Shhh! Discover Montréal’s best kept hidden gems

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal's ecclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.

This article was updated on June 30, 2021.

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. (Take-out only for now.)

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.

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. (Take-out only for now, but you can eat your treat just outside on their terrace.)

Crazy Falafel in Saint-Laurent is THE spot for the best French fry pita bread sandwich in town – with all the toppings, of course. (Take-out and delivery only for now.)

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. (Take-out only for now.) 

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. (Take-out only for now.)

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. (Take-out and delivery only for now.)

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. (Take-out only for now.)

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.

Hole-in-the-wall drinkeries

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. (Temporarily closed.)

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.    

Hideaway cafés

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 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.

Off-the-beaten-track experiences

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. (Temporarily closed due to COVID-19.)

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.

Enjoy the vastness of the sprawling Frédéric-Back Park near TOHU – it’s a great place to get lost in thought.

There are so many amazing bike rides in Montréal: a very favourite is the Parc-nature du-Cap-Saint-Jacques one.

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.

Unusual shopping

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. (By appointment only.)

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal's ecclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.

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