Musts for foodies visiting Montréal for the 1st time
If you’re a foodie visiting Montréal 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.
Go to market
Montréal counts five farmers markets, including the Jean-Talon Market, open year round and more than 50 seasonal ones. Touring any one of these food meccas is a dream come true for any food lover. 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.
Dig into a poutine
Poutine is one of Québec’s most famous culinary exploits and Montréal is home to quite a few “best” poutine spots. Every Montrealer has a favourite, from the classic 24-hour spot La Banquise to 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.
Taste test bagels
Montréal has the best bagels in the world, period; but who makes the best Montréal 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) and decide which team you’re on.
Stand in line at Kem Coba
Standing in line to grab a soft serve at Kem Coba has become a summer tradition in Montréal 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.
Don’t stand in line at Schwartz
Montréal 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.
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.
If you have a penchant for gluten, you’re in luck since Montréal 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 to taste everything. Don’t fret though because we’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.
If you’re a coffee amateur, you’ve come to the right place. In the past few years, Montréal has established itself as a world-class coffee town rivaling with cities such as Portland, Melbourne and New York. Spot the closest café to you or go on a tour to visit as many as you can while visiting. They all have such distinctive personalities
Christmas in November
Every November, Montréal 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 Montréal for the first time, planning your trip around MTLàTABLE will be much gentler on your wallet.
Nouvelle cuisine québécoise
Montréal 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. Montréal cuisine has emerged as a very distinctive one with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients, many of them foraged and unusual, like Manitoba. Montréal chefs are passionate and creative and if you want to taste the local cuisine, you’ll have to head to one of these restaurants.
Spot a truck
Montréal’s streetfood scene is happening! What started as a pilot project and a handful of food trucks in 2013 has blossomed into one of the city’s most anticipated summer activities. From schnitzel to waffles, dumplings, vegetarian fare, bagels, seafood and more, the army of food trucks patrolling the streets of Montréal is a varied and generous one. Stay on the lookout for summer food truck gatherings such as Bouffons MTL and First Fridays.
Montréal 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 cutting edge wine bars to great restaurants with fine carte des vins, your liver may not be happy but your heart and your taste buds will.
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, Montréal has quite a few tours centered on gastronomy. From touring a farmers market to learning more about how the Jewish culture influenced Montréal culinary stage, pick your favourite and hop on! And of course, the best part about all of these tours is the tastings!
Mayssam Samaha, blogger
Mayssam Samaha is a food and travel writer and blogger. She travels the world in search of the next culinary discovery. From Iceland to South Africa, she’s already visited over 30 countries and there’s nothing she enjoys more than wandering around a farmers’ market in a foreign city.