it’s good fun.
Find fantastic architectural remnants at Spazio, a massive, massive emporium on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, just before Autoroute Métropolitaine. You’ll find things you didn’t even know you needed.
The finds never end at the second-hand chain Renaissance – it’s particularly great for vintage dishes and glasses.
Boutique STOCKMARKT is a great shop in Little Burgundy for top-brand seconds: think last-season’s Acne Studio clothes for half price!
Get your notes on at papeterie nota bene, on Parc Avenue and Sherbrooke Street – there’s everything for writing in this pretty store, from notebooks to file holders to pens aplenty.
Nab yourself great unique finds at Ex-Voto in Little Italy, from candles to socks to cool mugs to jewelry and perfectly curated vintage clothing.
Contemporary jewellery lovers will swoon at Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h, a boutique-cum-gallery that’s as beautiful and serene as the wares are stunning.
Isa Tousignant, blogger
Isa Tousignant is an arts and lifestyle writer based out of Parc Ex. When she isn't dragging her one-eyed pug around the neighbourhood, she's busy scoping out art shows, shopping for vintage finds, hiking urban trails or designing jewelry for her brand Gré.